Quint Davis: Jazzfest “The Greatest Entertainment Value for the Money”

Quint is right. He was quoted in a story that ran Dec. 17 in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Thanks to Jazzfest font of knowledge Swag for alerting me (and others) to the story. Here’s the text of the piece:

STELLAR SOUNDS: Unveiling its lineup early, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival offers up a strong bill of old favorites and new headliners

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
By Keith Spera

By 1970, the first year of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Tony Bennett had been a star for two decades. The members of scruffy rock band Kings of Leon were not yet born.

Both are bound for the 40th Jazzfest, now presented by Shell.

They’ll join Aretha Franklin, Sugarland, the Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor, the Neville Brothers, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Wynton Marsalis, Emmylou Harris, Wilco, The O’Jays, Pete Seeger, Ben Harper, Solomon Burke, Erykah Badu and hundreds more at the Fair Grounds April 24-26 and April 30-May 3.

Producer/director Quint Davis announced the 2009 roster Tuesday at the North Rampart Street offices of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation, the nonprofit that owns Jazzfest and spends its profits on cultural initiatives and free events throughout the year.

The festival has never unveiled its full lineup in December. The early rollout is intended in part as a hedge against a grim economic forecast that may cut into leisure travel next spring.

Ticket prices are unchanged from 2008: $40 per day in advance, $50 at the gate. Also, a new weekend package prices tickets at $35 a day. Tickets for children age 2 to 11 are $5.

Compared with the $125 cost of a single floor ticket to Britney Spears’ March 3 concert at the New Orleans Arena, Davis noted, a three-ticket package for Jazzfest’s entire first weekend is $105.

“And you can see Dave Matthews; James Taylor; Joe Cocker; Wynton Marsalis; Earth, Wind & Fire and many more,” he said. “This is the greatest entertainment value for the money that there is.”

In conjunction with festival co-producer AEG Live, Davis’ Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans started booking acts in the summer. They scrambled in the past week to confirm as many as possible before Tuesday’s announcement.

“It was like trying to build a house,” Davis said. “You look at it with a week to go and think, ‘There’s no way this will be finished.’ ”

All headlining slots are filled except one second-weekend opening.

First-time Jazzfest performers include Bennett, Spoon, Sugarland, Kings of Leon, rapper Common, Cuban hip-hop band Orishas, soul singer Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Washington, D.C., “go-go” music pioneer Chuck Brown.

— Return visits —

The schedule is also laden with veteran acts: Bonnie Raitt, Taylor, Cocker, Buddy Guy, Etta James, Los Lobos, Robert Cray, Hugh Masekela, John Mayall, Maze, Johnny Winter, Seeger — who plans to celebrate his 90th birthday at Jazzfest — Toots & the Maytals, the Del McCoury Band and the hundreds of Louisiana acts that are the festival’s foundation.

In a sneak peak at the day-by-day schedule, Davis said the closing day’s Acura Stage lineup boasts Allen Toussaint, Franklin and the Neville Brothers, in that order.

Trumpeter Marsalis closes out the festival’s opening day by reprising his “Congo Square” composition with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Ghana-born percussionist Yacub Addy. They premiered the piece during the 2006 French Quarter Festival in Armstrong Park, site of the original Congo Square.

The Dave Matthews Band, which last appeared in 2006, is scheduled for the first Sunday.

Several multi-artist tributes acknowledge the legacies of departed local legends. Irma Thomas joins Mavis Staples and Pamela Landrum in a salute to Mahalia Jackson.

The late jazz banjoist and raconteur Danny Barker is the subject of a tribute by trumpeter Leroy Jones and a reunion of the Fairview Baptist Brass Band, which Barker developed into a farm team for local brass bands.

Deacon John hosts a “Dew Drop Inn Revisited” set featuring Wanda Rouzan, Eddie Bo, Allen Toussaint, Robert Parker and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson.

The Meter Men features three of the four original Meters: Guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. They first performed as a trio in August at the Democratic National Convention in Colorado.

Sugarland is this year’s contemporary country headliner. The band employs a New Orleans rhythm section consisting of bassist Annie Clements — daughter of local guitarist Cranston Clements — and drummer Travis McNabb. McNabb will perform with Sugarland the second weekend and with his “regular” band, Better Than Ezra, the first weekend.

— Plenty of rockers —

Perhaps taking a cue from competing festivals, Jazzfest has bolstered its roster of upstart rock bands. In addition to Kings of Leon, the list includes Wilco — the band’s bassist, John Stirratt, grew up in Mandeville — Spoon, Ben Harper and the Drive-By Truckers with guest keyboardist Booker T. Jones.

In another sign of the torch being passed, Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob Dylan, is slated to perform a solo acoustic set.

In years past, Jazzfest has featured the music and culture of countries from Africa and the African diaspora. Several international acts will return, including the Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of South Africa.

For 2009, Jazzfest has augmented its selection of premium packages. The Big Chief VIP Experience includes access to raised, covered viewing areas at the main stages and other amenities. The cost is $850, or $1,000 with daily reserved parking, for the first weekend; $900, or $1,100 with parking, for the second.

The Grand Marshal VIP pass offers access to reserved viewing areas in front of several stages, at a cost of $550, or $700 with parking, for the first weekend; $600, or $800 with parking, for the second.

A new premium package, the Krewe of Jazzfest, provides seating at the main Acura Stage only. Krewe of Jazz Fest packages are $350, or $500 with parking, for the first weekend; $400, or $600 with parking, for the second.

— Marketing challenge —

Disposable income may be in short supply for many people next spring. Already producers of Prospect.1, the art extravaganza on exhibit throughout New Orleans until January, have cut their own attendance projections by half.

As the national economic outlook grew ever gloomier throughout the fall, Davis and his team realized they would need additional time to market Jazzfest.

“As the days and weeks went by, it became more important to have the greatest momentum we could so people can get excited and make plans,” Davis said. A national promotional campaign kicks off after Jan. 1.

With the early announcement, they also wanted to pre-empt other festivals that compete for entertainment dollars. Davis is also quick to distance Jazzfest from the competition.

“No other festival has an imperative to present 85 percent local music,” Davis said. “Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Coachella — they’re not this. This is different.

“We like to think that if you’re going to do one thing, you’re going to do Jazzfest, rain, shine, flood or pestilence. Now we’ll put that to the test.”

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, at the New Orleans Arena box office and at the Louisiana Superdome box office (gate A, ground level). Ticket prices do not include service charges.

Early Christmas Present: New Orleans Jazz Fest Lineup Coming Tuesday

Christmas will come early for Jazz Fest fans — the full lineup  for next year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be announced this Tuesday, Dec. 16, according to a report published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The roster for the 40th annual edition of the festival, April 24-26 and April 30-May 3, will be announced during a press conference scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. (Central).

The announcement of the full lineup typically comes in January or February. Why so early this year?

Blame it on the economy.

“With the general economic downturn likely to affect leisure travel and ticket sales, the early announcement also allows for extra time to market the festival,” according to Keith Spera’s story in the Times-Picayune.

Expectations are that the 40th anniversary lineup will be as impressive a lineup as ever. On the list of artists confirmed to play, or expected to do so:

4/24 – Wynton Marsalis, Jazz Tent; Ellis Marsalis; Amanda Shaw

Wynton Marsalis4/25 – Wynton Marsalis (pictured, right), Congo Square

4/26 – Paul Sanchez

Solomon Burke4/30 – Solomon Burke (pictured, below); George Wein 4oth anniversary band with Jimmy Cobb, Esperanza Spalding, and Anat Cohen; Anders Osborne

First weekend (unspecified date) – Don Vappie

5/1 – Esperanza Spalding; Washboard Chaz Blues Trio; Dr. John;

5/2 – O’Jays; New Orleans/Helsinki Connection

5/3 – Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” band (celebrating the classic Miles album) with Wallace Roney, Javon Jackson, Vincent Herring, Larry Willis and Buster Williams; Juke Joint duo (Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm); Radiators; Dash Rip Rock; John Boutte; Voice of the Wetlands

(Know of other confirmations or solid rumors? Updates? Corrections? Send ’em my way)

Here’s my pitch (hope) for the Jazz Stage: Why not tap Sonny Rollins, (IMO) the greatest living jazz giant?

Also promised for the 40th edition of the fest is “a new ticket package option.” Some fans have expressed hopes that that means something along the lines of a multi-day discount, or perhaps steep discounts for locals and/or kids. Others have suggested that the new “option” could mean another type of V.I.P. package.

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.

Grammy Noms (2): Blind Boys of Alabama and other picks worth recommending

Blind Boys of Alabama

Blind Boys of Alabama

It’s almost too easy to beat up on the Grammy Awards.

And they deserve the slaps, too, given the cluelessness, historically, suggested by some of the picks: Milli Vanilli? Jethro Tull in the “metal” category? Christopher Cross? The Jonas Brothers?

It’s worth mentioning, too, that if there are going to be categories for best tropical Latin album, best regional Mexican album, best tejano album, best banda album, best Hawaiian album, best Native American album, best surround sound album, and other obscure areas, then FOR PETE’s SAKE it might be time to have categories for  New Orleans/Louisiana artists, jambands, and altcountry artists, and give Americana its own category (separate from folk).

On the other hand, the Grammys sometimes do provide much-needed attention to deserving artists.

Herewith, a few of the Grammy nominations for releases by worthy musicians and bands that you might not have heard about:

  • Best bluegrass album – Cherryholmes, Cherryholmes III: Don’t Believe; Del McCoury Band, Live at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
  • Best new age album (?) – Jack DeJohnette, Peace Time
  • Best traditional gospel album – The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans – check out my review
  • Best traditional blues album – Buddy Guy, Skin Deep; B.B. King, One Kind Favor; Elvin Bishop, The Blues Rolls On
  • Best contemporary blues album – Marcia Ball, Peace, Love & Barbecue; Solomon Burke, Like a Fire; Dr. John and the Lower 911, City That Care Forgot (good playing and funky grooves, but not one of his finest); Taj Mahal, Maestro; Irma Thomas, Simply Grand.
  • Best contemporary folk/Americana album – Ry Cooder, I, Flathead; Rodney Crowell, Sex & Gasoline; Emmylou Harris, All I Intended To Be; Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand
  • Best zydeco or cajun music album – releases by Michael Doucet, Pine Leaf Boys, BeauSoleil, and Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
  • Best reggae album – Burning Spear, Jah is Real; Lee Scratch Perry, Repentance; Sly & Robbie, Amazing
  • Best traditional world music album – Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ilembe: Honoring Shaka Zulu
  • Best contemporary world music album – releases by Gilberto Gil; Youssou N’Dour; and Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju & Giovanni Hidalgo