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New Orleans Jazz Fest Gears Up for Weekend Finale

Thousands took in the sights and sounds of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on its opening weekend, April 27-29, which featured almost every type of music imaginable. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, some of the best is yet to come at the festival many thought would never return after Hurricane Katrina.

Still lingering on the minds of musicians and fans was Hurricane Katrina, whose wrath and destruction nearly two years ago almost put an end to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. But, judging by last weekend's crowds, it looks like Jazz Fest is here to stay.

Though attendance is still down from pre-Katrina levels, the numbers are slowly climbing back. Producer and director Quint Davis remarked that, "It looks like a full-sized Jazz Fest." He added, "It feels more substantial and settled than last year, when it was hanging off the cliff by its fingernails."

Substantial might be putting it mildly. With the opening three days boasting everyone from the Crescent City All-Stars to Van Morrison, and hundreds more in between, Jazz Fest 2007 is once again proving itself gargantuan.

While many came for the headliners - Van Morrison, Percy Sledge, Rod Stewart, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Norah Jones and Ludacris - most were willing to seek out their favorite local act, like the New Birth Brass Band.

Fans daring to stay in town for the Jazz Fest finale May 4-6 will be richly rewarded by the variety of music offered at the Fair Grounds Race Course.

Dotted among the Native American pow-wows, second line parades, and heritage food and crafts fairs are two jazz tents, a blues tent, a gospel tent, a kid's tent, and three main music stages. After catching a glimpse of ZZ Top, Steely Dan, John Mayer, New Edition, Counting Crows, The Allman Brothers Band, George Benson and Harry Connick, Jr., who could resist an hour in the Southern Comfort Blues Tent listening to guitarist Walter "Wolfman" Washington and The Roadmasters.