Leyla McCalla Brings Her New Community to Jazz Fest

Leyla McCalla has largely conducted her career as a lone wolf, performing with just her cello or her banjo, or on occasion a second voice or instrument. Many people first encountered her as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but that was a fairly intimate acoustic ensemble, and her first two solo albums—Vari-Colored Songs and A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey—are defined by her instrument and singing as she explored her Haitian Creole heritage.

Jazz Fest: Catching Up with Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet’s Jazz Fest shows present a fascinating challenge. How does she represent the breadth of her musical interests in one solo 55-minute set? She succeeds largely by gesturing toward some parts of it—her improvised music side—while pulling her interests in pop music and art songs together in cello-based, loop-heavy compositions that build efficiently with a sense of drama. Before she’s finished, Gillet displays musical and artistic gravity, but her sense of humor and fun is also evident.

Leyla McCalla Maps Her Musical World Before Jazz Fest Friday

On last year’s A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, Leyla McCalla situated her exploration of her Haitian Creole roots in South Louisiana, not by making Cajun or zydeco music, but by working with Louis Michot, Don Vappie and other area musicians to find a place where their ideas meet. The performances have obvious intellectual rigor, but it never comes at the expense of heart.

Ben Sollee Makes Connections

"The thing that I don't enjoy is what we're pulling up to right now, which is when you just sit in traffic," cellist Ben Sollee says. He's driving in California on tour, and he enjoys the people watching and the wind farms, but it's not his preferred way of touring. The last time he played New Orleans, he was starting a bike tour of the Gulf South that he had to cut short in Pensacola.

Helen Gillet Alone and With People

On her previous album, The Running of the Bells, Helen Gillet performed with collaborators Tim Green and Doug Garrison, both part of New Orleans' undervalued improvised music community along with Gillet, who brings classic training in the cello to the act of making music. Recently, she released her self-titled third album this time, it's a solo album. It's more pop-oriented, which isn't to say it's pop.

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