Thursday at Jazz Fest, Terrace Martin could have gone on for a while, and Telmary did her best with what she had.

terrace martin photo
Terrace Martin

Terrace Martin’s set felt like it was just getting started when he brought it to a close Thursday at Jazz Fest. He was finding his groove, and guests Nicholas Payton and Maurice Mo Betta Brown began playing with each other and briefly teased what could happen in the show’s second hour. Unfortunately, Martin was slated for a one hour show, leaving us to speculate about what could have been. 

Martin was last in New Orleans to play with saxophone with Herbie Hancock, and throughout the set he played that, synthesizers and vocoders, though the latter were never loud enough in the mix to make a difference. As a musician, he’s the person I wanted to know better because in his hour since he shared the spotlight readily with bandmates James Francis on keys, Mononeon on bass, and particularly Robert Sput Searight on drums, as well as Payton and Brown. Everybody used their time wisely, but by the end it felt like his contribution was to bring the players and compositions together rather than make musical statements himself.

He has the chops to tour with Hancock, but as he pointed out often during the set, he’s from the Crenshaw neighborhood in Los Angeles, and at least two of the three (or four) songs he performed were co-written with fellow Crenshaw resident Kendrick Lamar. Those compositions shared a sense of stasis with hip-hop beats, so they established and explored a musical mood rather than use the head as the launch point for a journey. Hip-hop also shaped the set’s aesthetic with Mononeon’s bass dropped to a sub-strata level, where it was heard as a rumbling motion more than a series of discrete notes. Searight’s drums, on the other hand, challenged for lead instrument.

The set’s highlight was “Valdez Off Crenshaw,” a song that Martin introduced as an effort on his and Searight’s part to “remix” Donny Hathaway. In it, the loose, slightly blunted vibe of the set tightened up just enough to make the performances more deliberate. The interplay in the song between Payton, Brown and Martin, pushed aggressively by Searight, made the piece one of my favorite moments in the Jazz Tent this year.

Singer/rapper Telmary performed with a makeshift Habana Sana Thursday on the Acura Stage. Her band was unable to get visas to get out of Cuba, so she had to pull together musical friends from around the country for the show including New Orleans’ tuba player Steve Glenn. That was not obvious, though. The band was easily precise enough, and Telmary’s charisma distracted from any mistakes. The runway jutting out from the stage is often reserved for headliners—I don’t know if that’s the case at Jazz Fest—but she certainly acted like it was hers if she wanted it when she strutted out to the end of it to work to the faces of the fans. “We are queens,” she told the men in front of her, and between her obvious confidence and fierce flow, no one could doubt her. 

Personally, I hoped for the more electronic elements in her recordings, but I couldn’t complain about the show I got. 

I don’t know if there’s a better way to make sure that “Locals Thursday” tickets go to locals, but on Thursday’s first try, the line was almost two blocks long to buy them at the Sauvage Street entrance.