Davell Crawford's Professorial Piano

Davell Crawford i i

hide captionDavell Crawford, next in a line of New Orleans piano whizzes.

Josh Jackson
Davell Crawford

Davell Crawford, next in a line of New Orleans piano whizzes.

Josh Jackson

The scene at the Blues Tent was spilling out of the perimeter for an eagerly-anticipated set from Davell Crawford, a youngish, flamboyant piano professor and singer from the New Orleans tradition of "play everything."

I stepped out of hay-deprived mud and into the beautiful majesty of an inspiring gospel performance of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," a tragically cathartic song about the Mississippi River floods and the federal response from President Coolidge. It's a familiar refrain at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival every year, not to mention that has some added cultural currency in 21st-Century New Orleans.

Crawford is a star here, though he's yet to find his just desserts on the national stage. Pity that, because his overwhelmingly beautiful performance with two prominent piano players, Jon Cleary and Dr. John, was worth the price of admission alone.

John Cleary i i

hide captionJohn Cleary.

Josh Jackson
John Cleary

John Cleary.

Josh Jackson

Cleary, a Englishman with more than two decades of New Orleans blues and rhumba pianism under his belt, joined Crawford for Chris Kenner's "Something You Got" and Little Willie John's "Let Them Talk." Then Dr. John took the piano spot with Davell on keyboard for "Iko Iko," a song written and performed by Davell's grandfather, James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. (Who I happened to meet one day at WWOZ as a locksmith — and not as one of the greatest purveyors of New Orleans rhythm and blues!).

If this doesn't sound orgiastic enough for a survey of New Orleans piano blues, all three men played Professor Longhair's "Tipitina" together. On the same piano.

Game. Set. Match.

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