Our Jazz Fest Picks
for Friday, 5/4

The marathon is just getting going for those festers attending every day of the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Friday is a musically strong day. Here are our picks. The full Friday schedule is here.

Start your day at the Jazz and Heritage stage for Kumasi. This giant band takes its cues from the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the great Nigerian superstar. They have a front man who sings and plays saxophone. He also regularly appears in a loincloth. But despite those similarities, Kumasi writes all their own music and will have you dancing before noon.

Brian Seeger is one of the unsung heroes of modern New Orleans jazz. A guitarist and longtime professor in the jazz program at the University of New Orleans, he has a sterling tone and enhances any project he works on. He appears in the Jazz Tent with his Organic Trio.

Tank and the Bangas are a full-on New Orleans musical phenomenon and are poised to reach the highest plateaus of the music business in record time. Just a few years back, the band, led by singer and former slam poet Tarriona “Tank” Ball, was playing small clubs in New Orleans. They recently played at Coachella, a serious tastemaker’s festival, and are now signed to a major label. Check out their new single below.

Regular readers know I am always going to recommend African acts and do your homework for you (a task made much easier by the internet—I don’t remember how we even did it back in the day). Jupiter & Okwess hail from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The leader’s full name is Jupiter Bokondji and his band is known as Okwess International in Europe and across the African continent.

Like many African musicians past and present, he has many influences including traditional sounds, Afropop and American genres including funk and rock. Bokondji has dubbed his often politically and social charged music, “Bofenia Rock.”

Regardless of the details presented above, you will dance and be amazed at the tight Congolese rhythms and killer guitar work. They play again on Saturday on the intimate Jazz and Heritage stage.

I gave a shout out and pick to banjoist and guitarist Don Vappie last weekend with his performance with the Creole Jazz Serenaders. He appears today with a Tribute to Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s mentor, and the musician who sent for the young trumpeter who eventually changed the development of jazz.

In order to bring this tribute to life, Vappie has two trumpeters on the bandstand. Both are standouts on the local scene—Ashlin Parker and Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown. The rest of the band includes pianist Mike Esneault, Peter Harris on bass, Karl Budo on drums, Tom Fischer on clarinet, and Derek Douget and Alonzo Bowens on saxophones.

For the final act of the day, I have to give the pick to Beck (pictured at top). I am a late comer to this phenomenal musician, but after seeing him play twice in the last couple of years—headlining at the Saenger Theater and opening for U2 in the Superdome—I am totally sold.

Tomorrow—our weekend picks.

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