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.








Newport 1959: Listen Now!

The Newport Jazz Festival in 1959: The “New Testament” Count Basie Band. Thelonious Monk (in photo). Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, with Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley. Dizzy Gillespie. The Ahmad Jamal Trio. The Horace Silver Quintet. Dizzy Gillespie. The Jimmy Smith Trio. The Oscar Peterson Trio.

Now THAT was a real, artistically significant jazz festival, unlike too many of the overtly commercial events masquerading as jazz fests around my home state in recent years.

Thanks to NPR music,  I just came across fantastic audio from the fest – just listening to Atomic Basie playing “The Deacon,” spiked with a gritty, rambunctious solo by plunger-mute trombone wizard Al Grey. mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=122007665&m=122004714

A sampler of recordings from the fest is available here via NPR music, which offers five tracks — Basie, Blakey, Jamal,  Silver, Dakota Staton — discussed by New York Times critic Ben Ratliff and jazz announcer Josh Jackson on the latter’s Dec. 30 edition of “The Checkout” show on WBGO.

Amazingly enough, 27 sets from the festival can be heard online at Wolfgang’s Vault. The best part: There’s absolutely no admission charge.

The vault isn’t just about jazz. It also offers free-admission access to tons of great concerts by everyone from The Allman Brothers (Hollywood Bowl, Aug. 6, 1972) to Bob Marley (London, 1975) to Neil Young (Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, 1975).

How’d I not know about this great resource?

Jazz Fest Adds Neil Young

Neil Young has been added to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival lineup for Sunday, May 3, filling the spot left open when Aretha Franklin unexpectedly dropped out of the fest.

Young’s rootsy, Americana-flavored rock ‘n’ roll, songwriting prowess, and willful determination to go his own way, regardless of commercial forces, make a great match with the Jazz Fest vibe.

The selection doubtless will help compensate for a tone-deaf pick – Bon Jovi, on May 2 – that rightfully generated quite a bit of consternation among longtime Jazz Fest fans, as demonstrated via hundreds of posts on the event’s official’s chatboards.

Nice to see that, now, when one clicks on the Jazz Fest site, the first big national act that pops up is Neil Young (the second – Bon Jovi). With any luck, he won’t overload his performance with political ranting.

Here’s Times-Picayune music writer Keith Spera’s story posted on NOLA.com:

New Orleans, La. – Today Jazz Fest officials announced Neil Young and the Imagination Movers are in. Aretha Franklin is out. Those should be the last major changes for the 2009 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Neil Young,” said Jazz Fest producer/director Quint Davis. “Jazz Fest finally gets its Neil Young. He’s a unique figure in rock, one of the great guitar players, period. This is the last piece in the puzzle.”

Young will make his Jazz Fest debut on the Acura Stage between Allen Toussaint and the Neville Brothers on the final Sunday, May 3.
Franklin was initially penciled in for that slot. Believing she was confirmed, Davis included her in December’s rollout of the Jazz Fest talent roster.

But her name was absent from the day-to-day schedule released last week. Before her performance at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Davis said, her representatives indicated she might not be up for the Jazz Fest gig.

“She decided to put everything on hold and get through that (inauguration) experience, and not make any definite plans for the rest of the year,” Davis said. “In the flow of her life, she decided this wasn’t the time. Maybe next year.

“We told them, ‘Don’t send the offer back. Change the date to 2010. We would like to have you whenever you can come.'”

Trying to book Franklin and Young for 2009 wasn’t an “either-or” situation, Davis said. He would have found slots for both while assembling the jigsaw puzzle-like schedule.

“There are so many things that click and turn and fall in and fall out. This one is ready to confirm, that one isn’t, you’re waiting to hear. Performance days, places and times move.”

Young has long occupied a slot on the festival’s wish list. “We tried to get him every year for 10 years,” Davis said. “A lot of different factors were involved. Wanting it to happen is not enough.”

Some years, Young would not be on tour in the spring. Or else he would be touring with show he didn’t think would work at Jazz Fest, such as his acoustic show.

“Negotiating is easier than whether or not you can get the artist on tour, with his band, at that moment in his career when he’s totally into rocking out,” Davis said. “Neil Young has no shortage of great moments, but the current great moment is perfect for us.”

Discussions with Young’s camp about a 2009 performance began in November. Davis knows Young’s legendary booking agent, Marsha Vlasic, who had previously booked Van Morrison at Jazz Fest. She assembled a string of Southern concert dates so Young’s tour routing could include the festival.

“She gets a lot of the credit for working to make this happen,” Davis said.

Finalizing the deal took longer than expected. Jazz Fest hoped to announce Young last week along with the addition of Bon Jovi. However, the booking was not confirmed in time.

Bon Jovi to Play Jazz Fest. Huh?

Which BNA (big national act) would be added to the already pretty darn impressive lineup for this year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival?

Speculation had been running wild regarding such possibilities as Neil Young, or Prince, or Phish (the latter not likely, due to the backlash from their last visit). Any of those acts which would have fit nicely with the roots/rock/jazz/jam feel of the fest.

And now this news: The last-minute BNA is … Bon Jovi.

Sigh. Not very impressive, and hardly in keeping with what Jazz Fest is, you know, supposed to be all about. Well, oh well. The fest will still offer plenty of alternatives to the uninspired lowest-common-denominator rock ‘n’ roll sported by Jon and the boys.

Here’s the official release:


Day-by-Day Music Schedule Announced

February 18 Deadline Set for Purchase of New
Discount Weekend Ticket Packages

Jazz & Heritage Foundation 2009 Gala to Feature
“Dew Drop Inn Revisited All-Stars”

New Orleans, LA (February 6, 2009)— American rock superstars Bon Jovi have been added to the already star-studded music lineup of the 40th anniversary New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Presented by Shell, organizers announced today. Making their first-ever Jazz Fest appearance, Bon Jovi will perform on Saturday, May 2. The 2009 Jazz Fest is scheduled for April 24-26 & April 30-May 3 at the Fair Grounds Race Course.  (For more information on Bon Jovi, visit www.bonjovi.com.)

Bon Jovi joins Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, Sugarland, Joe Cocker, Ben Harper, Tony Bennett, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kings of Leon, Neville Brothers, Wilco, Bonnie Raitt, Allen Toussaint, The O’Jays, Erykah Badu, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Dr. John plus hundreds of others previously announced to appear at the historic edition of the Festival.

Jazz Fest noted that Julian Marley has been added to the Festival on Friday, May 1.  Toots & the Maytals, previously announced for the 2009 event, will not be appearing.

Listening Post #3

Five releases in rotation at home and in the car – a list without comment (in alphabetical order):

the-bad-plus1The Bad Plus, For All I Care (Heads Up, 2009)

Olu Dara, Neighborhoods (Atlantic, 2001)

Mosquitos, Mosquitos (Bar None, 2003)

Umphrey’s McGee, Mantis (Sci Fidelity, 2009)

Neil Young,  Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968 (Reprise, 2008)