I just got back from spending an unforgettable week in New Orleans for the annual Jazz and Heritage Music Festival. What an amazing time of inspiration, celebration and total immersion in the rich music of our culture! I had the special pleasure of being invited to sit in with many bands around town, and I got to jam and play the guitar each night! I played a variety of music (mostly funk and blues), and grooved with some truly great players. I heard some fantastic bands and saw some incredible performances. Here are some of my highlights — from both the actual festival as well as at the nightly shows.

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Valerie Romanoff with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band at The Circle Bar.

One of my favorite bands, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, was visiting from Asheville. Not only did I get to catch two of their shows, but I got to play with them as well! Many thanks to Mary Frances and the guys for making me feel so welcome! I also sat in with local blues guitarist Darren Murphy who plays with a variety of musicians. Thanks Darren for all the great gigs! I also loved seeing the Soul Rebels as well as the Rebirth Brass Band. Trombone Shorty was also a highlight… his show was such fun.

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Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band — The Circle Bar, New Orleans

 

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Playing with Darren Murphy around town

 

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Jamming blues at the Old Opera House — Bourbon Street, New Orleans

I loved the tribute concert to Dr. John, featuring a roster of amazing all-star artists, including Bruce Springsteen and John Fogerty (See below for a list of performers).  The Wild Magnolias were fantastic… both to watch and to dance to! I flipped out over seeing Dumpstaphunk, and was especially knocked out by the performance of their drummer Nikki Glaspie. I was happy to meet many of the Nevilles, and again was pleased to be so warmly welcomed.

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Valerie Romanoff & Nikki Glaspie behind the Acura Stage — New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

My biggest highlight was connecting with my new favorite guitarist Derwin (“Big D”) Perkins, who plays with Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen – what a band! Jon’s music is cool and fresh, it has all of my favorite grooves with wonderful changes. The band is supercharged, and Derwin is the most magnificent guitar player ever! By the time I got home last night, I had compiled so many original music ideas that I will begin working on for my new album, and putting together a little funk band of my own! I love New Orleans, I love music, I love all the inspiration that constantly surrounds us, and I am thankful for being a part of the miracle of life!

Valerie Romanoff and Derwin “Big D” Perkins, at the Maple Leaf with Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen

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Valerie Romanoff & Ian Neville after the Dumpstaphunk Show

 

Dancing to Wild Magnolias at the Jazz & Heritage Stage  — New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Dancing to Wild Magnolias at the Jazz & Heritage Stage — New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

 

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Valerie Romanoff & New Orleans blues guitarist Darren Murphy

Valerie Romanoff & Daniel Baruch, audio engineer extraordinaire at the Jazz & Heritage stage

Announced performers for “The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac & His Music” include Gregg Allman, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Widespread Panic, Ryan Bingham, Lucinda Williams, George Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, Zigaboo Modeliste, Jimmie Vaughan, Irma Thomas, Tab Benoit, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Chief Monk Boudreaux, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Bill Kreutzmann, Chuck Leavell, Shannon McNally, Sarah Morrow and Anders Osborne. Dr. John will perform during special collaborations throughout the concert. More special guests and additional performers will be announced in the coming weeks. The event will be filmed for broadcast at a later date. Grammy winner and Blue Note Records President Don Was will lead the all-star band and serve as the concert’s musical director.