“A week before the 47th edition of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the story looked to be the festival recommitting to its core values — good singing and good playing — with a talent roster overwhelmingly from New Orleans and Louisiana.
Then Prince died Thursday, and his loss led to a new Jazz Fest narrative: Who would honor him and how?
When the festival opened Friday, New Orleans’ Kermit Ruffins performed Purple Rain and let the audience sing the lyrics he obviously didn’t know. Americana group The Deslondes sang the gospel standard What Are They Doing in Heaven Today in Prince’s honor, but Janelle Monae made the biggest impact. Prince had been her friend and mentor. Musically cut from the similar genre-crossing cloth as he, she acknowledged during the set, “I am because he was.”“