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Published: 2014/04/26

Santana Highlights First Day of Jazz Fest

Santana closed out the Acura Stage on the first day of the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival with a rocking two-and-a-half hour set that featured plenty of emphasis on latin rhythms, as well as its fair share of semi-coherent rants from the legendary guitarist that is the band’s namesake. The group knocked out hits like “Black Magic Woman,” “Maria Maria” and “Oye Como Va” early in the set before delving into lengthy jams of tunes like “No One To Depend On” during the middle part of the show. The performance saw an extended appearance from Santana’s wife, former Lenny Kravitz drummer Cindy Blackman, who took up the kit for a significant portion of the set. The end of the show, which included a rendition of the smash hit “Smooth” and a jam based on John Coltrane’s “Acknowledgment,” featured sit ins from father/daughter trombone duo of Jeff and Natalie Cressman, along with some maracas work from Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis. Santana also found ample time to ramble about a range of subjects from voodoo, to the Black Panthers and the mega-philanthropy of billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson throughout the evening.

Day one also featured a number of other fantastic acts that were scattered across the festival’s many stages. British soul songstress Laura Mvula impressed at the Acura Stage with an early afternoon set that saw her backed by a harp, violin, cello, upright bass and drum kit. The Honey Island Swamp Band drew a sizable crowd over at the Samsung Galaxy Stage, while The New Orleans Klezmer Allstars with Galactic’s Stanton Moore and Ben Ellman brought some Jewish flavor to the Fais Do Do Stage. The group was followed by the Infamous Stringdusters, who worked “When The Saints Go Marching In” into “Deep Elem Blues” to honor their first-ever performance in the Crescent City.

Meanwhile, Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs got some help from Blues Traveler frontman John Popper, who took up his harmonica for a lively rendition of his band’s classic “Runaround.” Jason Isbell then took over the Samsung Galaxy Stage for a set that was heavy on material from his 2013 release Southeastern, before The Avett Brothers closed out that stage.

After the festival proper wrapped up for the day, music lovers galore dispersed across the city for late night parties at a number of different clubs. This writer found himself at the Howlin Wolf for Dumpstaphunk’s Led Zeppelin tribute show, featured almost two hours of more-or-less faithful renditions of classics like “Dancing Days,” “D’yer Mak’er” and “Misty Mountain Hop.” Jon Popper joined the fray for extended harmonica jams on two occasions, while London Souls guitarist Tash Neal sat in for “The Ocean” and “Heartbreaker” before guitarist Eric McFadden helped them with a final “Immigrant Song” to end the night. Dumpstaphunk was then followed—after a bit of technical difficulties—by The Easy Star Allstars, who put their spin on Radiohead’s “Electioneering” and Michael Jackson’s “Bille Jean” before performing their Dub Side of the Moon Pink Floyd tribute in its entirety.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will continue today with Phish’s first show in New Orleans since 1999.

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