Listening Post, Week of 1/26: Pat Metheny, Buddy Miller, LaRue Nickelson/Jeremy Powell, Omar Sosa & NDR Big Band, Wilco

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

Pat Metheny, Orchestrion (Nonesuch, Jan. 26)

Buddy Miller, Midnight and Lonesome (Hightone, 2002)

LaRue Nickelson/Jeremy Powell, Amizade (indie release; Jan. 15; available here)*

Omar Sosa and the NDR Big Band, Ceremony (forthcoming)

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002)

* Check out Cornelius White’s blog feature on Jeremy

Bonnaroo’s Killer Lineup: Phish, Wilco, David Byrne, King Sunny Ade, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Gov’t Mule

Some of the country’s big ‘n’ eclectic rock/jam festivals, like Langerado in South Florida, are calling it quits this year. Or, at least, taking a break until 2010.

Bonnaroo, though, is standing strong, with a recently announced lineup that includes a huge gift to fans of a certain highly revered jamband.

Yep, Phish, reuniting in March to play three dates in Virginia, is headed to Bonnaroo, June 11-14 in Manchester, Tennessee.

Trey and Co., slated to play two shows – count ’em – at the music-and-camping fest, are at the top of the bill, along with a long list of acts boasting serious music muscle.

The lineup includes Wilco, David Byrne, Wilco, the Rev. Al Green, Elvis Costello (solo), and the seriously over-exposed Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. More: Gov’t Mule, Erykah Badu, TV on the Radio, Band of Horses, Ben Harper, Merle Haggard, moe, Bela Fleck & Toumani Diabate, Galactic, Booker T & the Drive-by Truckers, David Grisman, Lucinda Williams, Gomez, Femi Kuti, Alejandro Escovedo, Cherryholmes, the Steeldrivers, and – yes – Nigerian juju star King Sunny Ade. More TBA.

By any measure, it’s a killer bill.

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.

The Bad Plus – Still Bad (That’s Good)

What is jazz?

The Bad Plus, nominally a jazz piano trio – piano, upright bass, drums – begs that question.

Still, the group turned in one of the most inspired sets at this year’s Jazz Fest in New Orleans; an emotionally intense version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” released on the group’s 2007 Prog CD, was a particular highlight. I spoke with several Bad Plus newbies who were entirely blown away by the performance.

The trio’s latest, For All I Care, is their first with a vocalist. Minneapolis altrock singer Wendy Lewis achieves a spooky feel on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” her voice whispery over Dave King’s quietly rumbling toms and Reid Anderson’s deeply resonant bass lines. Pianist Ethan Iverson shortly later countes with fluttering piano cascades.

It may not — does not — swing. But it’s a wildly creative approach. And the same could be said about what the trio does with Nirvana’s “Comfortably Numb,” Wilco’s “Radio Cure,” Yes’s “Long Distance Runaround” (Yes!), the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love,” Heart’s “Barracuda” and the Flaming Lips’ “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate.” The group also takes on several 20th Century classical composers.

The project, produced by Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits) is remarkable, and I’ll go into greater detail in a review slated to be published in a jazz mag early next year.

Here’s hoping that The Bad Plus (finally) returns to our neck of the woods. I fondly recall their first appearance here, at the Royalty Theatre in Clearwater.