Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Thursday, 5/3

PHOTO: EDDY GUTIERREZ | For years, everyone I know called Thursday at Jazz Fest “Slacker’s Day.” I thought it would stick. Now everyone calls it “Locals’ Day.” Fittingly, the powers that be are now offering two $50 dollar tickets for residents with a Louisiana ID. Here are our picks. The full Thursday schedule is here.

Alex McMurray has been booked early in the day virtually every time he has played at the Jazz Fest going back to the 1990s. His act is always a great way to start the day. Expect to see musicians like drummer Carlo Nuccio and saxophonist Joe Cabral supporting his wry songwriting and stellar guitar playing.

Though Belize isn’t often mentioned as part of the African diaspora, the Garifuna are a cultural group descended from runaway slaves who, like the Maroons in Jamaica, escaped and started their own communities. They retained many of the African influences that were erased elsewhere by forced assimilation. They are represented at Jazz Fest by Santiman and Garifuna Generation.

Big Chief Charles Taylor of the White Cloud Hunters is one of the legends still on the scene. I witnessed this in action hanging out with him at the downtown Super Sunday parade on Orleans Avenue. Every black Indian who walked past made a point of stopping to say hello and get his approval. He hits the Jazz and Heritage stage with his tribe at 1:55 PM.

Immediately following their set, head over to the Acura stage to see one of the latest breakout stars from Cuba and a verifiable Jazz Fest phenomenon. Telmary (pictured at top) raps, sings, dances, and is a charismatic force as she leads her crack band Habana Sana. This is her third year in a row at Jazz Fest and she has graduated from a tiny stage hardly anyone even knew about in the Cultural Pavilion to the biggest stage at the Fairgrounds.

The Old Crow Medicine Show hadn’t really been on my radar until I recently read a great piece in the New York Times. They are the real deal having reached the top of the music business without making concessions to the modern media music machine. Their songs, influenced in part by old-time country, are strong and they put on a great show.

Last weekend’s picks were extremely light on jazz selections for reasons I can’t explain. So today, I am recommending the Archie Shepp Quartet and Wendell Brunious. Both will put on great sets and your choice depends totally on your personal preferences.

HOT TIP– Walter “Wolfman” Washington will do a 15-minute set at 5 PM showcasing his new solo material following his performance with Joe Krown in the Blues Tent. He will be accompanied by Ivan Neville, Stanton Moore and James Singleton.

Shepp is an 80-year-old saxophonist (turning on 81 on May 24) and was part of the seminal group of musicians that energized jazz in the 1960s along with John Coltrane and other legends. He’s still going strong. Don’t miss the legends, as my colleague Geraldine Wyckoff likes to say.

Brunious is a soon-to-be legend. He hails from a deep New Orleans musical family and came up around the Preservation Hall scene. A trumpeter and vocalist, he adds a whimsical touch to his presentation, but is fully vested in traditional New Orleans jazz.

Tomorrow—Friday’s picks.

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