Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans Salutes Its Jazz Roots

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Orleans Salutes Its Jazz Roots

Article excerpt

THE hometown of jazz is jumping and jiving in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, an annual tribute to the musical culture that was born here at the turn of the century.

Although it began as a low-key event aimed at a local audience, Jazzfest has become a national and international magnet. A record number of people attended the first weekend's festivities last week and an even larger crowd is expected as the 10-day festival concludes this weekend.

The annual celebration of jazz's heritage began in 1970 when 300 musicians gathered in the city's Congo Square to perform for about 150 curious onlookers. What began as a little-known celebration of regional talent has become a major production with global appeal. At this year's silver anniversary, the festival is presenting 4,000 musicians and expects to draw an overall audience of 400,000.

Many of the locals now leave the festivities to incoming tourists. "People act like they just realized what's happening here in the last five years," says taxi driver Donald Jones. "I don't fool with it now because I don't take to those crowds."

Jazzfest '94 began last Thursday with a "second-line" parade through the streets of New Orleans. Second-line parades, which helped spawn the jazz culture, originated as a funeral ritual with mourners marching to an improvised beat. Throughout the decades, the second-line tradition has evolved into a more celebratory display of elaborate costumes and improvisational dance led by a brass band.

Following the kickoff parade, the Louisiana Heritage Fair opened on the Fair Grounds Race Track, the third-oldest horse-racing track in the United States and the Jazzfest fair site since 1972.

Throughout Jazzfest, evening concerts feature big names such as the Count Basie Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, and Aretha Franklin. …

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