Saturday may be the biggest day in the history of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell. Every stage is overflowing with talent particularly in the headlining slots at the biggest stages where Stevie Wonder (pictured at top), Beck, Snoop Dogg, Arturo Sandoval, and Buddy Guy vie for the attention of festers. Here are our Saturday picks. The full Saturday schedule is here.
Guitarist and bandleader Deacon John is a legend in these parts—a man who has weathered every change in the music business since the 1950s. He must also be an early riser as he is opening the Acura stage at 11:30 AM. This might be puzzling given his stature except for the fact that he was scheduled at 11 AM at the French Quarter Fest three weeks ago.
Putting Sweet Crude, Louisiana’s favorite (only?) percussion-heavy, francophone indie rock band on the same stage as Beck is pure genius. I love the joie de vivre this band exhibits when they play and I hope Beck is in the wings checking them out.
I am seriously torn about the options in the third time slot around 1:40 PM. Jon Batiste, the bandleader who replaced the irreplaceable Paul Shaffer, along with his band Stay Human, is opposite the Midnite Disturbers, a brass band super group. I have watched Batiste mature since his first Jazz Fest appearance and I have seen every Disturbers show (as far as I know they only play at Jazz Fest). I guess the decision will have to be made at the time.
Get out your energy drinks, carbo load, eat a good breakfast and do whatever it takes to fortify your body and spirit because the four consecutive days of the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Festival presented by Shell are not for the faint of heart. Here are our picks for day two (or five if you’re in it for the duration). The full schedule is here.
Big Chief “Little” Charles Taylor (photo below by Skip Bolen) is one of the most respected Mardi Gras Indians in the tight-knit community. Known for his elaborate, three dimensional suits in the downtown style and his unmistakable vocals, he kicks off the Jazz and Heritage stage with his tribe, theWhite Cloud Hunters at 11:15 AM. Be sure to see an Indian every day at the Jazz Fest!
Last year, Tony Hall’s New Orleans Soul Stars were playing when the first of several massive waves of rain and wind hit the Fairgrounds prior to organizers eventually shutting the whole thing down. They persevered in the face of some of the worst weather I have ever seen at Jazz Fest. Here’s hoping the day is pretty when they reprise their tribute to James Brown.
Longtime festers used to call the Thursday that kicks off the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell “Slacker’s Day.” With the lineup this year, we can put that moniker to rest. The day is as impressive as any of the seven. Here are our picks. The full schedule is here.
Guitarist Spencer Bohren is a beloved folk and blues troubadour known across the globe for his encyclopedic knowledge of roots music. He appears at 12 noon with a band, the Whippersnappers, which features his son Andre on drums as well as some other relative youngsters—bassist Dave Pomerleau, keyboardist Casey McAllister, guitarist Alex McMurray, and saxophonist Aurora Nealand.
At 1:50 PM, one of the hardest working musicians in New Orleans, singer/songwriter Dave Jordan is making his first fest appearance since his much-beloved funk band Juice appeared in 2000 and 2001. Jordan and his current outfit, the Neighborhood Improvement Association, just released a new album of scintillating compositions. They will also be appearing at Rosy’s Jazz Hall on a triple bill of three of New Orleans’ best local, original roots rock bands on Saturday, April 30. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Honey Island Swamp Band are also on the bill. Go see local music during Jazz Fest!
PHOTOS: EDDY GUTIERREZ | The first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell began with a slight threat of rain and thunderstorms for Friday afternoon. None materialized and festers celebrated the annual event for three full days with picture-perfect, springtime-in-New Orleans weather. There were highlights galore. Here are some of the most exciting moments to my ears.
On Friday, Janelle Monae (pictured at top) dedicated her whole set to Prince, the music icon who unexpectedly passed away a day earlier. He was an early supporter of her soulful, funky style, a mentor and collaborator. Her passion and pain were evident throughout a triumphant set that saw her cover James Brown, the Jackson Five, and of course, Prince amid sometimes scorching versions of her own vibrant compositions.
Tributes to Prince came from some expected and unexpected places over the course of the weekend. A sky writer wrote “Prince 1999” and the glyph that replaced his name during a protracted contract battle with his label in the clear blue sky. Some of his fans were blatant about it including J Cole (pictured above). Others were more subtle acknowledging his role without overtly performing his music.
Since streamlining their act from a trio to a duo, trombonist/ vocalist/ loop artist Carly Meyers and drummer/ loop artist/ programmer Adam Gertner, who record and perform as ROAR!, have been busy in the studio creating their newest phantasmagoric production. We’re pleased to premiere their latest video.
The learning curve has been steep for the musicians. Gertner started programming keyboards, bass, and percussion loops into his sampler and then learned how to play live drums while queuing all the samples. The duo decided to split the bass playing responsibilities, so Meyers learned how to play MOOG Taurus bass pedals while playing trombone.
They have created a fun musical playground where Meyers switches back and forth between vocals, trombone, marimba, and pedals while fronting the band. Gertner wails on the drums while manipulating his effects. The video was recorded live in the studio to give fans, curious music lovers, and future fans of the live show a peek at what they do on stage every night.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell hits it stride when the calendar turns to the weekend. Rockers Pearl Jam have a giant slot on the Acura stage at the end of the day on Saturday and the Red Hot Chili Peppers close out on Sunday with a slightly shorter set. Here are our picks for everything going on in between. The full schedule for Saturday is here.
Nigel Hall has had an incredible year. After bowing out of the funk band, the Nth Power, the longtime sideman released his first solo album to great acclaim and went off on his first solo tour. This year, he has a prime slot opening the Acura stage at 11:30 AM.
Trumpeter Brice Miller has led the Mahogany Brass Band for decades and they are always on my pick list due to the powerfully emotive performances by Miller and his bandmates. This year I send out extra props because Miller recently completely his Ph.D. and is now billed as “Dr. Brice Miller.” Congrats!
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell kicks off on April 22, 2016—the earliest date since 1994. With three days during the first weekend and four days during the second, Jazz Fest has something for everyone. Here are our picks. The full lineup is here.
When the great New Orleans drummer Smokey Johnson died last year, his funeral was packed with a who’s who of the New Orleans music community. The second line afterwards featured at least a dozen drummers. At the forefront was Shannon Powell, who leads a tribute to Smokey in the Blues Tent at 11:15 AM.
Smokey was best known for writing the famous beat leading off the classic R&B tune, “It Ain’t My Fault.” But he was also a versatile performer who spent years with Fats Domino and also played jazz as well.
With over twenty years of performing and recording together, Tommy Malone of the subdudes and Ray Ganucheau, a founding member of the seminal roots rock band the Continental Drifters, are releasing their eagerly awaited debut, “Muddy Water,” as the Batture Boys on Friday.
The six song EP was produced by Grammy winner Jim Scott, best known for his work with Wilco, Tom Petty, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Malone and Ganucheau’s songwriting has always touched on the distinct emotions associated with being a sensitive human being. Tunes on the release relate to the drug-related death of Johnny Ray Allen, one of the original members of the subdudes and the composer of some of their most classic songs.
The festival season continues in earnest this Saturday when the legendary pianist Chick Corea and the ground-breaking banjo player Bela Fleck perform at the newly renovated Orpheum Theater in support of their live double album, Two.
The two musicians are unlikely collaborators on the surface, but since recording their first album together, The Enchantment in 2007, the pianist who rose to fame as a member of the premier jazz fusion band Return to Forever, and the banjo player who has redefined the role of the traditional bluegrass instrument, have found an intuitive rapport.
About their playing together, Fleck said, “Every night will have its own personality and follow the energy of the room, the space, and the audience that’s there, and how we’re feeling. We’ll build on what we did the night before. That’s the fun part of it.”
The footprint of the French Quarter Festival expands to twenty-three—count them, twenty-three—stages for the final two days. There is more music happening in New Orleans this weekend than at virtually any other festival in the world. Here are our picks for each day. The full lineup is here.
Put on your dancing shoes early Saturday morning for Daria and the Hip Drops at 11 AM. The band, which is led by Daria Dzurik on steel pan and vocals, blends rocksteady, pop, and funk styles with electronic samples, funky bass lines, and Caribbean based-rhythms creating a unique, danceable concoction.
Funk Monkey is a band that mines soul jazz territory and groove music with a decidedly New Orleans feel and features trombonist Greg Hicks and guitarist Bert Cotton from Bonerama.
One band I never fail to check out at FQF is Magnetic Ear. Led by an “alien of extraordinary ability,” saxophonist Martin Krusche, the band is like a New Orleans brass band, but decidedly different. Krusche is from Germany, hence the aforementioned description, which is also the title of one of their albums.