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Jazz Fest New Orleans Finale

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Something Odd Happens Over a Full Weekend of Jazzfest.

Between performances and parades, and the geography of where stages are situated, it's virtually impossible not to run into a brass band, Mardi Gras Indians or both. I assume that's by design; those traditions infuse all sorts of other New Orleans music and they are the main heritage in “Jazz and Heritage."

To see so many groups maintaining their street-level music after Katrina is heartening, and their tunes are incorrigibly upbeat. Yet after a few days the novelty wears off: oh, yeah, here come more Indians. And then Jazzfest is over and I'm headed back to New York, where Indian gangs don't vow to “set your flag on fire" over a tambourine beat and there's not a brass-band gig somewhere every night of the week. There's not even one a month. Like other things that make New Orleans so utterly singular, what's commonplace within that one city should never be taken for granted.

The Neville Brothers performed at the end of Jazzfest.The finale of Jazzfest was piled with symbolism: the return of the Neville Brothers to their old headlining slot and, more important, to New Orleans itself. It was a family of siblings (and two of their sons, Ivan and Ian) reuniting with their family of listeners, fellow New Orleanians and fans.

As the Neville Brothers, they consciously made themselves both a family band and ambassadors of New Orleans; following Hurricane Katrina, they played benefit after benefit. But personal choices and problems -- Aaron Neville's wife died of cancer in January 2007 -- delayed their return until now. “The Neville family coming back together," Art Neville said from the Jazzfest stage. “We ain't never left New Orleans, y'all," he added, no doubt speaking metaphorically.

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