Film Review: "Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story - MediaMikes

  • Starring: Quint Davis, Jimmy Buffett, Verdine White
  • Directed by: Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1hr 35mins
  • Sony Pictures Classic

They call it the Big Easy. Home of Mardi Gras and Saints. But New Orleans is known for one thing above all others…The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – a celebration of the music, food and culture that has defined the city and surrounding areas for centuries.

In the early 1960s, George Wein, the organizer of the famed Newport Jazz Festival, was asked to bring his talents to New Orleans. Unfortunately, the climate of the times postponed the first ever New Orleans Jazz Festival until 1971. “Jazz Fest” is a look inside the event on it’s 50th Anniversary as well as the events that shaped it.

An event that draws 100,000 people a day for many days, the Festival is probably the only place on Earth where you can see everyone from Tom Jones to Pitbull to Bruce Springsteen on the same bill. Those performers and many more talk about their pride in being asked to perform as well as the profound effect their performances have on not only on the crowd but also the musicians.

The film is full of great performances, both from previous shows and the 50th, including musical numbers by Ellis Marsalis and his sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Katy Perry, BB King, Samantha Fish, Al Green, and many others. Yes, this is called a JAZZ Festival, but all kinds of music, from gospel to soul to folk are well represented and well received. And a quick detour to the swamps gives viewers a taste of Cajun and Zydeco music. It is amazing how much of the area’s culture stirs around music, including funerals. I hope when my time comes that my trip to the cemetery is led by dancers and a big brass section! Even the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was dealt with musically as musicians like Jimmy Buffet, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen took to the newly built stage to give hope to, as Springsteen sang, the City of Ruin.

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Also featured is the amazing food found at the festival, with pretty much everything either fried or made with cream. I want to find the guy making the pork cracklings.

Due to COVID, the festival skipped two years but came roaring back earlier this year, with more than 7,000 musicians on 14 stages and didn’t skip a beat. If you can’t make it down in person, this film is a great way to enjoy the show.

“Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story” receives five out of five stars.

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