50 Years of Jazz Fest: Dino Perrucci’s Visions of Jazz Fest
A longtime Relix photographer and New Orleans music documentarian looks back on nearly a quarter-century around the Fair Grounds.
I attended my first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1996 as a fan, and I haven’t missed one since—this year will be my 24th in a row. There is nothing like a day at the Fair Grounds. Grab a soft-shell crab po-boy and head over to the Jazz & Heritage stage to see some Mardi Gras Indians and then grab a cold beverage and head over to the Gospel tent to hear a 40-strong youth choir, and you’ll understand right away. There is no place on earth I would rather be the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph and meet so many legendary New Orleans musicians and develop a deep appreciation for the culture. You can watch the generations grow up onstage in front of you, especially within the Mardi Gras Indian tribes, as many have their kids suit up as soon as they can stand. Trombone Shorty is another great example in a city that has always passed the torch. When I first met Troy, he was a teenager and it was clear he was destined for great things.
Here’s a look at some of my favorite moments and essential faces, along with additional images from our Jazz Fest cover shoot.
THE METERS (above)
I captured this photo right before the final performance of one of my favorite bands of all time, The Meters.
Dr. John made his final Jazz Fest appearance two years ago, right before the skies opened up pouring rain, marking the end of an era. The late, great Charles Neville was part of the band, and that was also his final performance.
CYRIL NEVILLE AND IRMA THOMAS
Two of the most legendary New Orleans musicians, The Uptown Ruler and The Soul Queen of New Orleans—their love and respect comes through in this photo.
BIG CHIEF VICTOR “FI YI YI” HARRIS OF MANDINGO WARRIORS
A perfect example that the next generation is there to carry on the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians.
GEORGE PORTER JR. AND BEN JAFFE
As far as the bass goes, they are very different players but two of my favorites. After we took the group shot for this issue’s cover, I said to them: “We have to get the bass players together. How about some low end?” The result is this playful photo.
This article originally appears in the April/May 2019 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.