THE DIARY OF A MADMAN | JAZZFEST 2002 (B.Getz on Jambase)

(photos lost in translation)

It is nearly impossible to catalog or describe all of the amazing moments of any Jazzfest, no matter neither how many hours spent awake nor performances witnessed. Here in Crescent City the stuff of legend happens all day, all night, for two weeks, and so many truly amazing moments are lost in the shuffle of dizzying, mind-blowing events. I will try to keep the discussion basically music, and save the early morning debauchery at Igor’s, Brandon’s, and the crazy pagan dancing rituals for another time.

I will try to detail some truly transcendental moments from my Jazzfest 2002 experience without being critical or saying what’s best or worst, just one boy’s perspective on how his mind was blown day in and night out. This is just my opinion, nobody else’s. I saw what I could, tried to make it everywhere, and gave it my best little leaguer effort. Just honest attempt to relay the truly monumental events I witnessed with many others, from my ever-tweaking perspective. I welcome opinions, additions, corrections and any general insight from those who shared in the fun.

Old Point Bar, Mon 04.29 Late
After a slamming Garage a Trois show, the trio of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and the core of Brotherhood of Groovesquared off in a tag team free jazz duel that had the young bucks reaching for the sky. JFJO set up on stage left, and part of BOG on the right, and BOG’s Brandon Tarricone traded sonic riddles with JFJO’s Rhodes tactician Brian Haaseach of their backing bands provided support and artillery. One incredible highlight was after a forty minute bold and meandering free jazz exploration, Brandon offered the head to Miles Davis “In a Silent Way” as an olive branch to Haas, and the keyboardist/mad scientist jumped on the vehicle while traveling warpspeed. The peace offering was accepted in blazing fashion in the form of a moving rendition of this classic. The double drumming madness of JFJO’s Jason Smartand BOG’s monster Dan Caro pulverized the bass gymnastics tag team of BOG’s Bearded and JFJO’s wizard Reed Mathis. This truly united the clans and the branch now fortified and ridden freely to the moon and back drawing on McLaughlin, Deodato and Buckethead. Totally off the cuff at about 5 am. The JFJO/BOG collabo was awe-inspiring and draining as each player screamed their hearts out through their hands to the silenced onlookers who lapped it up with tranquil appreciation. This was the shape of things to come…

Riverboat Cajun Queen, Tue 04.30, 1:30am or so…
“THIS CLUB IS MOVING ON WATER!!!!” exclaimed a raging Skerik as the Cajun Queen parted the Mississippi at what seemed like un-Godly speeds. Stanton Moore assaulted his kit in typical NOLA shuffling boom-bap and Charlie Hunter laced serene Leslied chords over a Brooklyn style bass lick that begged for Buckshot. Instead, the band keenly observed the Love Boat vibe, easy skanking, and Cash Money Style “ backing that ass up” going down to their smooth soundtrack and seamlessly dropped the D’Angelo puff and stuff anthem “Brown Sugar.” Charlie was just winning ladies for all of us with straight sexy guitar strumming, and Mike Dillon even getting in the mix with psychedelic, romantic vibraphonics.

Skerik couldn’t allow the “love-in” to go on for too long, and before we knew it, he was berating Charlie for, amongst other things, being up for 4 days, talking shit to him about his wife, his playing, and his wardrobe, etc. – all in the name of a good natured ribbing. Well, like the immortal W. Axl Rose said “If you wanna antagonize me, antagonize me motherf$%^&r!” For Mr. Hunter, such trash talking would provoke an improv blues number straight from the dank, dimly-lit watering holes that litter the Crescent City, supported by some gritty twelve bar bottom end from his henchmen.

And blaze Charlie did, so emotive a blues bar that former TJ Kirk compadre Will Bernard felt the need to put his drink down, excuse himself from a myriad of ladies, and get in the mix. Bernard and Charlie traded licks and smiles while Skerik laughed devilishly. Dillon and Stanton fired away like trigger happy soldiers and the pace quickened to a deadly rate, somewhat foreshadowing the next evening’s slamming earthquake.

And we danced, like a wave on the ocean romance!. By now, the vibe made a hard left, and before one could fumble “Garage a Trois” out of their gaping mouths, the Cajun Queen had transformed itself into a nuclear dance party assault vessel careening the Mississippi River looking for a fight. This four-way cross is way heavy, even for NOLA standards.

Tipitina’s, Wed 05.01, 2:30 am
After another raucous Garage A Trois gig at the epicenter of Fess shenanigans, a familiar face walked upon the stage and handed a bottle of mineral water to Skerik, turned and faced the crowd, and with a nervous wave and geeky smile retreated to the backstage area. Skerik sipped the mysterious aqua and ripped a vintage guitar-toned sax orgy with Mike Dillon providing the rhythmic counterintelligence.

After the tune came to a halt, Skerik stepped to the mic and bellowed “Colonel, they are calling your name, the people are calling for you Colonel!” And like that, Les Claypool reemerged with bass in hand, calling his friend “Skee-rack” out on the carpet for some and the fire was lit as Charlie Hunter retreated to the percussion while Claypool, Stanton Moore, Skerik and Mike Dillon thrashed out some bangin’ blastbeat metal mayhem that would make even the most rugged moshpit reveler ‘trow ‘dem ‘bows.’ The already jacked up Tips’ massive straight went through the roof as the foursome banged away improv metal thrashing madness Sabbath-style that had each and every like-minded punter begging for Ozzy. Les has that way of taking over a room, and feeding off the riot that ensues. Just like witches at black masses…

FAREED HAQUE GROUP with many guests
Café Brasil, Late 05.01, 4-7am
After that Garage @ Tips Claypool madness, I was sure that was to be the highlight of my evening. Guess again, as I rolled down to Frenchman St. to catch my first glimpse of Fareed Haque Group. I had heard Garaj Mahal, and owned Fareed’s Déjà vu, but ’twas time to witness the Buddha in his truest, grandest element. And like the Buddha, Fareed choose to share his spotlight, not with one, nor a couple, but with many of the young Jedis he has mesmerized, inspired and influenced with radiating light and fluid, dreamlike guitar energy.

Dressed in a traditional Eastern gown and backed by a precise, pristine and intensely flowing band, Fareed Haqueastounded those in attendance with serene passages and screaming six string licks that seemed to rise and fall with the outwardly worn emotions of every person in attentive attendance. His astute band mates followed his lead, as Fareed broke path for the quivering audience to slowly waltz through, tightly aligned to his lullaby. One by one, musicians plugged in, joined in the fracas, the dance, the melody, including the soaring trumpeting of Carlos Washington (Giant People), the cacophonic, sinister Rhodes work of Brian Haas (JFJO) (who set up in the audience as the stage was so crowded), the wailing feedback of bass maestro Reed Mathis (JFJO), and the clean, sparkling Heritage hollowbody song emanating from the fingers of Brandon Tarricone (Brotherhood of Groove).

Living Daylights saxophonist Jessica Lurie and a plethora of other horn players huddled way over on the side (and off) stage soon joined this ensemble. My eyes and ears were focused on Haas and Tarricone, as well as obviously the Zen Master/band leader, spiritual guru Haque. I cannot recall who played what on what, but there was passage, a medley, an hour of music that probably takes the crown for the most emotional, moving, spiritual and intense of any I have had the pleasure and privilege to witness.

It began with a steaming, no hold barred version of Grant Green’s epic acid jazz tweakout “Windjammer,” which Tarricone was unfamiliar with yet, set melody and harmony adrift upon with the assistance of Haas and Mathis, solidified by Haque’s rapid fire rhythm section (which included a tabla player). “Windjammer,” caravanning through peaks and valleys, entered realms of sonic consciousness oft longed for, however seldom realized.

Next was a tear-jerking triplet from CSNY’s Déjà vu “Carry On> Woodstock> Helpless,” this arrangement more energized and juiced (in this live setting) than the serenity of his studio effort. “Carry On” was a pass the jam marathon that gave each and every musician onstage his chance to shine, culminating in a screaming crescendo, courtesy of Fareed and Brandon’s father-son camaraderie. That led into the most passionate guitar solos I have ever witnessed from a mere five feet away, and by the time Fareed introduced the gut wrenching CSNY ballad “Helpless” the tears flowed from thine eyes and my heart swelled to mammoth proportions. I looked around to see the same from my fellow congregants, and we were one in awe and aligned with the Buddha and his subjects. It was one of those moments, however long it lasts, that one goes out to the clubs, arenas, sheds, house parties, tirelessly, to realize. To see, feel, touch, heal, be a part of and witness to THE MOMENT, and to have realized it once again was as humbling and invigorating as any time before.

Watching Brandon Tarricone onstage trading classic passages and telling aural secrets with his idol, to see the shit eating grins on the faces of Haas and Mathis as they added their own cosmic sciences to the stew, as Jessica Lurie and Carlos Washington led their fellow horn players in call and response breaks that sewed the seeds of Afro-Fela, Trane, and Rebirth together in an afghan of spirit and freedom, the tears fell without reprisal and the body swayed, bowed, and boogied. I thanked G-d for these fruits, these gifts, and this love. And then, after all that, they busted Steely Dan’s “Peg.” I mean, come on, Lord Have Mercy On Us All!! As we screamed and pranced like trolls run amok to the Donald Fagan timeless geek-prog jazz favorite, Fareed took off his guitar and ceremoniously placed it on a young guitarist (I was later told that this Jake Cinninger from Umphrey’s McGee) who proceeded to take a mind bending psychedelic solo as Haque watched with a look of supreme admiration, only to take back his instrument and waltz in the sunrise with a most tasteful, expressive sendoff, exactly what any of us could of asked for.

That was a poor description of the otherworldly collaboration that went down at Café Brazil. Tapes, anybody?

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA feat. Clarence Fountain
Fairgrounds – Gospel Tent, Thu 05.02, 5:15pm
This was my first Blind Boys experience, and it was absolutely incredible. My mother is way into gospel, and the spirited vocal workouts combined with a bluesy R&B vibe really lent some authenticity to my Jazzfest, and sprinkled a little southern-playalistic spice into my Crescent City gumbo. There is a reason the Gospel tent has the reputation that it does, as no matter how one feels walking in, you are undoubtedly recharged and renewed when you walk away. Anytime my batteries needed more power, my eyes, ears, heart and soul reached skyward. Gospel Saves, Ya’ heard me, Hallelujah!

House of Blues Thu 05.02, Late Show
With too many guests to name nor remember, but here goes…
Anybody who knows me (or is within obnoxious shouting distance at Jazzfest) understands that the Karl Denson late night 2nd weekend at the House of Blues is where the shit goes down. Some may argue last year’s Tips show with Lenny, but let’s not discuss that. Bottom line is that the swank is on, the gear comes out, and the torsos are whirling come 3am down in the Quarter. This year was to be no exception, as Melvin Sparks joined KDTU for most of the first set, flexing his newly restored shotgun hollowbody fire atop the swirling grooves behind Karl and Co. Brian Jordanrespectfully retreated to the Stratocaster to give Sparks some room for his hollowbody dynamics, the band stomped its way through funk and groove workouts with the precision of a machine, yet still dripping greasy grit on the dance floor for the skanking massive to lap up and reciprocate in the dirtiest fashion. Robust Ron Johnson laid down the deep, thick rotund bass lines for Zak Najor to smother in kick, snare, and hi-hat.

David Veith warmly filled out the sound with shrieking Hammond B3 harmonics and choice Rhodes and Clav comping. Jordan laced some backing vocals and JB’s riddim sevenths, and stepped in front for some retro soul here and there.

“Apparently Nothing,” an Earth, Wind, and Fire-type groove, and “Who Are You,” with a ripping Melvin Sparks trading incisions with Dr. Denson, were the highlights of this first set, at least for what my memory serves. I also noticed a new percussionist (who I would later learn is KDTU’s new man) who KD introduced as King Samson. KDTU worked it throughout a standard yet slamming first set with Sparks that set the tone for the chronic bomb that was to be dropped in the second set.

I get really, really, really caught up in KDTU when the going gets real hot, and this night was to be no exception, the beads of sweat and drenched attire attested to that, and it was only setbreak.

Warren Haynes stepped out early in the second set to lend some bluesy Southern friend swagger to the deep, dark funk. My memory really gets fuzzy as the sweat began to drip and I blew out my back to make the shoes work, but I do remember the stellar versions of “Freedom,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “Good For You,” all of which had me salivating for what I knew was inevitably on the way.

Undoubtedly, it is the KDTU classic rumpshaking anthems that make this show the most high each and every year, and Jazzfest 2002 was to be no different. Soon, a barrage of guests began to appear that included Mike Dillon (who is easing his way out of KDTU, much to our chagrin) fresh from his Black Frames performance over at the Old Point, ex-KDTU-current-Global Funk Council drummer Eric Bolivar, new saxophone phenom/spunion Topaz, Mr. Everywhere-lately Josh Roseman on trombone, as well as some others that escape my wracked brain at this moment. Before I knew it, I was ensconced in the sultry sexy grooves of “Can You Feel It?” (“The music, the music, the music… is good for your soul!”) and the constantly evolving “Family Tree” (which has gone from a sing-songy boogaloo tune to one of those goose bumpers now that trumpeter Chris Littlefield has enabled the horn melodies to soar to new plateaus). These songs resonate with a throwback relevance, etching yesterday’s seventies blaxploitation funk into today’s acid soul revival.

But two tunes straight up do it for me every year, ’til the morning comes. The first of which is, obviously, the begging, pleading, can-I-get-with-you jam “Fallin’,” otherwise known as “the BBQ song.” Most know well before Denson begs the question that it wouldn’t bother them AT ALL to be invited to this steaming Crescent City cookout. This song creates such fantastic musical and sexual energies that I don’t even mind when Karl (in somewhat cheesy fashion) asks the ladies to “make some noise”. Because at this point everybody in the spot is just throwing down the illest dance maneuvers they can summon to their flailing limbs at nearly six a.m. and hell yeah, if the ladies, or anyone for that matter, wants to bellow out it riveting satisfaction, well more power to ‘em, nah-mean?

“Groove On” is THE SONG, and has been since Karl and Co. captured the Heavyweight Jazzfest title two years ago. Unbeknownst to me until this peaking moment, Ron Johnson has updated the arrangement with a “Watermelon Man”–esque ascending bass groove that gives the number a rounder, fatter, blacker soul. So just when you thought the funk couldn’t get any deeper, Ron J comes with this little surprise. Have Mercy, as it gave the song newfound life and just made us get smaller and dance dirtier than we had thus far. To top it all off, the band decided to work in the hook from Bobby Caldwell’s soul classic “Open Your Eyes” (recently sampled by ?uestlove on the Common jam “The Light”). “There are times, when you need someone, I will be by your side”. I was shocked, flabbergasted, and completely taken aback by this subtle R&B hook snuck inside “Groove On”.

I mean, it seemed like these small gifts from the band, amidst the madness on this, the holiest night of Fest, was just too much to handle. I asked myself repeatedly, ”Why is this night different from all other nights?” Rather than try to decipher that biblical question, I closed my eyes, cocked my head back, adjusted my shades, and just grooved on like the straight up funkiest white boy to skank G-d’s green earth.

I have no recollection of the remainder of that evening/morning (save for Topaz in a silver cape, and Josh Roseman juggling honeys, at Igor’s a few hours later.)

There is a light that shines, special for you and me.” – Bobby Caldwell

KDTU (2nd set)
State Palace Theater, Sat 05.04, 1-3am
I could go on and on about this KD throwdown but I wanna give some of the other artists equal time to shine. I think it is abundantly clear how I feel about these guys at Jazzfest.

Abridged version 6.66:
30 minute “Big Payback” second set opener, the JB’s classic “Tighten Up,” a set full of special guests out the wazoo, including ex-KDTU trumpeters Carlos Washington and Ephraim Owens, as well as other horn players whose names I did not catch, “Spanish Castle Magic” in all its Jimi glory, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any sicker, Mike Dillon and Col. Les Claypool for a directionless, cacophonous, beat you over the head with a lead pipe encore that was some of the slamminest, stomp yo’ feet madness I have ever witnessed. Oh yeah… and a Col. Les vs. KD bass/sax duel for the ages.

“I dunno what you came to do, but I came to clap my hands, and I came to stomp my feet!” – Robert Randolph

Since Nothing I witnessed on Friday May 3 was quite on par with the other events I detail, I figured this a great opportunity to present BGETZ’s TRL WANNABEES aka stuff that rocked our socks off, and would be the “be all end all” if it weren’t Jazzfest, but it is, and these didn’t quite make the Plays of the Week.

  • Gov’t Mule – Thu 05.02, 3:45-5pm, Fairgrounds – Acura Stage
  • The Coolie Family – Thu 05.02, 6-7pm, Fairgrounds – Gospel Tent
    (I was brought to tears… again!)
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band – Fri 05.03, 3:55-5pm, Fairgrounds – Sprint Stage
  • KDTU – Fri 05.03, 5:30-7pm, Fairgrounds – Sprint Stage
  • Project Logic – Fri 05.03, late, Howlin’ Wolf
    With John Medeski, Fuzz, DBB Horns, and more
  • Robert Walter’s 20th Congress/MOFRO – Fri 05.03, 11pm-3am, Tipitina’s French Quarter
    (Fog City Records Party)
  • Phil Lesh Quintet – Sat 05.04, Municpal Auditorium
    (Night of 1000 Stars, Casey Jones, Shakedown, Broken > Unbroken!!!)
  • Snooks Eaglin – Sat 05.04, 6-7pm, Fairgrounds – Blues tent
  • The Neville Brothers – Sun 05.05, 5:30-7pm, Acura Stage
    (closing the Fairgrounds proper w/ Irwin Mayfield, Bob Weir and others)
  • Brotherhood of Groove – Mon 05.06, The Mermaid Lounge
    (w/ Dan Granite on guitar)

Fairgrounds – Congo Square, Sat 05.04, 3:45-5pm
The Royal Family of Reggae, comprised of 5 of the 29 children sired by Jamaican legend Denroy Morgan, was just what I needed at this crucial juncture of Fest. A brutally hot NOLA afternoon, the irie vibes and conscious message soothed the souls of the thousand or so who braved the heat to bounce to the island beats. A delicious stew of roots reggae, dancehall, soca, and dub, this family stretched across genre, racial and social boundaries to unite us in positive vibration. The massive got irie on crawfish bread and herbsmoke, and when the younger generation took their turn, the two young deejays brought electric energy and dancehall rudeboy swagger that got even the tired, hot, sluggish Festers to jump up and lick a shot. By far and away the best Fairgrounds performance I saw, and a definitive righteous reggae vibe to send us onward to the home stretch, seen.

(This is also the last very clear memory I have of Jazzfest, as my vision and images get exponentially foggier from here on out, and understandably so.)

Complete and total chaos, mayhem, destruction, call it what you will. I arrived after the Les/KD throwdown and came upon a scene I’ll never forget. Masses of people in the streets, in Café Brasil and the Blue Nile, just people everywhere, music blaring.

I had been up for like three days so it all seemed so surreal, and I heard Garaj Mahal playing so I wandered over. It seems that Fareed Haque’s wife had took sick and he had excused himself from the gig to be with her at her time of need. Unfortunate to say the least, however Will Bernard had taken over the reins and a new sound was born that morning, part fusion, part funk, and part breakbeat. Alan Hertz was doing his best Zach Velmer on the kit as a DJ dropped otherworldly samples.

I was trying to comprehend what was going on around me, which was tremendously confusing given my delirious state. Before I could sit down for a breather, the newest shining star on the NOLA scene, Brandon Tarricone of Brotherhood of Groove, had stepped in for Bernard and was unleashing raging Leslie harmonics and distorted hollowbody terror on the swollen mass of bodies that had congregated in and around Café Brazil. Brandon (whom I affectionately dubbed “Walsh” for reasons that need no explanation) continued flexing his chops mightily, as well as sitting in the pocket and giving the other musicians space, as the exquisite Garaj Mahal explored new territories.

Other guitar players (including the Umphrey’s guys) got in the mix, but just as I was about to call it a day, Col. Les Claypool, Eenor, Skerik, some dudes from the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, all in together now a makeshift Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, set up across the street for an impromptu set at around 6:15 am. This mucky, crunk, Primus-meets-Bar Mitzvah-band-devil-worshipping soundtrack began to pour from the club (which was about the hottest place temperature-wise, I had ever been in, it was like an overheated oven on fire in there). So I zombie-pranced around as long as I could and then wandered deep into the Quarter aimlessly searching for peace of mind and some sanity, which I obviously never found.

The Dark Carnival, or so I dubbed this so-called block party, was the manifestation of several days of twisted elixirs, the sleepless week, and a bunch of people on a whole lot of everything. I do not know that I’ll ever attend a freak-fest quite like it again, and I don’t know that I’d want to, either. Amen.

I SLEPT THROUGH PHIL AT THE FAIRGROUNDS AND I DON’T WANNA DISCUSS IT!!! ( “I Get Knocked Down, but I’ll get up again!!! )

Tipitina’s , Sun 05.05 – Mon 05.06, 11pm-5am
I don’t remember much about this evening, particularly very little about the RW20 set, other than Tips was way packed, way hot, and “2% Body Fat” brought the house down. It seemed like a standard 20th Congress set, devoid of any real fanfare. Just solid boogaloo grooves. 

After an hour plus break, Col. Les Claypool emerged with his Fearless Flying Frog Brigade in full costume to oven stuffed Tips massive that was ready to rock. The first two hours of the show were somewhat disappointing, save for the antics of Skerik (dressed as Satan, naturally), and Mike Dillon, who was the unsung hero of Jazzfest, showing up everywhere and making himself known proper.) Sensing they may lose the capacity crowd, instead of a set break, Jay Lane broke it down with Dillon for a “Drumz” type segment as a belly dancer pranced scantily clad about the stage, and there was fire and pyrotechnics involved as well.

When the Frog Brigade returned to the stage, it was a whole new ball game. I’d say about a quarter of the capacity crowd had gone elsewhere, which was a blessing, as it gave us freaks off the leash proper room to flail, boogie, rigor mortis, or whatever the hell else spasmodic bodily maneuvers came naturally at the end of the tweakend. All I can say is that at one point, most of the 20th Congress was onstage with the Frog Brigade, at least ten people, including Robert Walterhimself, and the beginning of the end was a half-hour long psychedelic oddessy that started and ended as the Rolling Stones classic “2000 Light Years Away From Home,” but was many other gorgeous things in between. I have a distinct image of Les and Walter trading devilish grins as the swirling masses got down something fierce and the belly dancer reappeared to lead us in a very cult-ish group séance.

Soon after that pagan ritual exploration, Claypool announced that the next tune was maybe his favorite to play, or something along those lines (which was a somewhat irresponsible and dangerous thing to say at that juncture), and immediately the Frog Brigade torpedo launched into a King Crimson song “Thela Hun Ginjeet” (that sounds like “Pharaoh Nietzsche?”). Whatever it’s called, ‘twas this tune that whipped the survivors, the faithful, the grittiest Jazzfest massive into an uncontrollable frenzy that rivaled Les’s appearance here at Tips a few nights earlier. Just complete, utter mayhem, equal parts moshing, pimpstrutting, and doing the ‘tighten up,’ ‘towel off,’ and many other indescribable moves.

We all knew it was coming, the encore, the conclusion, to bring it all back home.

“Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” the soaring, beaming, psychedelic anthem, delivered in all its glory as we bid Jazzfest a fond and emotional farewell, collectively and individually. The opus lasted nearly half an hour, wading through waves of ballad and thrash, romping and rollicking over toms and bass, screeching guitar wails, Skerik saxaphonics, and Les’s proud, tired, and beleaguered nasal vocal. A fitting choice to close out the insanity, and a loving homage to all things twisted. Just about the only tune that could bring any sort of closure to this, my greatest and grandest Jazzfest thus far.

I wish to thank the wonderful Crescent City of New Orleans for hosting this madness each and every year, my old school Jazzfest family as well as newly acquainted friends (y’all know damn well who you are), JamBase, all of the artists, musicians, cab drivers, bartenders, and other miscellaneous persons who helped provide for a behemoth 2002 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, my best Fest yet.

Mike Dillon
Karl Denson
Brandon Tarricone
Charlie Hunter
Fareed Haque
Warren Haynes
Josh Roseman
Brian Haas
Les Claypool
Stanton Moore

…and a few playaz to be name later.

Anyone with some tapes to trade of the aforementioned events, please reach out!

Andy from Pittsburgh… please get in touch!!!

One Love and see y’all this summer,
B. Getz aka Harry the Crazy Pagan
JamBase at Jazzfest
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 5/14/02]