It took Rachel Lyons, the archivist for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns Jazz Fest, some 20 odd years to discover tapes of some historic performances by Mahalia Jackson, the Meters, Pete Fountain, Duke Ellington, and Al Hirt, as well as other artists.
Some of these tapes date back to the very first edition of the festival back in 1970. Lyons, who is responsible for the collecting, cataloging, and caretaking of the festival’s history, initially only had a notion that these tapes existed.
She started her quest with a Facebook post but kept at her search for some 20 years. At the same time, she made an effort to organize the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s holdings, resulting in a series of broadcasts titled “Jazz Festing in Place.” The series has grown quite popular with jazz fans.
Currently, the four-day second weekend of the 2021 “Jazz Festing in Place” concludes Sunday, May 2, 2021, on what would have been the closing day of the 2021 Jazz Fest, had the coronavirus pandemic not postponed it until Fall.
On the day, New Orleans station WWOZ will showcase, on 90.7 FM and via the station’s website, performances from throughout Jazz Fest’s 50-year history (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time). This and other shows will also be accessible, for a limited time, on WWOZ’s online two-week archive.