Going from one stage to another was mostly like the sound of a Robert Altman film: Altman likes to move his camera through a group of actors, picking up dialogue wherever the camera goes. Friday, you could hear Nathan and the Zydeco Chas-Chas drift away and turn into the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra.Turn left and it was Benito DiBartoli. This was a pleasant thing that only went wrong a few times. Who knew that Shaggy was supplying background beat to the Brad Mehldau Trio? You've heard about playing The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon at the same time? This was nothing like that.
I always question when there's non-jazz at a jazz festival; however, when it's acts like Isaac Hayes and Solomon Burke and Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas, I'll make an exception. It is especially refreshing whenever I hear zydeco (and Cajun) music in Indianapolis. It's like finding a documentary in this town; go at all costs.
Isaac Hayes has quite the career. Who else can play in one performance "Theme From Shaft," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Walk On By" and "Chocolate Salty Balls"? A few beach balls were tossed onto the stage for him to kick. Now we know why he wasn't cast in the film Victory and Pele was. Speaking of Hayes, he called us Naptown. Anybody got a problem with that?
I love Buddy Guy as a guitarist. I love Buddy Guy as a singer. He puts on a great show, especially if you've seen him less than five times. Then the jukebox medley of Hendrix, SRV, Zeppelin, etc. riffs gets old quick. Don't worry, Indy Jazz Fest fans, the audience never sings loud and clear enough during "Feels Like Rain."
Like at the Chicago Blues Festival the previous week, I was concerned over the potential Ray Charles Tribute Overload. However, Monika Herzig & Friends started in on "Georgia On My Mind" and the rain just came down. That same evening, Poncho Sanchez played "One Mint Julep," which sounded exactly like Charles' recording (minus the ’60s Quincy Jones organ). My favorite obscure tribute was on Sunday when Indy's own No Regrets played "Let's Go Get Stoned."
Signs of jazz crossover: The hippy, trippy Tai Chi dancers during John Scofield's set. I would love to see their interpretative dance at the Jazz Kitchen the next time John's in town.
Solomon Burke's entrance was a mixture of privacy and great old school theatrics. Photographers were not allowed to shoot Burke while he was in his wheelchair. Shielded with his king's cape (yes, a cape), he was slowly led on stage by his entourage and security. When he got out of his wheelchair and was positioned in front of his throne (yes, an actual king's throne) he whipped off his hat, did a James Brown throwaway with the cape and stood before his audience-kingdom. Dressed in a black sequined suit (soul singers are allowed to wear sequins), he raised his arms in all soul glory, sat down on his throne and ripped through his set. Classic.
Advice from Patti LaBelle: "Use Vaseline and gold glitter on your legs and you'll be alright."
There was plenty of solid local and international jazz, but the tribute to Jimmy Coe (with the Coe family in the photo pit) was the most moving. Indianapolis has a strong jazz history and the more people know about it the better.
From the Soulbus school of mixing two songs together, the Blind Boys of Alabama sang "Amazing Grace" to the music of "House Of The Rising Sun." You're trying to now, aren't you?
For two and a half days, Indianapolis had a festival that wasn't destroyed by Mother Nature, wasn't too ridiculous in the price department and wasn't plagued with sunburnt, drunk, shirtless buffoons who wouldn’t know Miles Davis if he hit them with his trumpet. Welcome back in full strength, Indy Jazz Fest.