TVD Live: The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,

PHOTOS: STEVEN KASICH | The first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival got off to a wet start when massive storms forced a delayed opening on Thursday and soaked the New Orleans Fairgrounds. But after the front passed, the weather was picture perfect the rest of the weekend, although the grounds were still a bit soggy on Friday and Saturday.

Carlos Santana (pictured at top) and his namesake band drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend dwarfing first time festival performer Katy Perry and many of the other big names. Allotted a two-hour set, the Woodstock veteran pulled out all the stops creating a Latin soul dance party on the Acura stage.

Santana was even given an extra twenty minutes past the usual cutoff time of 7 PM. He used it well by inviting local hero Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews on stage. The two traded licks and then a hug to huge cheers from the smitten audience.

Local bands fared well including Kumasi. Their horn section set the tone for an Afrobeat set that had everyone dancing at the considerably smaller Jazz and Heritage stage.

The group features Margie Perez on vocals and shekere and she beamed while the band vamped. An added highlight was a pair of dancers who came out on stage intermittently during the set and raised the energy level.

Baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis was everywhere on the Fairgrounds. He played with his primary group, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and also appeared with Blodie’s Jazz Jam, the Tribute to Dave Bartholomew/Fats Domino and with the Midnight Disturbers. Somehow he left the stage of the Jazz Tent and made it over to the Jazz and Heritage stage quicker than me and my crew.

One of the most eagerly awaited sets, at least for this fester, was from Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. They brought the goods, tearing the roof off the Congo Square stage with tight horn parts, coordinated dance steps and a feel good vibe.

As regular readers know, Denson is the Rolling Stones’ touring saxophonist. In my picks last week I predicted that he would play a Rolling Stones song as a consolation prize since the legends had to cancel. Sure enough, towards the end of his high-energy set, the first notes of “Tumblin’ Dice” got the crowd buzzing. It was a great version complete with Denson playing a dazzling flute solo.

The crowds seemed to be light all weekend with very little waiting for food and beverages and the famous “Fess Head” totem was back at the Jazz Fest for the first time in years. The joy of Jazz Fest, whether it was felt by a first time visitor or a 50-year veteran, was palpable across the entire infield and in the tents.

Check back the rest of the week for TVD’s second weekend picks!

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