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.

Tampa Jazz (& More) Calendar: Snarky Puppy Leads a Parade of Great Tampa Bay Area Shows

The great, artistically and physically expansive jazz/funk/fusion band Snarky Puppy, with blue-chip funky jammers The Motet, leads a parade of great jazz (& more) shows slated to play the Tampa Bay area in coming weeks and months.

Snarky Puppy, touring in support of last year’s “We Like It Here,” plays Monday night (doors at 7:30) at the State Theater in St. Petersburg.

Also noteworthy, and headed our way:

Friday, Jan. 9 — Marcia Ball with Lipbone ReddingSkipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 10 — Denise Moore And Then Some — Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 11 — Valerie Gillespie Quintet with John DePaola: Tribute to Cannonball and Nat Adderley — (Tampa Jazz Club concert) HCC Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 13 — Lettuce — State Theatre, St. Petersburg, doors at 7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 16 — Voice of the Wetlands Allstars: Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Waylon Thibodeaux, Johnny Vidacovich, Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux with Galbraith Group — Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 17 — Sunshine Blues & Music Festival: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, Grace Potter, Dickey Betts & Great Southern, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, The Both (Aimee Mann & Ted Leo), Rebirth Brass Band, Matt Schofield, Sean Chambers — Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg

Tuesday, Jan. 20 — Greensky Bluegrass with The Last Bison — State Theatre, St. Petersburg, doors at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 20 — Eliana Blanchard & Bryan Hughes with Helios Jazz Orchestra — Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 22 — Jazz Pianist Stan Hunter: A Celebration (with Patrick Bettison, LaRue Nickelson, Alejandro Arenas, and Joe Bencomo — Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 31 — Galactic with Monophonic — State Theatre, St. Petersburg, doors at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 6 — Eric Lindell with Anson Funderburgh — Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 7 — Jonny Lang — Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James’ Jazz Valentine (with Jeremy Powell, LaRue Nickelson, Alejandro Arenas and Mark Feinman — Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 15 — George Porter, Jr. with Walter Wolfman Washington — Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 5 p.m.

Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: James Varnado Jazz/Funk Band – ARTpool courtyard, 7:30 p..m.

Feb. 26 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Shawn Brown Trio – Palladium Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 27 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: The Claudia Quintet – SPC Music Center, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 28 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Kevin Mahogany & Helios Jazz Orchestra – SPC Music Center, 7:30 p.m.

March 1 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Post-Festival Jazz Jam – Manhattan Casino, 6 p.m.

March 1 — Dave Stryker — (Tampa Jazz Club concert) HCC Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 p.m.

 

 

 

Gasparilla Music Festival: Impressive Maiden Voyage

It was an auspicious start for the Gasparilla Music Festival, which debuted with an impressively eclectic lineup and a solid turnout – organizers said that the fest broke even by about mid-afternoon.

The debut fest, with acts playing on two large stages and an “unplugged” amphitheater spread across waterside Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa, was well organized. Bands played at the scheduled times and there were only minimal sound issues. If there were any major snafus, they weren’t apparent to concertgoers.

Particularly impressive:

There were strong performances all around, and kudos to the fest for featuring locally based bands alongside national acts.

Here’s to a second annual Gasparilla Music Festival.

More later …

America Needs It Some “Treme”

“America needs it some Kermit,” the New Orleans DJ and sometime musician played by Steve Zahn says, about halfway through the first episode of  HBO’s “Treme,” which debuts tonight on the heels of much critical praise.

Davis McAlary (Zahn), inspired by real-life scenester Davis Rogan, is talking to trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, his bandmates and friends after a show at Vaughan’s, a tiny, shotgun-style bar in the Bywater, where Ruffins has a long-standing Thursday night gig.  In the scene, Davis is lamenting Ruffins’ failure to at least say hello to Elvis Costello, who’s in town for a recording collaboration with pianist-songwriter Allen Toussaint.

Ruffins and Costello play themselves, as does Vaughan’s, where Ruffins plays and cooks barbecue for his listeners.

That authenticity, in a show created and produced by David Simon and Eric Overmyer (“The Wire”), with help from the late David Mills and novelist George Pelecanos, as well as New Orleans writers Lolis Elie and Tom Piazza, has everything to do with why fans of New Orleans music and culture — including native New Orleanians, I hope — will be enthused by “Treme.”

Why? Because Mills and Co. got it right: the broken-down, hardscrabble hand-to-mouth feel of New Orleans, in the months and years immediately following Hurricane Katrina; the unique cultural milieu, as defined in part by the city’s cuisine and Mardi Gras Indian traditions; the brass-band scene.

As is true about New Orleans, music is soaked into the fiber of “Treme,” as demonstrated by:

  • That aforementioned scene at Vaughan’s, where Ruffins and his Barbecue Swingers play “Skokian”
  • A native New Orleanian trumpet player makes it big in New York, with a scene shot at the Blue Note – Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, anyone?
  • Rebirth Brass Band plays “Feel Like Funking It Up” and the Stones’ “It’s All Over Now”
  • Treme Brass Band plays “A Closer Walk With Thee” during a post-funeral parade
  • McAlary sits at a piano for a few bars of Professor Longhair‘s “Big Chief.”
  • McAlary goes to WWOZ-FM for his weekly show, and rails about being forced to play “the New Orleans canon,” although it’s apparent he loves every bit of it – he goes gaga over a Dave Bartholomew box set, and he blasts NOLA hip-hop just to annoy his genteel, classical-loving neighbors.

The storyline largely centers on the ups and downs of trombonist Antoine Batiste (New Orleans native Wendell Pierce) and McAlary, as well as secondary characters including a professor (John Goodman) raging at the federal government’s decades-long failure to bolster the levees; his wife (Melissa Leo), an attorney fighting for the rights of the dispossessed; a Mardi Gras Indian chief (Clarke Peters) who returns to his devastated home, and hopes to reunite his tribe, the Guardians of the Flame; a bar owner, Antoine’s ex-wife (Khandi Alexander), mourning her brother, apparently lost in the storm; and  a chef (Kim Dickens) desperately trying to rebuild business for her popular neighborhood restaurant.

As might be expected from Simon, the various strands of the larger narrative — NOLA’s return from the brink of disaster — are smartly woven together in the first episode, directed by Agnieszka Holland. The characters are compelling, as are their stories.

Which brings us back to Kermit. Yes, America needs Kermit and his joyful, good-time music, rooted in New Orleans traditional jazz.

And America needs “Treme,” a show that serves as a necessary reminder of all the reasons — music, food, culture, a group of survivors who won’t quit — that New Orleans still deserves to be celebrated as one of our country’s great treasures. It’s “a city that lives in the imagination of the world,” according to something Goodman’s characters says.

Ultimately, “Treme,” which will run 10 episodes for its first season, wants to figure into the continuing rebirth of New Orleans, to play a role in furthering that economic and spiritual renaissance.

It’s off to a great start.

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

Jazzfest Grids: New Year’s Eve Edition

The Threadheads (Jazz Fest fans) behind Jazzfest Grids, THE guide to nightclub music during Jazz Fest, have assembled a handy guide to music around NOLA happening on and around New Year’s Eve.

Here it is.

If I were headed to the Crescent City for the occasion, on NYE I’d be seriously torn: Galactic featuring Shamarr Allen, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, are at Tipitina’s; and Astral Project is at Snug Harbor.

And for pre-NYE jamming, I’d head to the Maple Leaf, for the Rebirth Brass Band’s traditional Tuesday night gig.

New Year’s Day? Johnny Vidacovich (Astral Project) is at the Maple Leaf, and Kermit Ruffins is doing his regular Thursday night show (and barbecue?) at Vaughan’s.

Also at the JazzFest Grids site is the ever-intriguing list of artists rumored to play JazzFest. Scheduled to play so far, according to the list: Wynton Marsalis; rising-star jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding (My feature on her was the cover story for the June issue of Bass Player mag);  legendary soul singer Solomon Burke; Juke Joint Duo (Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcom); and the O’Jays.