Spring Festival Season

The spring festival season in Louisiana is an exciting time, with French Quarter Festival, Festivals International, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Bayou Boogaloo all happening within the span of a month. Azaleas, gardenias and wild irises are in bloom, and the not-yet-humid air is scented with jasmine. We had an actual spring this year, with cool, sunny weather that almost made up for the coldest winter in twenty years.

During this time, we also completed two new projects: our Swamp Romp album, and Johnette’s Who Got the Baby in the King Cake book. We’ll have more on all three of these later!

Unfortunately, our French Quarter Festival show (as well as a panel on the legacy of Fats Domino that Scott would have moderated) coincided with one of the few rainy days of the season. With forecasts of a deluge accompanied by high winds, the entire event was shut down for the day. We went as fans the next day, taking the streetcar checking out the traditional jazz of Clive Wilson’s New Orleans Serenaders and the Hot Club of New Orleans, bands that are the we don’t frequently hear, and who are at the heart of New Orleans music. Really, if you want to hear New Orleans music of all kinds, this is the best festival in the world, and it’s free.

We had the best weather ever for Jazz Fest this year. On Friday, April 24, we cruised into the parking lot with the car windows open and final mixes of our new album playing. We headed straight for the food area for our yearly six of seafood au gratin; spinach and artichoke casserole; and sweet potato pone. Yum!

This was Scott’s day to interview Bobby Rush at the Alison Minor stage in the grandstand. After a half hour of conversation, the two of them played a short set of down home blues. It was fun to watch the audience’s reaction as the interviewer turned out a musician! Scott has been playing blues harmonica professionally since his mid-teens, and it’s been a constant in his life ever since.

Saturday, April 25 was our big show in the kids tent, which we look forward to every year. We had a big turnout of kids and adults, who were able to dance in the grassy area in front of the stage. Last year, it rained so hard that there was a foot of muddy water in the same place! We debuted our song “Swamp Romp,” which kicks off the new record, with the audience getting to hear our first live performance of the song, glitches included. Well, a song can take a few times to settle in!

We’re now waiting for mastering on the Swamp Romp album, and are deciding when we should release it. Really, the work of putting together the publicity and marketing team, and making new videos, cannot be shortchanged. We’ll keep you posted!

Johnette’s new book, Who Got the Baby in the King Cake?, will be published by River Road Press this fall. She did very intricate cut-paper collages to illustrate this one, which is also a song on the new record (featuring the horns from the Dukes of Dixieland).

Johnette now begins her extensive summer library tour (you can see her schedule on her own website, www.johnettedowning.com), and we’ll have duo shows in California and Massachusetts this summer as well, in addition to regular monthly shows at the National Jazz Historical Park in the French Quarter. We’ll hope to see you at one of them soon!

NewsScott Billington