By Kevin Shannahan
Mother Nature may not have been entirely cooperative, but that did not stop the show as the newly renovated downtown riverbank was transformed into a musical powerhouse by the annual Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival, April 13-14. This year’s event, the 22nd edition of musical excellence, featured over 25 bands and singers on several stages playing everything from Zydeco to Jazz, Country and Rock to an enthusiastic crowd.
Friday evening saw the Northwestern State University Jazz Orchestra setting the bar for the festival, followed by Ruston’s Swamp Donkey. Next up was Zydeco legend Wayne Toups, a perennial Louisiana favorite who had the crowd happily dancing the night away. Unfortunately weather concerns cut his performance short.
The festival came roaring back Saturday and continued the Festival’s tradition of featuring a wide variety of musical styles as well as encouraging local talent. Billy O’Con and Badd Apple rocked the house. The various NSU Jazz groups are a delight to listen to with their smooth as silk sound. The Lukejazz Trio, a longtime fixture on the Natchitoches music scene, provided the perfect ending for the discerning jazz fans at the Beau Jardin stage. Washington, D.C.’s 50 Man Machine brought what may very well be the first bagpiper to the Natchitoches Jazzfest, a most welcome addition!
The main stage was the place to be as the evening closed out on a high note. Natchitoches’ own Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs performed followed by Rick Derringer. The R&B Hall of Fame member Ohio Players fired up the crowd with a high energy set featuring some of their 17 Top-40 hits. The festival was closed by headliner Starship with Rock legend Mickey Thomas before an enthusiastic crowd. They kept the audience on their feet and moving with a high energy show featuring their classic standards. This year’s Jazz and R&B Festival was an enjoyable success.