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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

The Next Hot New Orleans Trumpeter? The Search Is On

New Orleans, not surprisingly, has produced a long line of great jazz trumpeters, from Buddy Bolden, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong to Christian Scott and Shamarr Allen. Louis Prima is the subject of this year’s poster for Jazz Fest.

And, of course, there are also Terence Blanchard (probably my favorite living trumpeter; looking forward to his Jazz Fest appearance), Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Irvin Mayfield (ditto for his Jazz Fest show with the NOJO), Leroy Jones, Kermit Ruffins, Al Hirt and several other notables whose names will come to mind the second this post is published.

(Payton, right, plays tonight at the Village Vanguard in NYC; listen live here)

Young jazz trumpeters in New Orleans will get a chance to raise their game — and their profile — via “Seeking Satch,” a contest co-sponsored by the French Market and the Mayfield-directed New Orleans Jazz Institute at the University of New Orleans.

Three high-school trumpet players will get four-year scholarships to UNO’s jazz studies program, and a chance to perform this August at Satchmo Summerfest.

Trumpeters from two other age groups — 6th to 8th grade, and 9th to 11th grade — will gain admission to the year-round Saturday Music School organized by the New Orleans Jazz Institute.

That’s all according to a piece published today in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Official details are below:

SEEKING SATCH

WHAT: A trumpet competition that rewards high school seniors with University of New Orleans Jazz Studies scholarships, and sixth to 11th grade students with spots in the New Orleans Jazz Institute’s Saturday Music School. Outgoing seniors must submit a UNO college application and e-mail a link to a YouTube video of them performing their favorite Louis Armstrong song, plus a jazz tune of their choice, to Robin Williams at rmwilli6@uno.edu. Younger student applicants must send an e-mail expressing their interest to Amy Kirk at akirk@frenchmarket.org.

WHEN: The deadline for high school senior applications is March 18. Six finalists will be chosen to compete at French Quarter Festival April 10. The three winners will go on to perform at Satchmo Summer Fest in August. Deadline for the younger students to apply is May 3; their competition will be held May 22 at McDonogh 15.

Sax Men: John Ellis, Sherman Irby, Frank Macchia (CD reviews)

Quick reviews of new releases from three saxophonists – three varied approaches to the art of jazz.

John Ellis & Double-Wide, Puppet Mischief (Obliqsound)

The New York tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist, a former Charlie Hunter sideman, honed his chops in New Orleans with the likes of pianist Ellis Marsalis and bassist Walter Payton and still spends time there; his Double-Wide band has turned in infectious performances at Jazz Fest, the Louisiana Music Factory (see below clip from the store, in 2008) and elsewhere around the Crescent City.

That NOLA vibe — street-born brass bands, Mardi Gras culture, a convivial intermingling of multi-ethnic cultures — reigns supreme on Puppet Mischief, on which Ellis is joined by sousaphonist Matt Perrine, drummer Jason Marsalis, new addition Brian Coogan on organ, and guests Gregoire Maret and Alan Ferber on harmonica and trombone, respectively. The funk is deep, the pleasure is steep, and the whole thing comes off as an irresistible rolling carnival, with musical cues variously taken from early and modern jazz, circus bands, soundtrack music, vaudeville, and even European folk music.

“Fauxfessor,” a nod to New Orleans’ piano professors (like Professor Longhair), hints at Crescent City rhythms, and the slowly flickering, almost mournful “Carousel,” with its wandering tuba, wah-muted bone and start-stop passages, wouldn’t have been out of place in a Fellini film. “Okra & Tomatoes” is swaggering and punchy, and highlighted by Ellis’s bluesy tenor turn, while instruments rise and fall on the moody “Dewey Dah”  and Maret’s soulful playing is showcased on the title track. The aptly titled “Dubinland Carnival” is a raucous-to-peaceful gem and “This Too Shall Pass” sounds like a vintage New Orleans funeral march, threatening to turn into a slo-mo gospel celebration. Feel it.

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Sherman Irby Quartet, Live at the Otto Club (Black Warrior Records)

Alabama-born Irby, a soul-jazz alto player in the mold of Cannonball Adderley, made inroads on the New York scene — playing with his own band and the likes of pianist Marcus Roberts, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and trumpeter Roy Hargrove — in the late ’90s, and released a pair of CDs on Blue Note. But he’s been a bit under the radar since, aside from playing in Elvin Jones’ last band.

Irby’s fourth disc for his own label documents a February 2008 show in Napoli, Italy, where he led a quartet on standards plus his own “Laura’s Love Song,” a shimmering, Latin-tinged ballad, and  Hargrove’s “Depth.” His sound is as big and warm and blues-drenched as ever, and his dexterity and the free-flow of his ideas are often astonishing; a case in point is the sprawling tete-a-tete with drummer Darrell Green that opens John Coltrane‘s “Countdown.” But the programming, aside from a surprisingly slow and sultry version of the Miles Davis burner “Four,” is on the staid side, and the half-American, half-Italian band is not his best.

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Frank Macchia, Folk Songs for Jazzers (Cacophony, Inc.)

Saxophonist-woodwind player and arranger Macchia, leading a heavy-hitting large jazz ensemble driven by drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Trey Henry, guitarist Grant Geissman and pianist Tom Ranier, takes on American folk songs in a manner that feels simultaneously reverential and tongue-in-cheek. Here it swings hard, there it’s cutesy, everywhere the compositions boast an appealing array of instrumental colors and cross-cutting figures.

Singer Tierney Sutton, not unexpectedly, handily finds her way into a haunting version of “Red River Valley,” while Ellis Hall gives a lift to a shifting-gears redesign of “Amazing Grace.” The leader gets some well-utilized solo time on a hard-charging, Latin-edged “Skip to My Lou,” a mellow “Tom Dooley” and a swirling, almost eerie “Kumbaya.” Not your dad’s big-band album.

Disc of the Day: Lionel Loueke, “Mwaliko” (CD review)

Lionel Louke, Mwaliko (Blue Note)

It seems like just a minute or two ago that Benin native Lionel Loueke was making his first splash on the global jazz scene. He provided gorgeous West African-flavored flourishes for trumpeter Terence Blanchard‘s mid-’00s groups and made key contributions to performances and recordings by bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Herbie Hancock (including a stellar show with the latter at Jazz Fest in New Orleans).

Several indie releases and two Blue Note discs later, the guitarist, educated in Africa, France, and at Berklee College and the Thelonious Monk Institute, is more than fulfilling the promise of those early appearances. Mwaliko has Loueke joined by instrumentalists and singers from Africa and the U.S. for a variety of originals, a traditional from Benin, and a slippery, brightly interactive duet with drummer Marcus Gilmore on Wayne Shorter‘s “Nefertiti.”

That tune, like nearly everything else on the recording, suggests a real musical intimacy between Loueke and his collaborators. Clearly, there’s some wavelength-sharing going on here, including beautiful, bouncy exchanges between his guitar lines and mouth sounds, and longtime Benin-born friend Angelique Kidjo‘s singing, on the opening, joyful “Ami O” and the pensive “Vi Ma Yon,” a Beninese folk song.

Loueke, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth — AKA the guitarist’s touring band, known as Gilfema –sound like three of a perfect pair, so attuned they are to each other, on Loueke’s searching, vocals-showered “Griot,” Nemeth’s haunting ballad-to-groover “L.L.” (which feels a bit Methenyesque) and Biolcati’s rhythm-tricked “Shazoo.”

Two other bassist-vocalists team with Loueke to great effect.

Young upright phenom Esperanza Spalding joins in on the pretty, lilting “Twins,” and the aptly named, funk-edged “Flying,” both written by Loueke and both suggesting that these musicians’ singing and instrumental talents are made for each other.

Cameroon-born electric bassist Richard Bona is aboard for the floaty “Wishes” and the closing, insistently percolating “Hide Life,” as sunny and intoxicating a piece of African-infused jazz as you’re likely to hear this year.

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For more on Lionel Loueke, check out Steve Hochman’s interview with the guitarist, online at Spinner.

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 Wins, and It’s Not Just About Football

The New Orleans Saints are bound for the Superbowl in Miami. And that reality, after last night’s victory, means something so much larger than football, as several commentators have pointed out.

It’s a big shot in the arm for the confidence of a city just beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And it’s a chance for the city of New Orleans to shine, to show off its pride and, more importantly, its unique indigenous culture, for a global television audience.

Here’s hoping that the Crescent City’s movers and shakers fully avail themselves of the chance — even from a distance — to spotlight the region’s music, art and food in a manner that best represents New Orleans and that that results in bringing droves of tourists back to the city.

That could result in long-term, long-lasting economic benefits for the city. Tourism means dollars, and more dollars can help in vital rebuilding projects.

In the short term, let’s hope that the city — particularly its educational institutions, arts organizations, and initiatives that address unemployment and related housing and hunger issues — benefits immediately from the hundreds of millions of dollars that will cycle through the Superbowl.

The Superbowl is just the first of several high-profile opportunities for New Orleans to shine, including the French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest, and, perhaps most significantly, the April debut of HBO’s music-driven series “Treme.” How could  a television show starring ebullient trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, as himself, NOT charm audiences?

Opportunity’s knocking. Here’s to a great and productive season for a city poised for an overdue rebound.