Funky Friday

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Published on: May 4th, 2009

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding has been exploding lately, and with good reason. Her enthusiastic and earthy character is matched by an articulate and proficient style of breezy jazz. The WWOZ Jazz Tent was certainly hypnotized, and I think more than a few crushes were formed.

Walter Wolfman Washington

Walter "Wolfman Washington (center) and the Roadmasters

Right next door in the Blues Tent, the venerable and varied Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters took us for a wild ride. It's hard to predict exactly what sound he's going to go for next, but judging by the consistently packed tent, there was plenty of trust among both locals and visitors that it would be good. Ori Culture Danse Club of Benin

I had already seen the Ori Culture Danse Club of Benin (pictured at right) during their Friday morning set at Congo Square, but at the evening set at the Jazz & Heritage Stage, I was a little perplexed at what I saw.

Members of the group were throwing white powder into their mouths and shaking a large furry dome of sorts until it started spinning on its own, and to our surprise, they revealed its insides were totally hollow! Intriguing sorcery, indeed, and a spooky complement to the dance routines and beautiful outfits. These folks from Benin sure know how to entertain.

During the last time slot of the day, legendary guitarist and Miles Davis band alum John Scofield was playing a landmark performance at the Blues Tent. His Piety Street Band, an adventurous group incorporating elements of blues, jazz, and gospel music, had a homecoming of sorts. Joined by an all-star cast that included Jon Cleary on piano, George Porter Jr. on bass, and Shannon Powell on drums, fans were basking in the golden opportunity, clearly feeling blessed to witness such a thing.

John Scofield

John Scofield

As the sun was beginning to set, I left the Blues Tent and headed towards the Fais-Do-Do Stage for an authentic Cajun sunset soundtrack. After some sound-check delays, The Iguanas took stage and set some hips in motion. I heard a lot of two things: "This is my favorite band," and "This is such a nice, intimate stage for this".

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