NEW ORLEANS IS READY FOR JAZZ FEST

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BY TIM DONNELLY
CORRESPONDENT
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/23/06

Thirty-seven years ago, jazz impresario George Wein (the man behind the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals) was hired to produce a unique event in New Orleans that celebrated Louisiana heritage.

Just 350 people showed up the first year, and the joke was that more than half of them were performers.

The spirit of the event was born in the spring of 1970, when hometown girl and legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and big-band leader Duke Ellington came across the Eureka Brass Band leading a crowd of revelers through Congo Square, the original home of the festival.

Wein saw an opportunity and handed Jackson a microphone.

The world's greatest gospel singer sang with her fellow New Orleanians and coaxed Ellington to join their homecoming parade. Little did they know then, but that chance meeting and convergence of music and heritage would be the genesis of one of America's most beloved and longstanding music celebrations, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

By the beginning of this decade, more than half a million attendees participated annually; dancing, eating and drinking their way into bliss over the 10-day event that spans two weekends. ... [MORE]




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