first_imgOnce again Lettuce’s Eric “Benny” Bloom, trumpet blower and very Shady Horn, brought together some of best friends in the scene for a dense journey into the fabled catalogs of a pair of musical icons. Dubbed “MJ vs. Stevie,” the works of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder were played in a back-to-back rotation that delighted casual fans and audiophiles alike. Other members of Lettuce, like beat master Adam Deitch and organist Nigel Hall, along with MonoNeon bassist of Prince‘s fabled backing band, Wil Blades, Andrew Block of the Russ Liquid Test, and more brought these songs to life in new and jazz-funk fusion ways to ring out the festival weekend in fine style.We’ll be taking a separate look at the deeply groovy opening set by the legendary Zigaboo Modeleste‘s Funk Review in the coming days, but for now let’s focus on the battle of the titans at the heart of the program. The inspired idea to host a back and forth sonic clash between twin soul titans Jackson and Wonder has again yielded spectacular results. Band leader Bloom deftly blended deep cuts and fan favorites to give a true snap shot of the bodies of work these giants have produced.Combined, the work of these two artists dominate a wide swath in the American collective psyche. From an insurgent heyday beginning at the ripe age of eleven, Stevie Wonder shrugged off adversity with a display of pure heart that didn’t have to be seen to be believed. On the other side of our imaginary squared circle is the King Of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, ready to defend his crown from the challenger.Though the adversarial nature of the “MJ vs. Stevie” title might lead people to expect a more compare and contrast style event, the performance was, as always intended, a celebration. Bloom and his cohorts re-scored several of the tunes to a far more jazz-y soundscape, transposing lyrical flow to instrumental voicing, seemingly effortlessly. For savvy fans paying attention to the nuts and bolts of the restructuring, there was a sense of all the right choices being made.There are plenty of wonderful moments to watch for in the videos below, particularly Bloom’s impressive trumpet work in the opening moments of “Human Nature” and throughout, Hall’s pure passion on the mic, and basically everything Deitch does. But, if you’re looking for sheer fun keep an eye out for The Nth Power‘s Nikki Glaspie’s surprise sit-in, with a liberal mixture of scat singing, drum kit usurpation, and general late night shenanigans.This show has become a beloved way to wind down the last evening of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for a devout bunch of music lovers for a reason. The laid back boogie vibe of musical exploration and the wide open jams it produces are a low key way to keep the party going for those with a few furtive sparks left in the tank. Hell, after MJ vs. Stevie tribute finished, LA’s Organ Freeman took the stage in The Den and rocked ’til dawn! But that’s a story for another day as well.For now let’s enjoy a bit of the back and forth flavor of the evening with six videos from MJ vs. Stevie, thanks to our own Rex Thomson. He was sure to give each artist an equal number of clips so as to capture the spirit of the battle that produced only winners, onstage and off. Enjoy!“Living For The City”“The Way You Make Me Feel”“You Haven’t Done Nothin”“Do You Remember The Time”“Rocket Love”“Human Nature”last_img