Deacon John Moore brought a real taste of New Orleans to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival early Sunday afternoon.
He’s been a part of the scene for decades, performing for all manner of events, private and public. In the 1960s, Moore and his guitar participated in New Orleans recording sessions that yielded national hits by Aaron Neville, Ernie K-Doe Lee Dorsey and more.
Many people in the Gentilly Stage audience Sunday have known singer, guitarist and sometimes dancer Moore since they were high school students in the 1960s. He played at audience member Allison Young Mulhern’s 1969 prom at St. James Major in Gentilly.
“He’s a very sweet man, very much a Southern gentleman,” Mulhern said as she enjoyed Moore’s show.
Former New Orleans area resident Amy McGinity was another person in the audience who’s known of Moore since her teens.
“I wanted him at my wedding so bad, buy my dad said no,” McGinity said.
Moore pulled out the stops for his Gentilly Stage show, filling the stage with an eight-man horn section, two additional vocalists and more. His brother, Charles, played bass.
Probably no 2015 Jazz Fest can top Moore’s musical range. Jump blues, rhythm-and-blues, psychedelic rock, Steely Dan, a snippet of Beatles and a full-tilt blues number dedicated to the ailing B.B. King all had a place in his show. Moore also managed three costume changes.
Fully exploiting his big band for the day, he opened with selections reflecting the sweet spot where big band swing and rhythm-and-blues meet. A rich rendition of early West Coast jump-blues star Joe Liggins’ Latin-spiced “Going Back to New Orleans” followed. Moore stepped away from the microphone during the latter song to do his signature shuffle-and-hop dance. The song ended on the same dramatic minor chord that ends Liggins’ recording.
Moore stayed in New Orleans with, “Someday,” a local classic recorded in New Orleans in the 1950s by hometown star Smiley Lewis.
Moore ended with the song he’s sung at probably hundreds of funerals, reggae star Jimmy Cliff’s moving hymn, “Many Rivers to Cross.”