WCSU

Alison Fensterstock

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.

Calling Fats Domino an architect of rock and roll almost sounds like faint praise. Indeed, the amiable country boy from the Lower Ninth Ward, with the help of bandleader impresario Dave Bartholomew and one of the world's truly legendary gangs of sidemen, dug the hole and laid the actual foundation.

At 46, Ben Jaffe is almost exactly the same age as Jazz Fest. Like a lot of New Orleans natives, he has memories of the annual event stretching back to childhood, though his experience is a little more rarefied than most. "That's where I got to sit on Fats Domino's lap and then hear him play," he says. "It's where I heard Allen Toussaint play for the first time as a child.

Headliners at the Essence Festival, which marked its 22nd Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans earlier this month, play in the middle of the Superdome, a cavernous arena that, as configured for the fest, seats about 50,000. Up on the stadium's plaza level, a cozier, less formal kind of show takes place. Four multipurpose party rooms deemed Superlounges, which each fit about 1,200 fans, serve as secondary stages.