Jazz Fest can be such an all-consuming affair that it's easy to forget that the outside world continues on, oblivious to who's playing at the Lagniappe Stage or whether the cochon du lait is up to par. Unfortunately, some sad news from outside the Fair Grounds tempered this year's celebration, as zydeco king Boozoo Chavis died on May 5 (see feature, p. 30).
Chavis' death came shortly after two previous losses in the zydeco community. On April 27, Creole accordionist Danny Poullard passed away at the age of 63. Poullard recorded with Michael Doucet and Canray Fontenot for the Arhoolie label, and recently released the CD Poullard, Poullard and Garnier (Louisiana Red Hot Records), a traditional trio record with fiddlers Ed Poullard and D'Jalma Garnier.
The following day, legendary Creole fiddler Bebe Carriere died of a heart attack at the age of 92. Carriere was one of the elder members of the esteemed Carrier family (the younger generation has dropped the second "e" from the name) that includes popular accordionists Roy and Chubby. Carriere was a major influence on contemporary Creole and Cajun fiddlers, including BeauSoleil's Michael Doucet, who adapted Carriere's old fiddle song "Blues a Bebe."
In other news, reclusive legendary New Orleans R&B innovator Huey "Piano" Smith's health is fine, which makes his no-show at WWOZ's Piano Night even more disappointing. (Earl King was also scheduled, and was also nowhere to be found.) Sources say that Smith's no-show was no reflection on WWOZ or Smith's relationship with guest of honor Eddie Bo, but the result of some questionable last-minute business counsel Smith received. ...
Things were extra cool at the Maple Leaf Bar during Jazz Fest, thanks to the installation of a massive new air-conditioning system that owner Hank Staples debuted the week before the Fest. Staples says next on the Leaf agenda is finding a replacement piano for the bar's battered upright. ...
One forthcoming CD you won't be able to find in local record stores -- or any other music store in the country -- is Zachary Richard's High Time: The Elektra Recordings, which is the first Louisiana-related CD to be offered through Rhino Records' Internet-only Rhino Handmade division. High Time contains the master recordings of Richard's unissued 1974 debut album for Elektra, which might have been a landmark album if the master tapes weren't lost. (Archivists recently stumbled across the tapes mixed in with Jonathan Richman's catalog.) It features Richard in singer/songwriter mode singing in English and French, surrounded by warm analogue '70s production, sounding somewhat like a Cajun Jonathan Edwards. If High Time was released when it was it scheduled, maybe the Cajun music renaissance would have started 10 years earlier. To order the CD (which is available in a limited-edition pressing of 5,000 copies), go to www.rhinohandmade.com.
Speaking of singer/songwriters, Gina Forsyth deserves congratulations on the re-release of her superb self-produced 2000 CD, You Are Here, which has been picked up for national distribution by Waterbug Music. Forsyth is one of New Orleans' great unsung talents, a singer/songwriter with a voice of gold and treasure chest of moving songs. Whenever I hear Forsyth, I'm reminded of the time that I saw an unknown singer named Shawn Colvin 15 years ago at a folk festival. There was no denying Colvin's sparkling melodies and diamond-cut voice; it was just a question of whether she'd catch a break. Colvin's current success is proof that Forsyth deserves her chance at national recognition -- and with her superb fiddle playing, Forsyth could be Louisiana's answer to Allison Krauss. Forsyth celebrates her record deal with a CD-release party at Neutral Ground Coffee House at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16.
Advance patron and priority-seating tickets go on sale this Friday, May 18, for one of the most anticipated concerts of the year -- the August 4 Louis Armstrong Tribute featuring the Marsalis family (Ellis, Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason) and Harry Connick Jr. The show is at Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena. Patron tickets are $250 (tax-deductible) and include VIP seating and admittance to a post-concert Jazz Jam at House of Blues; priority seating tickets are $100. For patron tickets, call 280-7410. Priority tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 522-5555.
Finally, this week marks the return of this column's regularly scheduled appearance after a three-week hiatus. I want to say a big thank-you to my wife Cindy, and all my family, friends and co-workers who lent support before and during Jazz Fest -- part of which I spent at home with my newborn son. Welcome to the world, Evan Thomas Jordan, and get ready for your first Jazz Fest in 2002.