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.

“Treme” Third Season Finale Loaded With Tons O’ Great Players

Has there EVER been a television drama that has given as much respect to musicians as HBO’s “Treme,” in terms of screen time, playing time, and genuine appreciation for musical art, not to mention insights into the day-to-day reality of working musicians?

I think not.

Sunday’s third-season finale, a prelude to the truncated Season “3.5,” wrapped up — or pointed in the direction of wrapping up — a ton of story strands.

In one, fiddle player and singer Annie (Lucia Micareli) sees her band’s debut CD released and enjoys a rather too speedy rocket ride to a national stage, with her manager planning a launch party in New York City. The script even works in a reference to New Orleans’ long-running music monthly: “This ain’t about Offbeat, darling,” he says. “It’s about Rolling Stone and the New York Times.”

At the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street, site of a benefit concert, and elsewhere, Tons of great NOLA players play and/or get speaking lines, including trumpeters Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, and Shamarr Allen; funk/R&B bass master George Porter Jr. (the Meters), keyboardist Ivan Neville, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, guitarist Little Freddie King and, in an intimate duo, singer John Boutte and pianist Tom McDermott.

At one point. four-trombone band Bonerama and series mainstay Antoine Batiste  (Wendell Pierce), a trombonist, are joined by TroyTrombone Shorty” Andrews and Big Sam. “Trombones rule the world,” Antoine says. Indeed. For extra measure, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule (Not from NOLA) joins the low-brass confab for “When My Ship Comes In.”

For fans of New Orleans music & culture “Treme,” while imperfect, is the ship that finally came in, an antidote to other TV series set in the Crescent City. I’ll be sad to see its voyage come to an end.

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

French Quarter Festival in New Orleans

No doubt, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, AKA Jazz Fest, is the Mac Daddy of roots-and-branches music bashes in New Orleans (and maybe the entire Southeast).

But the Crescent City is also home to another extraordinary music festival, one that places the spotlight entirely on artists from New Orleans and throughout Louisiana.

fqf1I’m talking about the French Quarter Festival, which celebrates its 26th anniversary with another great lineup, April 17-19, a week before the start of Jazz Fest.

The free-admission FQF drew an attendance of 435,000 in 2008, and a strong turnout is expected for this year’s event, featuring performances all day long  on stages throughout the French Quarter.

Among the headliners:

  • Friday, April 17 – Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, the Zydepunks, Soul Rebels, and the Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band.
  • astralSaturday, April 18 – Astral Project, Ingrid Lucia,  Charmaine Neville, 101 Runners, Little Freddy King, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Treme Brass Band, and J.D. Caillier & the Zydeco Knockouts.
  • Sunday, April 19 – Irvin Mayfield, the Radiators, Bonerama, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Susan Cowsill, New Orleans Nighcrawlers, John Boutte & Paul Sanchez, Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr. & the Wild Magnolias, and Leroy Jones & New Orleans’ Finest.

Last time I attended FQF, maybe eight years ago or so, I found the fest to be relatively laidback and accessible. It offers hours of great performances by regional artists — jazz, blues, cajun, zydeco, R&B, funk, rock — minus the big national acts (and attendant crowding) of Jazz Fest.

For the complete schedule, click here.

Bonerama, Galactic, Irma Thomas headed to Tampa Bay area

Quite a few New Orleans acts are headed to the Tampa Bay area in ’09.

I just heard that Bonerama, the raucous trombones-plus-rhythm funk/rock band, is playing Jan. 3 at Acers Lounge in Bradenton (I’ve yet to visit that club). And Bonerama will be back May 16 for the 28th annual WMNF Tropical Heatwave. The attached video clip documents Bonerama’s performance of Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” at a Louisiana Music Factory in-store in 2005.

More:

Galactic returns to Jannus Landing on Jan. 2, with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, also on the bill for Heatwave.

Irma Thomas, the queen of New Orleans R&B, headlines the closing day of the Tampa Bay Blues Fest, March 20-22 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg.

Also headed to Heatwave, in addition to Trombone Shorty, and Bonerama, is Big Sam’s Funky Nation.

Three New Orleans Jazz Fest CDs Grab Grammy Nominations

Not sure how I missed this when the Grammy nominations were announced last week, but …

Three albums recorded live at this year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans notched Grammy nominations. Has this ever happened before?

The three nominees:

BeauSoleil & Michael Doucet (Best Cajun/Zydeco album)
Del McCoury Band (Best Bluegrass album)
Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys (Best Cajun/Zydeco album)
All were released on Munck Music, the on-site operation that lets Fest fans, in many cases, go home with the music they heard on stage.
Click here to check out the label’s complete collection of Jazz Fest recordings, going back to 2004. Of course, not all performers gave permission for their live sets to be released, due to contractual obligations, etc.
While at Jazz Fest this year, I picked up live recordings of the May 1 Bonerama set, which I caught, and the April 26 Astral Project performance, which I missed.