French Quarter Fest lineup: Galactic, Astral Project, Ellis Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Bonerama, Rebirth Brass Band, more.

The French Quarter Festival in New Orleans is a nice alternative to the bigger Jazz and Heritage Festival: Many of the same great New Orleans & Louisiana artists, without the big pop/rock acts.

Admission is free, and the fest is held on stages spread across the Quarter and along the Mississippi River. Meaning: if you get a hotel there, you can walk to everything, and not  hassle with going to and from the Fair Grounds (as you do with Jazz Fest).

The festival will be held April 11-14. The lineup seems to get better every year and, yes, the four-day affair is more crowded than in the early years of the FQF.

astral project

Some highlights of the lineup, just announced:

Thursday, April 11 — Galactic, Jon Cleary, Chubby Carrier, Evan Christopher, Rebirth Brass Band, Tin Men, Sasha Masakowski

Friday, April 12 — Delfeayo Marsalis, The Iguanas, George Porter Jr., John Boutte, Alex McMurray, Leroy Jones, Little Freddie King, Papa Mali

Saturday, April 13 — Bill Summers, Cyril Neville, Ellis Marsalis, Leroy Jones, Paul Sanchez, Shamarr Allen, Walter Wolfman Washington, Jazz Vipers, Treme Brass Band

Sunday, April 14 — Astral Project (above), Bonerama, James Andrews, Dash Rip Rock, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., Tuba Skinny, James Andrews, Jeremy Davenport

Check it the Offbeat story here.

Gasparilla Music Festival 2019: Gary Clark Jr., Infamous Stringdusters, Avett Brothers, Tribal Gold, the Pharcyde, Tank and the Bangas, more.

gasparilla 2019

Several impressive picks just announced for the eighth annual Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, including rising-star Austin blues man Gary Clark Jr., Americana exponents The Infamous Stringdusters and the Avett Brothers (love ’em but they seem to play our market every six months), country-rock act Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, New Orleans Suspects spinoff band Tribal Gold (the Suspects with Big Chief Juan Pardo & The Golden Comanches), the Pharcyde, and Tank and the Bangas.

Tampa’s long-running Grateful Dead tribute group Uncle John’s Band “will perform the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Vol. 1 live album, which was actually recorded at the since-demolished Curtis Hixon Hall way back in 1973,” Ray Roa writes in Creative Loafing/Tampa.

Also on the bill: Laurie Berkner, Jared & the Mill, Parrotfish, Sugar Rush, Mr. Tommy, and The Florida Gospel Music & Arts Fellowship Choir with Dr Kevin B. Parrott.

I’d love to see more jazz, blues, and jazz-funk artists — national and local — on the bill. Maybe those types of acts will be added later.

How about some of the following, all of whom know how to connect with younger audiences? Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, MMW, John Scofield, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Dirty Loops, Jacob Collier, Christian Scott, Marquis Hill, Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Soulive, Dr. Lonnie Smith.

GMF takes place March 9-10 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa.

Child of the Sun Music Festival: Skipping a Year; How Can Music Fests Survive?

What does it take for a jazz festival, or a more eclectic music festival, to survive, and thrive?

For starters, a strong vision (what’s this fest’s focus?), strong funding (civic, corporate, otherwise), a strong promotional effort (get the message out to the right people, by any means necessary) and a strong commitment to the fest’s immediate viability and long-term survival.

The Child of the Sun Jazz Festival in Lakeland once boasted some of that. Remember the days when the late Nat Adderley (below), legendary trumpeter and longtime artist in residence at Florida Southern College, brought all of his top-shelf NYC bandmates, and some of their associates, to play the fest at FSC?

Nat adderley

Thankfully, I had several opportunities to play my hometown’s fest, with some bands under my name, as well as my Acme Jazz Garage and Trio Vibe groups, and the FSC faculty jazz group (I wasn’t a faculty member but they invited me anyway).

FSC music prof Larry Burke did a great job organizing the fest, and making it a first class event. It was a feather in the cap for the college, a free admission fest offering folks the chance to see world-class jazz artists as well as good local players. The Child of the Sun Fest was unique for the area, as there was (and still is) nothing else like it in Lakeland or Polk County.

Jazz fans all over the region, and some from around the state, showed up to take in the music, which was played on an elevated stage in a beautiful setting on a lawn in front of the library on the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus. Sunny days turned into cool nights, and attendees often brought along their own picnics.

The crowds would have been larger, I think, had the college offered more appreciation and more support for a great event, right in front of FSC’s eyes. Maybe the powers-that-be didn’t get it? The promotional effort was less than robust, to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times Bob Seymour, the jazz director at WUSF (who sometimes attended the fest and talked about it on air) asked me why he hadn’t heard anything yet about any given year’s event — the lineup or even the date.

Sadly, after Nat passed away, FSC’s support for the fest began to dwindle.

If I recall correctly, the fest didn’t happen for a couple of years. But then it was revived in 2011, under the auspices of the Lakeland Rotary Club. The organization did a nice job with the fest at the start, but then began tinkering with the programming, foregoing national artists, taking “jazz” out of the title and making it the Child of the Sun Music Festival and 5K Run.

This year, the fest was scheduled to take place on April 2, and you can still find it listed online.

But earlier this week, organizers announced that the fest is going on hiatus, taking “a pause” for a year because the sponsoring organization wants to put its efforts into a “bigger” fundraising opportunity, a concert at Joker Marchant Stadium with Three Dog Night and America, or what’s left of those bands. Does it need to be said that rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia bands are a dime a dozen, and you can see those types of shows anywhere, anytime? Does it need to be added that, if big money comes in from the oldies concert, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to bring back the smaller event?

Fest organizers have announced that they’re just taking a year off. But anyone who knows anything about festivals (music or otherwise) knows that dropping the ball for a year absolutely destroys the forward momentum of a fest. You can’t do it halfway.

So … maybe it’s not fair to blame the sponsoring group. They have their own goals, and if reaching those goals requires another type of an event, more of a sure-fire money making opportunity, then, you know, more power to them. The Lakeland Rotary Club, and Rotary clubs throughout Lakeland, and elsewhere, typically support plenty of worthwhile, civic-minded causes.

Music festival management isn’t for everyone. Tough job. But if Rotary is serious about putting on a good music festival then, you know, make a real commitment to it.

Bring in some musicians and/or other music folks to advise on the programming, secure some sponsorship dollars from the City of Lakeland and/or major companies or wealthy individuals based in the area, and promote the heck out of the thing. If you build it properly, they will come.

(I have loads of experience attending and covering music festivals around the world, and working in communications, so I’d happily provide input and advice, whether it comes to the programming or the PR/media side).

If not, then … there’s an opening for other organizations or individuals to make it happen. Any takers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz Fest: Snarky Puppy, Stevie Wonder, Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Joe Lovano, more

Yes, as expected, another juggernaut of musical talent is slated for this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

I’ve attended this mammoth and amazing musical gathering umpteen times (although, oddly, not since 2010), and I still get excited by the quality, variety, and sheer quantity of the music presented at Jazz Fest.

Yes, I could do without some of the overtly commercial pop/rock (Nick Jonas? Seriously?) and rap headliners, but there’s enough jazz, blues, funk, R&B, brass band, zydeco, gospel, folk, world beat, and generally rootsy music to whet the appetite of any music lover.

Great to see the mighty, mighty Snarky Puppy on the bill again, along with some big-name acts I’ve caught at previous editions of Jazz Fest, including Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

And some great bands and artists I’ve seen elsewhere (some of whom also have played at Jazz Fest) including the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, Neil Young, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, and loads of New Orleans favorites, from Dr. John to the Iguanas.

Then there are several world-class jazz heavy hitters, including the Herbie Hancock-Wayne Shorter Duo (wow!); Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison; Gregory Porter; Arturo Sandoval; Joe Lovano Us 5; and Heads of State Featuring Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Al Foster, and George Mraz

jazz fest 2016

(This year’s Jazz Fest poster features the Marsalis family in what looks like a double-decker shotgun home)

And, of course, several top-shelf jazzers living in NOLA or with NOLA roots: Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective, Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO, Nicholas Payton, Astral Project, Jason Marsalis, Ellis Marsalis, and Donald Harrison, among others.

Who would I be keen to see at Jazz Fest, if I were able to get there this year? Well, here’s the rundown, my top picks, day by day. Modern or traditional jazz or jazz-rooted acts (except brass bands) are in bold.

Friday, April 22: Steely Dan, Gov’t Mule, The Subdudes, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Buckwheat Zydeco, Donald Harrison Jr., Geri Allen, Christian Scott, Jason Marsalis, The Music of Stevie Wonder featuring Brian Blade.

Saturday, April 23: Van Morrison, Pearl Jam, Boz Skaggs, Galactic, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Anders Osborne, John Hammond, DeJohnette-Coltrane-Garrison, Leo Nocentelli (of the Meters), Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton featuring Henry Butler, Butch Thompson, and Dr. Michael White, Tab Benoit, Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter Wolfman Washington and Russell Batiste, Jr.

Sunday, April 24: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter Duo, Voice of the Wetlands All Stars, Taj Mahal & the Trio, Henry Butler & Jambalaya, Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective, BeauSoleil, Little Freddie King Blues Band, Herlin Riley Quintet, The Iguanas,

Thursday, April 28: Tedeschi Trucks Band & Friends, Elvis Costello & the Imposters, Snarky Puppy, Gary Clark, Jr., Cyril Neville & Swamp Funk, Corey Harris Band, George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, Savoy Family Cajun Band, Marlon Jordan Plays the Music of Miles, Trane, and Bird, Spencer Bohren & the Whippersnappers, Tuba Skinny, Bill Summers & Jazalsa

Friday, April 29: Paul Simon, My Morning Jacket, Irma Thomas, Elvin Bishop, Los Lobos, Bonerama, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, John Boutte, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Terrance Simien, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Joe Lovano Us Five, Nicholas Payton & Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, Astral Project, C.J. Chenier, Raw Oyster Cult, and Tom McDermott & Friends.

Saturday, April 30: Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Gregory Porter, Rebirth Brass Band, Arturo Sandoval, Kermit Ruffins’ Tribute to Louis Armstrong, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Roy Rogers & the Delta Rhythm Kings, Cyril Neville’s Royal Southern Brotherhood, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Paul Sanchez & the Rolling Road Show, and the James Rivers Movement.

Sunday, May 1: Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Aaron Neville, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk with Art Neville, Punch Brothers, B.B. King Blues Band, Allen Toussaint Band, Ellis Marsalis, Davell Crawford, The Gospel Soul of Irma Thomas, Walter Wolfman Washington, Marcia Ball, Heads of State Featuring Gary Bartz, Larry Willis, Al Foster, and George Mraz, Rockin’ Dopsie & the Zydeco Twisters, The Mashup featuring Ike Stubblefield, Terence Higgins and Grant Green, Jr., Trumpet Mafia

I should add that, as usual, some of the most amazing shows during Jazz Fest week are held in the evenings, at various clubs and concert halls around New Orleans. Offbeat is the best place to go for all the music listings.

And Swagland, operated by a guy who has attended Jazz Fest for two decades consecutively, remains the essential online guide to “doing” the festival, with loads of practical tips on lodging, logistics, food, and general tips about NOLA.

Headed to Jazz Fest? Here are a few more resources:

Gambit, a major weekly, annually puts out a detailed guide to Jazz Fest acts.

My Spilt Milk is Alex Rawls‘ informative and opinionated blog/site on all things NOLA music (and culture). “Jazz Fest is Re-Reeling in the Years” is the headline on his piece announcing this year’s lineup.

The Times-Picayune, a once thriving daily now largely gutted, is worth checking out, although that paper’s music writers, Keith Spera and Alison Fensterstock, have taken their talents and a deep knowledge of NOLA music, to The New Orleans Advocate, so expect better informed fest coverage there.

And Louisiana Music Factory, an indie record store, remains THE place to go to pick up audio souvenirs of your trip. It’s  jam packed with recordings by New Orleans and Louisiana artists (as well as other musicians, of course). And the in-store performances during Jazz Fest week are great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springfest, Straight Ahead — Americana, Folk, Bluegrass, Country, More

A quick reminder: Suwannee Springfest, the annual extravaganza of Americana, folk, bluegrass, country, altcountry, and other related genres, returns to the Spirit of the Suwannee Park in Live Oak (north Florida).

I’ll be there for the 18th edition of the acoustic-oriented fest, with my family in tow. We’re really looking forward to seeing the Avett Brothers, the Punch Brothers, Jason Isbell, the Del McCoury Band, Donna the Buffalo, Steep Canyon Rangers, Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush, and a multi-genre supergroup, the Southern Soul Assembly, with J.J. Grey (Mofro), Anders Osborne, Luther Dickinson, and Marc Broussard.

The fest officially starts today and continues until about 8 p..m. on Sunday, with the majority of the headliners slated late afternoon or evening on Friday and Saturday.

Complete details are HERE.

Gasparilla Music Festival (concert review)

(recently published at jambands.com/Relix; direct link)

George and Page 1Eclecticism for its own sake seems to be the guiding principle of the Gasparilla Music Festival, a daylong affair March 9 at scenic waterside Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. The festival’s second annual edition, featuring about 30 acts spread across four stages, offered a mix of bubbling-up national rock and indie-oriented artists with other bands drawn from diverse genres.

New Orleans music emerged as one theme of the event with headliners the Meter Men, whose bassist, George Porter, Jr, and drummer , Zigaboo Modeliste, still constitute one of the world’s most dangerous Southern-fried funk rhythm sections.

Porter, Modeliste and original Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli were joined by current tour mate Page McConnell (left), and the four successfully augmented the trio’s NOLA R&B grooves with the Phish keyboardist’s jammier leanings. The fan favorites were abundant, as the sprawling set included “Look-Ka Py Py,” “Cissy Strut,” “Fire on the Bayou,” and “Hey, Pocky Way.” McConnell fit right in, delivering the goods alternately on piano and B3 organ.

New Orleans was also represented by durable roots rock and Tex-Mex band the Iguanas (Rod Hodges, far right). They got the crowd moving, with the help of familiar gems Iguana - Rod Hodges “Boom Boom Boom,” “Oye, Isabel,” “Lupita,” “Para Donde Vas” and a rollicking take on Professor Longhair’s “In the Night.” So, too, did the Distinguished Men of Brass, a Tampa-based brass band making an encore appearance at the event – they made semi-regular jaunts across the fest grounds.

Corey Harris (left), while not a Louisiana native, specializes in the kind of music associated with the region. For GMF, he led a quartet – Harris on guitar plus bass, sax and drums — on a set of convincing blues, R&B and funk occasionally tinged with reggae grooves. He toasted a fest Corey Harris 2hometown hero with Tampa Red’s “Singing and Crying Blues,” and at one point played lap steel, unaccompanied.

Also drawing attention were irresistible Los Angeles Latin-funk-rock groove makers Ozomatli and Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears (right).Black Joe Lewis 1

The latter thrived on the leader’s raw vocals and a Hendrix-style guitar attack, not to mention a hard-driving horn section and primitive-feeling, grinding one-chord blues stomps.

Several acts were on the less rootsy side of the spectrum. SoCal folk-pop-rock outfit Lord Huron’s big, textured sound was driven by multiple acoustic and electric guitars. Dr. Dog, from Philadelphia, playing their first show since November, brought ambitious pop-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, loaded with vocal harmonies and occasional jam-out finishes via “That Old Black Hole,” “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” “Do the Trick,” and “Shadow People,” among other crowd pleasers.

Several Tampa Bay area acts, too, generated enthusiastic responses, including the punky wild-man blues of Nervous Turkey, led by irrepressible singer, harmonica player and guitarist Ernie Betty Fox 2Locke (right); the ferocious blues belting of singer Betty Fox (left); and the energetic, bluegrass-influenced acoustic stomp of The Wholetones.Nervous Turkey Ernie 3

Suwannee Springfest, Live Oak, FL (concert review)

(recently published in Relix; direct link)

Suwannee Springfest, March 22-25, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, FL

Hippies and hillbillies, and plenty of other folks who wouldn’t fit anyone’s stereotype of a fan of non-commercial music, gathered in the north Florida woods for the 16th annual Springfest, held on a sprawling, scenic campground near the Suwannee River. On tap: another laidback weekend of acoustic music and bluegrass, with strains of rock, blues, jazz, jamband, and even a novelty act (the manic Tornado Rider, with his strap-on electric cello).

A steady rain on much of Saturday dampened spirits a bit, but the fest nevertheless presented untold hours of music on a half-dozen stages over four days. Hardcore pickers were out in force, with much instrumental virtuosity on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, and upright bass demonstrated by multiple musicians, including a large contingent from Colorado. The Emmitt-Nershi Band, one such act, turned in favorites including “Restless Wind,” “Wait Until Tomorrow,” and “Colorado Bluebird Sky.”

Also plying multiple strains of music via traditional instruments were Greensky Bluegrass, who worked Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” into their set; the Infamous Stringdusters, with such tunes as the hard-stomping “Get It While You Can”; and fiddle man Darol Anger & the Republic of Strings, who capped their lively performance with a version of “Uncle John’s Band” begun a cappella. Similarly, headliners Yonder Mountain String Band turned in infectious versions of “Rag Doll,” “Blue Collar Blues” and “Southern Flavor”; and during their superjam, with as many as 19 on stage at once, they slipped into the Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend is Better.”

The plugged-in bands, including fest regulars Donna the Buffalo, were impressive, too. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s rootsy rock crunch fueled originals and memorable covers of New Orleans staple “Hey Pocky Way,” Hendrix’s “Stone Free,” and Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane.” Concertgoers were particularly keen on Great American Taxi, led by singer and guitarist/mandolin player Vince Herman. The quintet, its sound and vibe on “Poor House,” “Fuzzy Little Hippie Girl” and other tunes referencing such influences as the Dead, the Band, and Bob Dylan, welcomed Atlanta singer-guitarist Donna Hopkins on stage for a rousing “Everything Money Can’t Buy.” Her voice — bluesy, soulful, and raspy — was among the most powerful and memorable heard at the fest.