Trombonist proposes on stage at Jazz Fest

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The crowd applauding Big Sam’s Funky Nation got another reason to cheer when trombonist and band leader Sam Williams went down on one knee and proposed.

“Big Sam” surprised his girlfriend, Kolbi Johnson, as well as thousands of fans at the Samsung Galaxy Stage on Sunday — Johnson’s birthday, Nola.com-The Times-Picayune reported (http://bit.ly/1ngRiIB) .

She said yes, and he jumped up and danced.

Cowboy boots, sneakers and sandals were shuffling and whirling at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s Fais-Do-Do stage, where the Cajun Feufollet (FEE-foh-LAY) was playing a blend of traditional Cajun music with various eras.

The show featured a lot of Cajun- and country-based tunes with touches from rockabilly, old-school country, early rock ‘n’ roll, modern indie-rock and more.

Chris Stafford, accordionist and guitarist, and Kelli Jones-Savoy, fiddler and guitarist, sang mostly in Cajun French. New keyboardist Andrew Toups helped diversify the sound from early rock-and-roll piano to blues-rock organ to ethereal indie keys. Chris Segura added a strong, steady fiddle.

As the Gospel Tent’s stage crew worked on a technical problem, the emcee said, “The devil is trying to be a part of all this. The devil is a liar.”

Once that was fixed, Kim Che’re, who generally sings only in church but includes the Jazz Fest among her few secular performances, took the stage with four backing vocalists and a four-piece band.

The set started slowly but a long version of Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” got people on their feet and clapping. Before the next song, “Watch Me Praise Him,” she told the audience to put their hands up and “wave ‘em in the air.” The crowd responded, waving hands, but hats, napkins and scarves, in a gospel second line.

She was followed by the Zion Harmonizers, who are celebrating their 75th anniversary. No original members remain, but the close harmony is the same. The Harmonizers’ former leader, the late Sherman Washington, also served as the Gospel Tent’s longtime producer and father figure. As of this year, that tent is now officially the Sherman Washington Gospel Tent.

During “I’ll Fly Away,” band leader Brazella Briscoe spent more than five minutes singing and shaking hands down the tent’s aisles. An impromptu second-line followed him, dodging security personnel who tried, with limited success, to shut down the parade.

The 20-piece New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra played crisp arrangements of 1920s dance music at the Economy Hall Tent.

The song list included compositions by Irving Berlin, a rousing rendition of “Sheik of Araby,” and “Making Whoopee,” which cabaret singers perform to this day.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com

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