Well, the time we’ve all been waiting for, the first day of the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, is upon us. The festival celebrates the island nation of Cuba this year. I recommend everyone check out the Cuba pavilion for dance and folkloric demonstrations as well as intimate musical performances. As usual, I won’t be highlighting too many of the major acts, but trying to hip you to bands and musicians you may not know about. The full schedule for Friday, April 28 is here.
Start your day at the Acura stage for a set by the Batiste Fathers and Sons. The Batistes are one of the many musical families in New Orleans and this new band features three generations. Headed by Louisiana Hall of Fame inductee and New Orleans funk pioneer David Batiste (David Batiste and The Gladiators), the band includes his sons Damon, Russell, Ryan, and Jamal Batiste and his grandson Christopher Prosper Batiste.
The Soul Brass Band is one of the newest brass bands in the city. But the group has many familiar faces including drummers Aron Lambert and Derrick Freeman and saxophonist James Martin. They play every style of brass as well as some unusual cover songs.
Threadhead Thursday is one of the best ways to kick off the Jazz Fest. It happens between 6 and 10 PM on the Haspel stage of the New Orleans Botanical Gardens in City Park on Thursday. Plus it supports local culture. Full disclosure—I have received grants from the Threadheads to support my books.
Come enjoy a great night of musical talent among the beautiful oaks of City Park. Paul Sanchez and his Rolling Road Show kick things off followed by the Brass-A-Holics. The night finishes with her Long-Tallness Marcia Ball! There will be plenty of food and beverages available for purchase including Blue Oak BBQ inside and also the Fete au Fete & Taceaux Loceaux food trucks outside.
For more information about Threadheads and where the money goes and how to become a member please go here.
PHOTOS: MOLLY MALDOVAN | New Orleans soul, funk, R&B, and blues icon Walter “Wolfman” Washington and his long-running band will be throwing down Friday night with numerous special guests and former band members at Tipitina’s. Soul Project, featuring Washington’s protégé Christian Duque, opens.
This epic night will feature a five-piece horn section along with special guests as well as many past Roadmasters.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington stands tall in this town of ace musicians as one of the last remaining players who haunted the city’s back ‘o’ town music circuit in the early days of his career. He spent decades as a sideman before finally beginning his solo career after taking the suggestion of the great vocalist Johnny Adams, his longtime employer.
It’s unusual for me to have two albums to recommend with the same release date, so I’ve decided to group them together in one feature. Linda May Han Oh’s Walk Against Wind and Sexmob’s Cultural Capital are on store shelves today.
Linda May Han Oh is a stellar bassist and on her fourth album she has surrounded herself with a superb band—saxophonist Ben Wendel, guitarist Matthew Stevens, and drummer Justin Brown. Stevens’ work will be familiar to New Orleans readers due to his musical association with Christian Scott.
In addition, keyboardist Fabian Almazan and Korean traditional musician Minji Park appear as special guests with the quartet. Almazan is also a familiar face in these parts due to his work with Terence Blanchard.
Though Oh is best known as an upright bass player, she takes up the electric bass on one of my favorite tunes on the album. “Perpuzzle” has a winding, instantly compelling melody line. It also features Oh wordlessly vocalizing in a style reminiscent of Lionel Loueke.
PHOTOS: MOLLY MALDOVAN | With a new executive director on board, new stages, and numerous musical debuts, the French Quarter Festival entered a new era this past weekend under gorgeous blue skies. An estimated 700,000 people experienced the event, which is slightly less than last year’s record setting attendance.
Aaron Neville was the biggest name to make his first appearance at the festival, but the big acts are only part of the attraction. The styles of music presented at the French Quarter Festival represent the length and breadth of Louisiana talent encompassing virtually every genre with musicians across the age spectrum.
Latasha Covington (pictured at top) is a relative newcomer on the scene. She tore it up on the washboard with veteran Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes (pictured above) and his band, the Sunspots. Later in the day she taught her style to another generation on the Kids stage.
As of Saturday morning, the number of stages at the French Quarter Festival more than triples compared to Thursday. Intimate venues open up all over the historic district. Picking and choosing which bands to hear also becomes a matter of working through the massive crowds. Here’s a look at some of the acts off the beaten track that I think are worth checking out. The full Saturday schedule is here.
The bands scheduled to play all day on the Morris Bart stage in the 400 of Royal Street are all worth seeing. Check out Patrice Fisher and Arpa first thing in the morning. Fisher is a harpist and always has great musicians with her including guests from overseas. She’s a mainstay at Jazz Fest too and often explores the connections between classical music, Latin American music, and jazz.
New Orleans is crawling with septuagenarian and octogenarian musicians, but there are only a few musicians still performing into their nineties. Check out the Lawrence Cotton Legendary Experience to see one of the oldest musicians in town. The pianist is still on the top of his game and his band features Kerry Brown on drums and Jane Harvey Brown on vocals. They are at noon on the Omni Royal Orleans stage.
PHOTO: MOLLY MALDOVAN | Friday’s schedule more than doubles the number of stages at the French Quarter Festival, but it’s still light compared to the full complement on the weekend. Here are our picks for Friday. The full lineup is here.
One of the reasons Tuba Skinny is one of my favorite trad jazz bands is because they don’t play the same old songs that are popular among many of the groups that populate Frenchmen Street. The group is big; featuring three string players, trumpet, trombone, drums, washboard, and of course the namesake tuba—the classic instrument not the sousaphone most usually seen on New Orleans stages.
They mine old-time jazz and blues for little heard gems and play with authority. They hit at 11:15 AM in Jackson Square—a prestigious stage for some serious up and coming talent.
Debbie Davis performs and sings like a bawdy saloon singer in days of old. She also surrounds herself with an ace cast of musicians in her band, the Mesmerizers. They will be doing an intimate 45-minute set at the Palm Court Café at 1 PM. Look for her husband, Matt Perrine, on string bass and sousaphone and Alex McMurray on guitar.
The Vinyl District is proud to be a sponsor of the French Quarter Festival for the sixth year in a row! We will be bringing you picks for all four days as well as a recap when it’s all said and done. Thursday’s schedule is the lightest one of the long weekend, but has some highlights including a really big first. The full schedule is here.
The big news is Aaron Neville (pictured at top) is returning to his hometown and playing for the first time at French Quarter Fest. He is scheduled for 3:45 PM on the Abita Beer stage in Woldenberg Park. It’s only an hour and fifteen minute set, so get there early.
Neville decamped to New York following Hurricane Katrina. He also retired from his family band, the Neville Brothers, effectively ending an era in New Orleans music. But he has stayed busy and this year released a new album, Apache, which may have surprised some fans, but made this one particularly happy.
Sam Price is best known around town and across the country as the irrepressible pogoing bass player of the Honey Island Swamp Band. But he has always harbored a dream of playing and recording his own music. Over the last year or so, he has put together a band, performed multiple shows, and on Saturday will celebrate the release of his first solo recording with his bandat Chickie Wah Wah.
The album showcases Price’s songwriting and vocals. It also features four special guests. Guitarist John Fohl, a former long time member of Dr. John’s band, and saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick, known for his decades with Walter “Wolfman” Washington, are on the first song, “Right Where I Want To Be, “ which is arguably a mission statement for Price.
Trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom of Lettuce plays a blistering solo on “Down To You” and raises the energy of the band leading into a searing solo from guitarist Matt Galloway. Bloom rips another solo to bring the song home. On this cut as throughout the album, backing vocalist Whitney Alouisious provides deep soul wailing suggesting she’s a breakout star in the making.
With Jazz Fest releasing the eagerly awaited cubes on Tuesday and French Quarter Festival kicking off next Thursday, festival season is in full swing with lots of free offerings all around town this weekend.
Start off with Jazz in the Park tonight (3/30), the wonderfully intimate festival in Armstrong Park in the heart of Tremé. Spodie and the Big Shots will open for the Soul Rebels. Spodie is the one and only Derek Shezbie (pictured at top), the longtime trumpeter for the Rebirth Brass Band.
Though he has been gigging a lot around town with his new outfit, this will be the highest profile gig thus far of his solo career. There is a ticketed event as part of Jazz in the Park’s Tremé Crab Fest on Friday night with Stephanie Jordan, Roy Ayers, and Michael Franks. But the free music continues on Saturday and Sunday.