Jazz Fest in NOLA—Eight Days of Joy!

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival added an extra day this year to host the Rolling Stones on their third attempt to play the Jazz Fest. Prior Fests had them scheduled but between heart issues and pandemics, the Stones appearance was postponed until May 2, 2024.

The typical Fest days included 14 stages (both open-air and/or in massive tents) and a Children’s venue with 5-7 sets each day. There are hundreds of musicians being transported to various venues throughout the day not to mention instruments, equipment, and costumes. It is a huge undertaking and a lot of activity is behind the scenes. The various food, merchandise and craft vendors also have hundreds of chefs, proprietors and artists attending the many booths and small tents. All in all, it is a logistic nightmare, but somehow they manage to make it seem effortless!

Hot Jazz Jubile

Because of the added “Stones” day, there were lots of restrictions placed on the attendees and our tent—Economy Hall—only had three sets in order to comply with the security issues for that day so that all stages were emptied by 4:00 pm. But our sets included Joe Lastie’s New Orleans Sound, Mark Braud’s Jazz Giants, and The New Orleans Jazz Vipers—all fantastic performances. We were not interested in the Festival Stage with the Rolling Stones but many thousands of folks were eager to view the iconic group.

Some of the highlights of the first week of Fest days included Norbert Susemihl’s New Orleans All Stars with Shaye Cohn (p), Molly Reeves (gtr), Louis Ford (reeds), Herlin Riley (dr), Craig Klein (tb) and Mitchell Player (bs). Louis Ford’s New Orleans Flairs had Steve DeTroy (p), Jamil Sharif (tp), Tyler Thomson (bs), Stephen Tenney (tb), Joe Lastie (dr) and John Rodli (gtr).

As you can see many of the musicians play with several bands and figuring out who is supposed to be where and on what stage adds to the overall complicated logistics!


Banu Gibson, ever the consummate entertainer, had Hal Smith (dr), Tom Fischer (cl), Duke Heitger (tp), Charlie Halloran (tb), Kerry Lewis (bs) and David Boeddinghaus (p) complete her band. Banu is very involved with the NO Traditional Jazz Camp that will have two sessions this June due to such high demand.

The Ella & Louis Tribute had Gerald French (dr) and Jolynda “Kiki” Chapman mimicking some of their famous duets with Leslie Martin (p), Kevin Louis (tp), Eric Merchant (gtr) and Mitchell Player (bs) providing the background.

The Louisiana Repertory Jazz Ensemble opened up the next day with arrangements from the original bands in the 1910s and ’20s.

Clive Wilson’s New Orleans Serenaders featured Kris Tokarski (p), Seva Venet (bj/gtr), Tom Sancton (cl), Tom Saunders (bs), Hal Smith (dr) and Charlie Halloran (tb). Clive’s book Time of My Life chronicles his move from England to New Orleans in the early ’60s and his association with the musicians at Preservation Hall.

Beloved busker, Doreen Ketchens (cl) is always a crowd pleaser and with hubby Lawrence (tb) and daughter Dorian (dr) she makes it a family affair along with her devoted fans.


The Al Hirt Tribute had Wendell Brunious, Kevin Clark, and Doyle Cooper delving into the various inimitable styles of the famous trumpeter. With Richard Scott (p), Richard Moten (bs) and Shannon Powell (dr) the Allen Toussaint piece (especially written for Hirt)—“Java”—really came to life on stage.

As popular street-performers, Tuba Skinny is well-known and with Shaye Cohn (tp), Craig Flory (cl), and Barnabus Jones, the band specializes in 1920’s blues and gospel.

The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra led by Lars Edegran (p) with Matt Rhody (vln), Charlie Halloran (tb), Tom Fischer (cl), Jamil Sharif (tp), Jason Marsalis (dr) and Mitchell Player (bs) “ragged” a lot of tunes including James Scott’s “Climax Rag.”


The Treme Brass Band with Benny Jones epitomizes the brass band genre and got several second lines going during their set.

Dr. Michael White’s Liberty Jazz Band with Steve Pistorius (p), Seva Venet (bj/gtr), Gregg Stafford (tp), Mitchell Player (bs), Herman LeBeaux (dr), Detroit Brooks (gtr), Dwayne Paulin (tb) and vocalist Thais Clark. Thais always adds a sassy element to the set and this one was no exception. She has some favorite tunes with this band and did not disappoint!

Don Vappie (bj) and his Creole Jazz Serenaders consisted of Kevin Louis (tp), Jamil Sharif (tp), Tom Fischer (cl), Doug Belote (dr), Richard Moten (bs), Alonzo Bowens (reeds), Mike Esnow (p) and vocalist Quiana Lynell who did a duet with Don and mimicked the sounds of his banjo with her voice!


Direct from France, Tom Sancton’s (cl) New Orleans Legacy Band led Clive Wilson (tp), Richard Moten (bs), Ronell Johnson (tb), Lars Edegran (p) and Emile Martyn (dr) in some wonderful pieces. A native Orleanian, Tom usually visits New Orleans for about 4-5 weeks in the spring months and we always enjoy his performances. A noted author and writer, Tom’s book Song for My Fathers is an account of his early days in New Orleans sitting at the feet of Preservation Hall musicians.

Gerald French (dr) and The Original Tuxedo Jazz Band followed by Gregg Stafford’s Young Tuxedo Brass Band gave us a few hours of brass band delight including the N’awlins D’awlins Baby Dolls in their bright yellow outfits.

Louis Prima, Jr., and The Witnesses channeled his dad on several numbers, with a stage presence that can only be described as “exhausting”—there is a lot of physical activity between the front lines and rhythm sections, reminiscent of the types of big bands that Louis Prima, Sr., led for many years. Prima’s “Jump, Jive & Wail” tune is an appropriate description of the actions on the stage! With a tenor sax reminiscent of a Sam Butera, this band hit all the right notes and expended plenty of enthusiasm and energy for the music that made the original band very famous both in New Orleans and Las Vegas and on many television programs of the era.

Wendell Brunious and the New Orleans All Stars included Shannon Powell (dr), Richard Moten (bs), Freddie Lonzo (tb), Mike Esnow (p) and Caroline Brunious (cl). Grand Marshall Andrew Le Duff whistled for the second lines to commence and proceeded to lead the parade.

Palm Court musicians with Mark Brooks, Tom Fischer, Freddie Lonzo, Palm Court owner Nina Buck, Mark Braud, Meghan Swartz

We saw many of these performers during the ten evenings at Palm Court Jazz Café as it has always been my “happy place” and it was announced May 3rd that the Café will be permanently closing June 2nd. We are making a quick return visit on June 1st to be there for the final weekend. There is a small article on page one of this issue, but I will expand on the final weekend and any new information in my July column. There have been lots of tears shed by staff, musicians, and patrons of this one-of-a-kind venue in the French Quarter.

Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub is a great fun place to hear more traditional New Orleans jazz during the day or any evening. There is music with three to four bands every day from about 12:30 pm to midnight or later. Many of the named musicians at the Economy Hall venue for Fest also play there so it is always on our list for many visits.

Between the Fest days, the National Park Service held several performances at their site on Decatur. One day was the Arrowhead Jazz Band with Park Ranger Kerry Lewis (bs gtr), Ranger Hunter Miles Davis (dr), Charlie Halloran (tb), Geovane Santos (gtr) and vocalist Saskia Walker. The next day the Grammy Award winning Nightcrawlers had Craig Klein (tb), Kevin Clark (tp), Matt Perrine (sousa), Brent Rose (sax), Barney Floyd (tp), Miles Lyons (tb) and Jason Mingledorff (sax) and others on bongo, bass drum and snare. The Nightcrawlers were paying tribute to their drummer Kerry “Fatman” Hunter who was killed on Mardi Gras day by a drunk driver. These performances are free and open to the public in a casual setting in the early afternoon. It is a perfect way to spend some time before or after some sight-seeing or lunch.

Week 2—Day 5 of the Fest was the “Stones” day as I recounted earlier, and Day 6 brought the New Leviathan Oriental Fox-Trot Orchestra—always a treat with Bobby and his theremin (think of the unusual sound in the Star Trek theme). Artist and banjoist George Schmidt and the 18+ members of the orchestra recreate the shipboard antics of the 1890s and into the 1920s. Dressed in white outfits with appropriate naval caps, the musicians appreciate that era of danceable music aboard luxury craft.

Charlie Gabriel & Friends: Ben Jaffe (bs), Kevin Louis (tp), Charlie Gabriel (sx), Louis Ford (cl), Craig Klein (tb) – Photo by Shelly G.

Jamil Sharif (tp) had Louis Ford (reeds), Doug Belote (dr), Richard Moten (bs), Don Vappie (bj/gtr) and Steve DeTroy (p) while the next set touted Preservation Hall reed musician Charlie Gabriel, who will be 91 in August, with Kevin Louis (tp), Craig Klein (tb), Shannon Powell (dr), Kyle Roussel (p), Josh Starkman (gtr), Ben Jaffe (bs) and Louis Ford (reeds). Charlie is a beloved icon in New Orleans and belies his age with such enthusiasm and professionalism.

Lars Edegran (p) led the Sweet Emma tribute, another icon that came out of the early Preservation Hall days. Sweet Emma (p) had a unique personality and you may have seen her in the classic Steve McQueen movie set in New Orleans—The Cincinnati Kid—she “stole” her scene!

Herlin Riley (dr), Freddie Lonzo (tb), James Evans (reeds), Don Vappie (bj/gtr) and Kerry Lewis (bs) complimented vocalists (and sisters!) Yolanda Robinson and Jolynda “Kiki’ Chapman on some of the saltier lyrics Sweet Emma delivered.

The Pfister Sisters with Jim Markway (bs), Matt Rhody (vln), and Amasa Miller (p) draw inspiration from New Orleans’ Boswell Sisters with their three-part harmonies and musical interpretations of the many songs of the 1930s. Holley Bendtsen, Yvette Voelker, and Karen Stoehr are celebrating 45 years of making music out of non-instrumental effects—i.e., voices, throats, mouths, noses, etc. I have vivid memories of many family gatherings where we sang around the dinner table, vocalizing parts of songs with aunts and uncles making funny “noises” using their hands and mouths. My grandfather played the harmonica and we usually had some record playing in the background. I think of those times whenever I hear the Pfister Sisters and their delightful renditions of not only the Boswell Sisters, but the Andrews Sisters, too.

Smoking Time Jazz Club: Brett Gardner (bj), Jory Woodis (cl/sx), Jack Pritchett (tp), Sarah Peterson (v), John Joyce (bs), Mike Voelder (dr), Russell Ramirez (tb)

Smoking Time Jazz Club featured Jack Pritchett (tp), Jory Woodis (cl), John Joyce (bs), Mike Voelker (dr), Brett Gardner (bj), Russell Ramirez (tb) and Sarah Peterson (v). This group often plays on Frenchmen Street in the evenings and has a strong following.

Gregg Stafford’s Jazz Hounds had Mari Watanabe (p), Seva Venet (gtr), Tyler Thomson (bs), Detroit Brooks (bj), Bruce Brackman (reeds), Ronell Johnson (tb) and Joey Lastie (dr) playing some old favorites.

Preservation Brass with Mark Braud (tp), Kevin Louis (cnt), Richard Anderson (tb), Roderick Paulin (reeds), Joey Lastie (snare), Glen Finister Andrews (dr) and a few others played on while the New Generation Social Aid & Pleasure Club paraded through the tent. I always enjoy the parades and the participants who are so welcoming to those who want to join them in their parade. Small children often approach them and they are more than eager to share a banner or feather from their traditional costumes.

Dr. Michael White presented a tribute to Johnny Dodds (cl) who played with Joe Oliver’s bands and Armstrong’s Hot 5 and Hot 7 bands. So many of the musicians of the ’20s and ’30s traveled to Chicago and played for years there. I must have heard them replayed on the local radio stations while in my crib! I always remember the clarinet as being my favorite instrument from a very early age.

Aurora Nealand’s Royal Roses had Matt Perrine (tuba) and Tanner Gus (dr) along with a few other musicians. Aurora plays a soprano sax and also played the piano on her set acknowledging a vocal tribute to friends involved in the current Middle-East conflicts.

The final Fest day began with the Palm Court Jazz Band, in what is probably their last performance at Fest. Lars Edegran (p) with Robert Harris (tb), Shannon Powell (dr), Gregg Stafford (tp), Mitchell Player (bs), and Louis Ford (reeds) received a standing ovation.

The N’awlins D’awlins Baby Dolls during Gregg Stafford’s Young Tuxedo Brass Band performance

The Hot Plates leader, Steve DeTroy (p), sang a few tunes and J.D. Haenni (bs), Dwayne Burns (tp), Cody Coulon (dr) and Jory Woodis (reeds) provided the front line and rhythm sections.

Leroy Jones (tp) and New Orleans’ Finest showcased Paul Longstreth (p), Barnaby Gold (dr), Bruce Brackman (reeds), Katya Toivola (tb) and Jason Stewart (bs) recalling several scenes from the TV production of Treme, that featured the band at the Palm Court.

Tim Laughlin (cl) had Matt Perrine (bs), Hal Smith (dr), Duke Heitger (tp), Charlie Halloran (tb) and Kris Tokarski (p). Tim has a loyal following and has also written many original pieces on several albums. His Isle of Orleans is now a classic itself!

Now for the last brass band ensemble, the Paulin Brothers Brass Band took to the stage. I remember when Doc Paulin was the leader and emphasized how he had all his kids take up a different instrument to be in the band. He had ten sons but not all pursued a music career. There are still a few Paulin Brothers left and although some of the musicians in the band are not in the “family” they recreate the sound that Doc had so loved. The Good Fellas Social Aid & Pleasure Club provided the second line and a good time was had by all!

After 48-1/2 years, Shelly Gallichio is a retired Real Estate Associate Broker in Tucson, Arizona and despite growing up in Chicago, fell in love with the clarinet and the New Orleans sound at the age of three—she intends to spend the next 48-1/2 years seeking that sound! Reach her at [email protected]

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