Alvin Batiste Dies on the Eve of JazzFest’s Final Day
Despite heavy rain on Friday, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival took place as planned over the weekend. But, an even heavier damper was placed on the festival Sunday when veteran clarinetist and Southern University teacher Alvin Batiste was found dead of an apparent heart attack. Batiste was scheduled to perform at the Fairgrounds a few hours later with Harry Connick Jr., his former student Branford Marsalis, and drummer Bob French. Batiste, who founded Southern Universitys jazz studies program, also taught American Idol judge Randy Jackson, Henry Butler, Donald Harrison, Kent Jordan, Michael Ward, Herlin Riley, and Charlie Singleto, among countless others. His final concert took place the night before his passing at the nearby Baton Rouge and featured a rare appearance by his piano playing son, Maynard Batiste. A number of musicians paid tribute to Batiste at the Fairgrounds on Sunday, including Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews, Maynard Batiste, French and Marsalis, who joined a group of Batistes students for a version of his ‘Picou.’ Marsalis and Connick also teamed up to deliver the tribute ‘Just a Closer Walk With Thee’ on Sunday afternoon.
As is tradition, JazzFests second weekend featured appearances by a number of marquee out of town guests, including George Benson, ZZ Top, John Mayer, Counting Crows, and the Allman Brothers Band, who brought its former piano player Chuck Leavell and vocalist Susan Tedeschi out for a cover the Bands The Weight. Leavell remained onstage to help his former bandmates close their set with a signature tune from his era, Jessica.
As expected, a number of intriguing collaborations took place throughout New Orleans maze of clubs and theaters after the days JazzFest activities ceased. On Friday, Umphreys McGee performed at the House of Blues, where the group invited blues harmonica ace Ellen Miller onstage for a jam leading out of the Talking Heads Making Flippy Floppy and local hero Ivan Neville for a Jimmy Stewart improvisational segment. A day later, Dr. John and Govt Mule performed together at the Contemporary Arts Center. For his part, Dr. John offered his famous Night Tripper persona, while Govt Mule brought out New Orleans harmonica player Smoky Greenwell for Goin’ Down Slow and Gonna Send You Back Georgia. Medeski, Martin and Wood also bonded with an old friend, inviting out DJ Logic for the majority of its set at the Howlin Wolf on Thursday night.
Little Feat and the Radiators continued to morph into a single unit throughout the weekend. As previously reported, on Thursday guitarist Paul Barrere joined the Radiators for their SNAFU Party at the Southport Music Hall. On Friday, Barrere appeared at the Radiators Tipitinas show, emerging for Where Was You At? and Little Sadie at the end of the groups first set. He returned alongside his longtime Little Feat foil Fred Tackett for much of the groups second set, which included Parchman Farm, Junco Partner, Chick’s Too Young To Fry, Moondance, Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues), and Western Plains. Earlier in the week, Teresa Anderson also sat in with Barrere and Tackett on I Bid You Goodnight at New Orleans Carrollton Station.
Finally, local heroes the Dirty Dozen Brass Band offered three different shows throughout the weekend. On Thursday, the group performed with the Rebirth Brass Band at Tipitina’s, while on Friday the horn-collective appeared on the Congo Square Stage. Later that night, the group also supported Ween at the Contemporary Arts Center, before jetting for to Asia for a performance in Singapore Tuesday.