A place of pure fantasy to me for all my life, and yet I live to the rhythm of its heartbeat. New Orleans is the root and I am but a branch on its ever shaking to the sweet swing beat tree, catching the apples as they fall and tasting their sweetness.
Last weekend I arrived bright eyed and jazzy-taled to Jazz Fest or as Shell calls it “New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival,” a giant celebration of music, culture, and food that has been vivifying the hoi polloi of the Crescent City since 1969.
An in-depth look into how the festival rolled out is on its way in the coming week, but for now I wanted to give my soulzzafied readership a raw look into the very essence of how I felt the music in those storied days of stripped down and rarified sounds from some of the greatest from ‘Nawlins, and from all around the world.
Folding under the incredible weight of the power of the vibration of the world around you, your physical body gives up because your soul has taken over. Looking around you you wonder how others sit still, you find it so hard not to stir I every whimsy and will of the band before you. Laissez les bons temps rouler and if the good times roll then so should you, lost but now found in the vibrantly ecstatic microcosm of the roots of the world’s music-New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, you bless my soul.
My soul. It liberates more within every shout every exaltation every pomp and every circumstance, the every everything that is in the air, there is no need to narrow it down to anything more than the grand aggregation, accumulation, amalgamation of the very soil whence we’ve come, still yet dirty and raw and organic, the only way it should be digested. Like the shrimp macque doux and crawfish bread that dance in pithy praise of the decisions that my body is making, for it has surrendered to the greater movement of our lives.
Exhibited through every breath and shake and shiver of the people here in their gone madness to live, it is the motion our body takes in celebration, in full supplication to the groove of the time. Whether to the wailing of the Brass-aholics in shining splendor of their contemporary old school jam, to the Mesopotamian magnanimity of the New Orleans Klezmer All-stars, or when worst comes to worst giving in and up to the thick thick soup of rhythm of Carlos Santana -a concoction crafted so fine it melts and brings you alive-the body has no choice but to move and with or without your consent. The good Lord has come a callin’, and what a soundtrack to bring you home.”
Bring you home. Whoever associates the greater things ecclesiastical with Sundays must have never had the parochial pleasure of attending mass at JazzFest on a Saturday morning. Sun at high noon and blessed be His name for no other is uttered save for Jehovah, and save He does. In bountiful colors of voices donning royal blue and white robes that compliment so brightly their rich dark skin, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Gospel Choir welcomes me like a brother and so I dance down her aisles singing their joyful song.
Gravitating to the energy of the one brave white woman who has decided that there is absolutely no sense in resisting the natural urge of the body to raise itself up (so that it is indeed closer to heaven) I march along to her beat and laugh and gleefully release all anything else’s to the higher power that be and laugh all the while. Looking around it makes me smile to see that the entire place is full of white people, judiciously nodding their heads in approval of the goodness of the groove but all too restraining all the while. Everybody has rhythm, it may not be the right one, but everybody has it.
I smile at the timidness of the lighter skinned amongst us and continue to jump up and down with no motivation except the only motion and that is surrender and when it is done the body is rewarded and the soul more so. Hand to my heart and heart in the heavens, my hand ascends as my body levitates, and the whole crowd of the Gospel Tent watches as the power of the Lord is demonstrated in this glowing boy, truly in heaven already.
If a trumpet blasts and a saxophone wails, would a trombone groan and a tuba prevail? If it feels so right and it feels so funky, would it be Rebirth Brass Band who makes you dance like a monkey? If you don’t know why and you don’t know how, just express yourself to the groove of now…
…move your body. Either by succumbing to the delicious beat of the soulfood sandwich, or quite literally letting your body translate the words, you end up at the same destination.
Six of one half a dozen of the other, you follow their lead you “Move Your Body.” The trumpet lets out a drastic serpentine slither of vivacity and the torso follows itself upward motion towards something else. Something else that must be where we have come from, even though you feel like you are moving forward, something takes you back to the origin of groove sliced with a contemporary sensation that brings you forward, and so in oscillation you remain and can’t get out and you don’t want to.
The man exuberance defined embodies what the sound really sounds like as he waves his New Orleanian feathers and shakes his tailfeathers, sky blue and white and feathery light in the wind as he moves his body. Bells and flowers on her skirt and dangles along a maypole as she smiles sunflower petals to all around, the world turns to her rotation as she moves her body. Follicles of the beard sway to the same rhythm predicating his next step in gentle sway, down to the ground and wander about then return again to the irresistible lostness of it all, all else lost in the electric pulse as they move their body. In ecstatic exclamation of where I find myself, feet rarely heeding the voice of gravity, peaceful happiness in full dimension as I, with all my soul, move my body.
*Featured/top image: Performance during 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Photo by Adam Tutor.