by Lawrence Bush
I’m at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, here on a short break to allow the healing power of music work its wonders on me. Yesterday I visited Congo Square, in Louis Armstrong Park, where slaves here in the deep Plantation South were permitted, over the decades, to gather and drum and dance and develop an impromptu marketplace.
Here are the origins of jazz — and here’s where America’s Burning Bush is rooted.
I wept a little as I stood before this sculpture by Adewale Adenle, a Nigerian artist. I shed a few more tears a couple of hours later, standing before the Jazz & Heritage Stage watching an African dance troupe. There is no shade at this stage, and the the clouds had dispersed, and after about twenty minutes of standing there baking — but with my water and my straw hat and my freedom to leave and seek shade or even air-conditioning — my wife said to me, “Can you imagine slaving in this kind of sun and heat all day long every day?”
Except for a few hours Sunday mornings at Congo Square . . .
One of the great musical highlights so far has been Germaine Bazzle, a veteran New Orleans jazz singer who lets every word of the song lyric pass through her heart. Here’s a video of her from last year’s Jazz Fest. The other most-moving and fabulous presentation was Wycliffe Gordon’s quintet tribute to Louis Armstrong, “Hello Pops” — which again made me incredibly proud that Armstrong wore a Jewish star his whole adult life, as reported in Jewdayo in one of my favorite entries.