The second day of Jazz Fest is in full gear. And full sun.
The folding chairs are stacked deep at the Acura stage. Dozens of ticket holders ran to snag their spot this morning. The big deal? Bill Joel.
The Piano Man is closing the biggest stage at Jazz Fest after New Orleans ivories legend Allen Toussaint.
Like so many of the out-of-town acts, Joel arrived a few days early and jumped into the local music scene. In his annual Jazz Fest press conference earlier today, Festival Productions CEO Quint Davis said Joel and his band were here last night, practicing at 10 p.m. with Preservation Hall.
On the other end of the Fair Grounds, we checked out the Grandstands. Think shade, fewer crowds, real bathrooms — and, most importantly, the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage. That’s the stage where musicians sit down for one-on-one interviews with music writers and historians.
We will have more on Allison Miner and her legacy — in New Orleans music at large and at Jazz Fest — next week.
Today, however, we talked with Ben Sandmel. He’s running the Allison Miner stage this year and has produced the stage since the mid 1990's. Sandmel's most recent book is Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans. He talked about what his job entails and why he gets some of Jazz Fest’s biggest acts to sit for a spell in the air conditioned grandstand and talk about the stories behind their music.
Sandmel says the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage is like a front porch, a more intimate setting between the artist and the audience where people can ask the musicians questions, hear their stories, and also hear them play. He says he selects a representation of musicians from all the big stages, and carefully pairs artists with interviewers who know the most about that particular genre of music. If someone has written a scholarly book about music, Ben often invites them to appear on the stage as well — so that the audience can benefit from what the writers have researched and learned.
The interviews from the Allison Miner Music Heritage stage are available for research, or to just listen to and enjoy, at the Jazz Fest Archives in the French Quarter. Find out more information at nojazzfest.com.