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.

SUNDAY JAZZ JOURNAL: French Quarter Fest or Bust

FRENCH QUARTER FESTIVAL - 2013 posterHow’s it possible that this one-time regular attendee of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival hasn’t visited the Crescent City in three years?

I was last in New Orleans in 2010, for my fifth consecutive trip covering Jazz Fest for national music mags — I’ve attended the fest, and covered it, umpteen times, but not all those years consecutively.

Why wait to return? The delay wasn’t intentional: Life, family, work obligations, band playing all got in the way, I suppose. In the interim, I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to other fests, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, and three fests at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in north Florida — Bear Creek, Spring Fest and Magnolia Fest.

I’m very excited to be returning to New Orleans this week, to cover the 30th annual edition of French Quarter Fest, April 11-15. I last attended that fest for its 20th annual edition.

(I previewed Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest in a piece recently published in the Tampa Bay Times; it’s here)

Back in 2004, FQF felt like a smaller version of Jazz Fest, with most of that event’s NOLA and Louisiana acts but none of the big national acts who brought the enormous crowds.

French Quarter Fest, now significantly larger than it was a decade4.1.1 ago, still has a similar flavor (no BNAs) and it’s still a free event. As always, it’s a combustible mix of traditional and modern/mainstream jazz, blues, NOLA R&B and funk, gospel, cajun, zydeco, and world-music flavors.

Nearly 600,000 people are expected to attend performances by more than 1,400 musicians on 21 stages spread out all over the Vieux Carre. The majority of musicians are homegrown; among the few exceptions are European bands playing trad jazz.

There’s way too much music to catch everything, of course, but as of now I’m zoning in on some of the below acts. For the full schedule and additional details on the musicians, visit http://www.fqfi.org/frenchquarterfest or check out the helpful app for iPhone and iPad.

FQF posterIn addition to all the great music, the fest is presenting a series of music-related films, a lecture series, children’s activities and fireworks. For more info, click here.

And did I mention the bazillion varieties of crawfish, and other regional delicacies, on offer at the festival, provided by some of the city’s best restaurants?

Stay tuned in this space for some coverage of the fest.

(You’ll notice that I’ve suggested some shows that are taking place at the same time as other shows; like I said — some hard decisions ahead)

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walter wolfman washingtonThursday: Joe Krown, Walter “Wolfman” Washington (left) and Russell Batiste, 12:45-2 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Sunflower City, 2-3:15 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); Irma Thomas, 2:15-3:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, 4-5:15 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Susan Cowsill, 4:30-5:30 p.m. (Absolut Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage)

Friday: Marc Stone, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. (Woldenberg Riverfront Park); Dr. Michael White, 12:30-1:45 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); Waylon Thibodeaux Band,  12:30-1:45 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); Lionel Ferbos and the Louisiana Shakers, 2-3 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage);  Masters Series featuring Victor Atkins, Steve Masakowski, and Ed Petersen, 2:30-4:30 p.m. (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Showcase at the Royal Sonata); Alex McMurray, 4-5:30 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); The music of Jelly Roll Morton, James Booker and Professor Longhair presented by the Piano Professors, 5-7:30 p.m. (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal  Sonata); Amanda Shaw, 5:30-7 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); New Orleans Nightcrawlers, 5:40-7 p.m. (Capital One Bank Riverside Legacy Stage); Stooges Brass Band, 7:15-8:45 p.m. (Capital One Bank dirty dozen brass Riverside Legacy Stage); Brian Stoltz, 7:15-8:45 p.m. (Absolut Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage); Papa Grows Funk, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Dirty Dozen Brass Band (right), 7:30-9 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); Trumpet Summit featuring Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown and Friends, 8-midnight (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonata)

Saturday: Donald Harrison, Jr., 12:45-2 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, 1:45-3:15 p.m. (Rouses Stage); Tom McDermott and His Jazz Hellions, 2-2:45 p.m. (Cabaret Stage); Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, 2:15-3:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Treme Brass Band, 2:30-4:30 p.m. (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta); Little Freddie King, 4-5:30 p.m., (Abita Beer Stage); Shannon Powell and His Traditional Allstars, 4:15-5:30 p.m. (French Market Traditional Jazz Stage); Irvin Mayfield (below) and the Jazz Playhouse New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2009
Revue
, 5-6:30 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); Hot 8 Brass Band, 5:30-7 p.m. (Capital One Bank Riverside Legacy Stage); Bill Summers and Jazalsa, 5:45-7 p.m. (Ford World Music Stage); Davell Crawford, 5:45-7:15 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Brass-A-Holics, 7:15-8:45 p.m. (Capital One Bank Riverside Legacy Stage); Glen David Andrews, 7:15-8:45 p.m. (Absolut Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage); Bonerama, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); Leroy Jones Quintet, 8 p.m.-midnight (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta)

Sunday: Don Vappie and the Creole Jazz Serenaders, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); The Tin Men, 12:30-1:45 (Popeye’s Esplanade in the Shade Stage); The Mercy Brothers, 1-3 p.m. (House of Blues Stage in the Voodoo Garden); New Orleans Jazz Vipers, 1:15-3:15 p.m. (Where Y’at Magazine Stage); Paul Sanchez and the Rolling Road Show, 2-3 p.m. (Absolut Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage); Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, 2-3 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); Preservation Hall Jazz Hounds featuring Gregg Stafford (The Advocate New Orleans Edition Stage); Treme Brass Band, 2-3:30  p.m.(Capital One Riverside Legacy Stage); Shannon Powell Trio, 2:30-4:30 p.m. (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta); The Dixie Cups, 2:15-3:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Rockin’ Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters, 3:30-5 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase); Jeremy Davenport 3:30-4:45 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); 
delfeayoDwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers
, 3:30-5 p.m. (House of Blues Stage in the Voodoo Garden); Eric Lindell, 4-5:15 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Russell Batiste and Friends, 3:45-5:15 p.m. (Popeye’s Esplanade in the Shade Stage); Delfeayo Marsalis (left) and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, 5-6:30 p.m. (WWL-TV Stage); Raw Oyster Cult, 5:30-6:45 p.m. (Abita Beer Stage); Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet, 5:30-7 p.m. (Chevron Cajun/Zydeco astral projectShowcase); Astral Project (right), 5:30-7 p.m. (Popeye’s Esplanade in the Shade Stage) Honey Island Swamp Band, 5:45-6:45 p.m. (Absolut Louis-Louis Pavilion Stage); Glen David Andrews, 7-11 p.m. (Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonata)

French Quarter Fest Lineup Announced: Astral Project, Irvin Mayfield, Radiators, Bonerama, More

Book dozens of major New Orleans and Louisiana acts, and many of the lesser-known ones, put them on stages throughout the French Quarter, and don’t charge an admission fee.

That’s the successful strategy taken by the French Quarter Fest, the 27th annual edition of which is slated for April 9-11.

The festival again emphasizes a terrific mix of jazz, blues, funk, zydeco, cajun, brass band, gospel and other music, played exclusively by New Orleans artists.

That’s a factor differentiating the fest from the larger, better-known Jazz Fest, which (with some exceptions) features big national acts in the headlining spots while still devoting about 85% of stage time to artists from New Orleans and throughout Louisiana, according to organizers.

While it’s impossible to duplicate the rambunctious, non-stop, feelgood party vibe of Jazz Fest, which returns the last weekend of April and first weekend of May (I’ll be there, for my umpteenth trip), some fans of New Orleans music prefer the lower-key, more intimate setting of French Quarter Fest.

Or, at least, it felt a bit more laidback the last time I visited, about seven years ago.

As mentioned, much of the cream of the NOLA crop is headed to French Quarter Fest, including such personal favorites as Astral Project, Bonerama, Anders Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO, Rebirth Brass Band, John Mooney, the Kora Konnection, Alex McMurray (performing with his Tin Men group), the Radiators, Trombone Shorty, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, John Boutte and Paul Sanchez, and many more.

In addition to performances by more than 150 acts, French Quarter Fest means great local cuisine, with 105 food booths set up by vendors who are required to be dine-in restaurants from the New Orleans region.

The fest offers several new features for 2010, including a BMI-sponsored songwriter showcase, with a dozen up-and-coming talents, and an iPhone application soon to be available through iTunes. And traditional dances — Charleston, Swing, and Second-line — will be taught at the Traditional Jazz stage, which will feature performances by the Jazz Vipers, James Andrews, and others.

For more details, go to http://www.fqfi.org/news/?cat=9

New Orleans: Serious About Its Identity As a Music Town?

But of course: New Orleans is a music town, one of the greatest on earth, and in many respects the heart and soul of American music.

It’s the birthplace of jazz, and it would be darn near impossible to gauge how great an impact the city and its indigenous arts culture have had on other forms of musical Americana, including R&B, blues, funk and soul.

And yet because of pesky political obstacles or a lack of imagination, the city’s fathers have never quite been able to capitalize on NOLA’s music/arts culture, which encompasses everything from still-vital brass bands to Mardi Gras Indian groups, great modern jazzers, traditional jazzers, amazing funk/rock groups, inspired singer-songwriters, and soul singers — artists like the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth Brass Band (in photo), New Orleans Nightcrawlers, the Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis, Astral Project, Kermit Ruffins, Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Paul Sanchez, Alex McMurray and Irma Thomas, just to name a few.

By capitalizing, I mean spending the time and energy, and devoting the appropriate funding and resources to help leverage New Orleans’ amazing music scene — from Frenchman Street to the Uptown clubs — as an essential element driving visitors from all over the world to the city.

No, I don’t mean handouts, although expanding the available arts grants would be entirely appropriate. I’m talking about consistently creating opportunities for musicians to demonstrate their art, and pushing even harder to get that message out to potential tourists from the U.S. as well as those in Canada, Europe, South America, and elsewhere.

Other American cities have accomplished that task more effectively, and two of those cities are in the South – Austin, which has effectively branded itself as “the live music capital of the world” and  Memphis, where blues haven Beale Street does big business.

What would it take for NOLA to become known worldwide as “the home of American music” or “the heart and soul of American music” or something similar, and for hundreds of thousands of additional music-loving tourists to come to the city year-round, not just for the wonders of Jazz Fest?

These were among the topics discussed in a mayoral forum held Monday at Loyola University. Five of the candidates vying to succeed (the largely incompetent) Ray Nagin for the city’s top job met to share ideas during  a gathering sponsored by Music Swings Votes, an organization comprising local music industry professionals.

“The music and cultural community want to be sure that we are recognized by the next mayoral administration, taken seriously, and that we can actually get the mayor to achieve some agreed-upon goals,” said OffBeat magazine publisher Jan Ramsey, an organizer of Music Swings Votes, according to a piece written by Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera. “We want to emphasize that this is important and they need to include it in their platform and their administration.”

I don’t live in New Orleans, so I’m not familiar enough with the local issues — including those having to do with racial politics — to weigh in on which candidate is best qualified to lead a city still reeling from hurricane devastation. But I will say that Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (photo, left) has consistently worked to elevate the music and music industry of New Orleans and the entire state, which also boasts regional musical treasures zydeco and cajun.

During a Jazz Fest press reception several years ago, I spoke with Landrieu about his efforts to promote Louisiana music. I’ll link to that piece here as soon as I can track it down.

“The music community stepped up to remind everybody that New Orleans is the soul of America. … I want to trumpet it, no pun intended, to the rest of the world,” Landrieu told the crowd, which included New Orleans-born trumpet great Terence Blanchard.

Boosting the public profile of the city’s music/arts culture would be of huge benefit to all of the city’s people, not  just for the musicians and other artists. A dramatic increase in tourism would help everyone in New Orleans survive, and again thrive, to regain its footing as a major American city.

Here’s hoping that the city’s next mayor possesses the inspiration and determination to make that happen.