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New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival In Full Force

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It’s been over two years since guitarist Steve Masakowski has played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – now it’s back!

The festival was in full force after the long lockdown period, but there were record-breaking crowds attending due, no doubt, to the great weather and the willingness of people to get out and enjoy the festivities. There were numerous gigs and concerts happening throughout the city. 

Photo Above: Astral Project L-R Steve Masakowski, Tony Dagradi, James Singleton, Johnny Vidacovich

Some of the performances by Masakowski included a set with the long-standing New Orleans-based contemporary jazz group called Astral Project. It was very exciting to see them play at the WWOZ Jazz Tent again since Astral Project has played every Jazz Fest for the past forty years. Astral Project includes Steve Masakowski on guitar, Tony Dagradi on sax, James Singleton on bass, and Johnny Vidacovich on drums. The bard performed their unique New Orleans-based original material for an enthusiastic audience.

Steve Masakowski and James Singleton

Steve was also the featured soloist with the Xavier University Jazz big band under the direction of Dr, Tim Turner. Some of the compositions that Steve was featured on were the classic Thelonious Monk piece Epistrophy, Cedar Walten’s Firm Routes, and a wonderful arrangement of an original song called Tango Del Garraf by Chano Dominguez.

One of the highlights of the jazz fest week is the patron party held at the home of Dr. Siddarth Bhansali. The group featured Khari Allen Lee on sax, Herlin Riley on drums, Chris Severin on bass, Steve Masakowski on guitar, and Mike Esanault on piano. The party always offers the most amazing Indian food for the quests and the band of course.

Dr. Sid Bhansali’s Jazz Fest party with Herlin Riley drums, Chris Severin bass, Steve Masakowski guitar, Mike Esanault piano

Midweek of the Jazz Festival saw the re-opening of the Ellis Marsalis Center in the Musicians Village which had been closed for nearly three years. This is a state-of-the-art concert venue that was constructed and dedicated to the patriarch of the Marsalis Family. The event was an open jam session that included numerous New Orleans jazz musicians and some visiting players including David Torkanowsky, Derek Douget, Ashlin Parker, Steve Masakowski, Germaine Bazzle, Johnny Vidacovich, Jesse McBride, Herlin Riley, Greg Davis, and Emmet Cohen and Russell Hall.

Steve with the Xavier University Big Band.

The last day of the festival was a special occasion since all three of the Masakowski family were playing sets on different stages. Bassist Martin Masakowski was featured with Moroccan guitarist and Oud player Mahmoud Chouki, followed by Steve playing on a tribute to Grover Washington with Khari Allen Lee, and finally, Sasha Masakowski doing electronic drums and looping with Nicholas Payton as he played trumpet, piano, and acoustic bass, and Klyph on modular synth and guitar.

Nicholas Payton’s New World Order set with Nick on multiple instruments, Sasha Masakowski on electronic drums and looper, Klyph on modular synth and guitar.

All in all, it was a memorable 2022 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival season that marked the return of a sense of normalcy for musicians and music lovers. 

Walter Wolfman Washington on guitar with the Joe Crown organ trio.

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