Jazz Fest Remembers Wein, Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, And More
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Memorial Garden is about to get much more crowded as other musicians pay their respects to the many musical icons – known as “ancestors” – who have passed away since the last edition of the festival three years ago.
Jazz Fest, which kicked off Friday and ends May 8, will feature stage tributes, as well as jazz funeral processions that will pass through the fairgrounds and end with the unveiling of the honoree’s portraits alongside the other ancestors behind the Champ Carré du Congo.
“It’s Jazz Fest,” Quint Davis, the festival’s longtime producer/director, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. Like many African cultures, “we remain connected to our ancestors. These people are part of us, of our lives, of New Orleans.
Multiple commemorations, spread over the two weekends, are planned for George Wein, the founder of the Jazz Fest.
Wein helped found the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, then replicated his success around the world. In 1970, New Orleans leaders recruited him to remake the city’s two-year-old music festival. Wein added an outdoor “Louisiana Heritage Fair,” which became the model for the contemporary jazz festival. He remained a Jazz Fest staple through 2019 and died on September 13, 2021 in New York at the age of 95.
The festival will honor Wein with a jazz funeral on both weekends, as well as talks about his legacy and a performance by his band, the Newport Allstars.
A jazz funeral was also held on Saturday for Malcolm “Dr. John” Rebennack, who died on June 6, 2019 at age 77 following a heart attack. A tribute concert on the festival’s main stage will be held in his honor on June 8. may.
Folk and blues guitarist Spencer Bohren performed one last time at Jazz Fest in 2019, dying six weeks later from prostate cancer on June 8, 2019, at the age of 69. On Sunday, his fellow members of the Write Brothers songwriting quartet will join his sons and others for a tribute on the Lagniappe Stage.
Lafayette zydeco and blues guitarist Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal, who recorded and toured with Clifton Chenier, Buckwheat Zydeco and Rockin’ Dopsie, died June 10, 2019, at the age of 75. Fellow musicians will pay their respects in the Blues tent on May 6.
Dave Bartholomew, the trumpet player who co-wrote and produced most of Fats Domino’s hits, died on June 23, 2019, at the age of 100. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Elvis Costello and pianist Al “Lil Fats” Jackson, will salute Bartholomew on May 5. .
Jazz piano patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. died April 1, 2020 at age 85 of pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. On Sunday, there will be a jazz funeral procession and a tribute concert featuring his youngest son, drummer and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis.
Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra will celebrate the legacy of Allen Toussaint at the WWOZ Jazz Tent on May 6. He died in 2015.
James “Jim Boa” Olander, a sound engineer who spent decades as manager of the Blues Tent, died on March 1 at the age of 67. On Thursday, the festival will unveil an “Ancestor Photo” of Olander inside the Blues Tent.
Art Neville, keyboardist for the Neville Brothers and Meters, died on July 22, 2019 at the age of 81. He will be commemorated with his saxophonist brother Charles Neville, who died on April 26, 2018 at the age of 79. will join family members, as well as members of the Neville Brothers Band and the Funky Meters, for a tribute on the main stage of the festival. A joint jazz funeral will take place the following day.