Jazz Fest 2012

Crooners and Crawfish: The Sounds of New Orleans

During the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, music pours out onto the streets, from the famous Fair Ground Race Course to Congo Square and Bourbon Street.

Crooners have been coming to the birthplace of jazz for the weeklong festival since the inaugural fair in 1970. The first to grace the stage was gospel great Mahalia Jackson and band man Duke Ellington.

With twelve stages of soul-stirring music, the historic event has showcased some of the best local and international artists of the last half century: Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Dave Matthews Band, Patti LaBelle, Joni Mitchell, Lenny Kravitz, Willie Nelson, The Temptations, Van Morrison, Erykah Badu, Gladys Knight and many, many others.

Music is the main attraction, but food isn’t a far cry from first place. Festivalgoers munch on southern staples like broiled crawfish, creoles stuffed bread, collard greens, jambalaya, shrimp and grits, shucked oysters and sweet potato pie.

This year’s festival (April 27-May 6) will continue to celebrate the culture of Louisiana with authentic food, art and the joy of a jazz parade—a sight that can only truly be expressed by experiencing it yourself, says festival vet Irvin Mayfield.

The award-winning trumpeter, bandleader, composer, professor and recording artist has been going to the festival since he was a little boy.

“When you grow up in a town like New Orleans, it can be very difficult to communicate in words what it is like to grown up in a musical culture,” says Irvin. “The reason it works is because it’s in New Orleans—people want to feel the sense of community rush down on them and to be a part of the greatness.  You can’t recreate this anywhere else. You can’t buy soul.”

Jazz first sprouted from military-style marching bands at New Orleans funerals in the late 1800s, says Irvin. “That’s why there is so much soul in jazz. That’s what makes the passion for this music so powerful.”

As a Cultural Ambassador of the city, Irvin encompasses the definition of the Louisiana lifestyle. “New Orleans is one of the most authentic American experiences you can have,” says Irvin.

“To hear jazz in this city is a major difference than anywhere else—you’re a part of the jazz show, not just watching it.”

Get tickets or recreate the sounds of New Orleans in your own home with Irvin’s music at Target.com.

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