New Orleans Jazz Fest: Prince tributes abound from Janelle Monae, Trombone Shorty, more
Now that the second weekend of the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is here, it’s worth mentioning the artist who seemed to eclipse last weekend's opening three days: Prince.
From its stages and tents to even skywriters overhead, the Purple One’s death weighed heavily on those at the festival as well as its eclectic mix of artists.
Perhaps none carried a heavier burden than Prince protege Janelle Monae, who turned in a short but incendiary Friday set on the Congo Square Stage dedicated to her mentor.
From a song co-written with him (Givin’ Em What They Love) to Prince’s own Take Me With U and Let’s Go Crazy, it was clear that Monae was working through her grief — Prince’s death having been announced just the day before. Monae spoke of her first encounter with Prince — a phone call that reduced her to a fangirl — and how he’d gone to bat for her with the BET network.
Monae told the crowd that Prince was fearless in breaking boundaries — in both his music and his persona. “I am because he was,” she said. How fitting.
Elsewhere, such stories probably were common on opening weekend — Soundcheck was at just a fraction of the performances, but a few moments stood out.
On Saturday, we were wandered past the Blues Tent only to be lured in by a blistering guitar solo by Memphis bluesman Preston Shannon — the “King of Beale Street” — on Purple Rain.
Earlier, we’d heard the renowned composer and drummer Jack DeJohnette — still a creative force in modern jazz at 73 — asked who he wished he’d had a chance to play with in his long career and his answer was wistful and short: “Hendrix and Prince.”
Saturday night, before Trombone Shorty kicked off his Treme Threauxdown at New Orleans' historic Saenger Theatre, the house lights went down and Prince’s shimmering purple glyph appeared on the ornate stage.
The P.A. played Purple Rain in its entirety. The audience stood and sang along: If you know what I’m singing about up here, c’mon. raise your hand. They did.
-- Peter Couture