This year we were on scene for the 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The festival featured many amazing performances, below are but a couple (out of many) of our favorites.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue:

The “supafunkrock” sound of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue was most definitely a highlight at this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. NOLA born Troy Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, are a favorite and major attraction at the Festival. The massive crowd that gathered at The Fairgrounds on Sunday April 29th for the performance was true testament to the popularity and acclaim TSOA has garnered throughout their story.

Living up to the hype of their legendary Jazz Fest performances, Andrews and company have fashioned a recipe that marries innovative sound with sheer showmanship. First you take Andrews’ masterful trombone and trumpet skills combined with his classic soulful voice, stir in the jazzy sounds of saxophonists Dan Oestricher and Tim McFatter, blend in face melting guitar riffs from Pete Murano, throw in an addicting bass line from Mike Ballard, and last but definitely not least, throw in a hip-hop-esque beat from drummer Joey Pebbles and percussionist Dwayne Williams. The outcome is the groundbreaking Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.

Highlights from the show were “The Craziest Things” and “Do to Me” from TSOA’s acclaimed album For True, not to mention the mind blowing performance of Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got a Women,” which found the band adding some extra funkiness to Ray’s classic anthem. Other memorable moments from TSOA’s 2012 Jazz Fest performance were Sax favorite Dave Koz, who joined the ensemble for a smooth and funky solo, a battle of the brass, if you will, between Andrews and his brass playing band mates and finally, probably the coolest moment of the show, TSOA switched it up and played each other’s instruments, the standout was Andrews drum solo finale. Continuing to make New Orleans proud, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are proof that New Orleans is one of the most pioneering cities in music.

If you havn’t seen Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue live, I would highly recommend putting the 2013 NOLA Jazz Fest on your “To Do” list.

Janelle Monae:

As many have come to learn, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is not held only to celebrate the understood and classic form of Jazz, but rather to embrace the old and new school of this timeless genre. I would definitely place Janelle Monae in the new school. For those unfamiliar with Miss Monae’s sound, it’s a seamless blend of classic R&B, alternative-pop, funk, and the jazz vocals of greats like Fitzgerald.

Sunday April 29th at Jazz Fest was not to be missed. Trombone Shorty, Bruce Springsteen, and Al Green were all on the bill. On a day with such a heady roster, Janelle Monae fit right in, and her performance was nothing shy of genius.

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In fabulous dramatic fashion the show began with Janelle’s Master of Ceremonies decked out in the Monae camp’s signature Tuxedo/Formal attire, top hat and all, welcoming the crowd with excitement and fervor. After the anticipation of the crowd had reached it’s limit, with the help of “ Suite II Overture,” Janelle appeared in equally dramatic fashion, cape and all.  Her presence immediately stirred the crowd and she was greeted with a humbling applause, definitely a show of appreciation for her originality and innovation. In a business where these traits have become sparse and embracing individuality is rare, Janelle is a breath of fresh air.

Janelle’s performance at Jazz Fest was remarkable.  It was a creatively crafted, complete with choreographed ’50s inspired dance routines and theatrical effects that included creepy characters sporting masquerade masks and long black robes stealthily moving on and off the stage. Janelle is known for creating a story during her shows, and this was no exception. It was exciting to see each piece unfold.

Highlights of her performance included  “Faster,” and “Locked Inside,” both from her critically acclaimed album The ArchAndroid.  Other memorable moments included an amazing and charming rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” and a killer version of Prince’s “Take Me With You,” from the unforgettable and groundbreaking Purple Rain soundtrack. It was cool to hear the crowd go crazy for this one. The brightest moment of the show was without a doubt Janelle’s performance of “Tightrope.” She turned the crowd out and left it all on stage. Truly unbelievable.

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Janelle is a true artist, in ever sense of the word. Her showmanship combines James Brown’s dance moves and vigor, Prince’s androgyny and overt funkiness, and the soul and singing chops of Tina and Erykah. One of the best performances at Jazz Fest, period. Let’s just say my mind was blown, and isn’t that what it’s all about.

Words by Rae Charles

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