The 41st annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - set to run April 23 through May 2 - is about much more than just music. Notice that the official name of the event includes the word "Heritage," this is a true celebration of culture, history, food, art and music that could only have sprouted from the fertile soil of New Orleans. And while the music programming shines a giant light on jazz, no genre is left untouched with headliners ranging from Widespread Panic to Aretha Franklin.
The JamBase editors have put together a Jazz Fest Survival Guide featuring 21 Must-See bands, a list of gastronomical delights found at the Fairgrounds, local restaurant suggestions, as well as a run down of late night shows (Weekend 1, Daze Between and Weekend 2), photo galleries and a few Fest Insider Tips.
21 MUST-SEE BANDS
Over the course of seven days on 11 stages, Jazz Fest will feature around 450 artists. This list is in no way meant to cover even a fraction of the amazing talent on display. The 21 bands highlighted here are designed to help you uncover a lesser-known great, local hero, or perhaps help you make a tough decision at a certain time slot. Instead of giving love to well known headliners we adore like The Allmans, Neville Brothers (who always close the final day in epic fashion), My Morning Jacket, Black Crowes, Anita Baker, The Dead Weather, Derek Trucks and Pearl Jam, we're focusing on three bands each day you might not be planning to see that are worthy of your attention. You can check out the entire Jazz Fest schedule here.
Friday, April 23
1. Dr. John & the Lower 911 :: 3:30 PM :: Gentilly Stage
| Dr. John|
Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr., aka The Night Tripper, aka Dr. John, is considered by many to be the most significant living New Orleans musician today. A master of traditional New Orleans R&B, swamp funk and voodoo-psychedelia, this is a set you don't want to miss on the first day of Fest.
2. Irma Thomas Tribute to Mahalia Jackson :: 4:40 PM :: Gospel Tent
Despite being gone nearly 40 years, Mahalia Jackson remains a pillar of the gospel world. The power, artistry and sheer personality of her work birthed the modern gospel movement that followed in her wake, and perhaps more importantly, continues to stir spirits and fuel faith on a daily basis. Not many 20th century musicians deserve a tribute more and there's simply no better candidate to pull off a spectacular homage than Ms. Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," who's mingling of blues grit, soulful fire and gospel inflection is exceedingly well suited to Jackson's catalog. And don't miss Irma Thomas set of her own material on Sunday, May 2, at 1:40 p.m. on the Acura Stage.
3. Rotary Downs :: 4:40 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
New Orleans has far more than one sound. Yes, funk, jazz and second line dominate, but there's also a fine rock scene bubbling under, including the increasingly excellent Rotary Downs, who merge Pavement, Bowie and other threads into something extremely catchy and all their own. Their new release, Cracked Maps & Blue Reports (JamBase review), shows they're armed with a pile of great new tunes, and their live show is an energetic, passionately played blast.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy
Saturday, April 24
1. Red Stick Ramblers :: 4:25 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
| Red Stick Ramblers|
A real Louisiana treasure, the Ramblers' swirl of classic western swing, Cajun and hot jazz music goes down real easy, which slightly obscures just how ridiculously together every aspect of their sound is - sweet (but not too sweet) harmonies, moaning fiddle, dancing guitars and a joie de vivre demeanor. Red Stick makes traditional music seem, well, less traditional and more immediately alive. If Buck Owens and Bob Wills were still with us they'd be at this set.
2. Treme Brass Band :: 12:25 PM :: Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
The Treme Brass Band is a traditional marching brass band from New Orleans' Treme neighborhood. The group features a shifting lineup of local legends that has included such stalwarts as trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, sousaphonist Kirk Joseph and trombonist Corey Henry, and is anchored by bass drummer Lionel Batiste and bandleader Benny Jones. This is the sound of New Orleans and there's a reason HBO has created the hit new show Treme about the 'hood these cats call home.
3. Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes :: 11:20 AM :: Gentilly Stage
There's not too many more joyful, good time rockin' ways one could start their day on the Fairgrounds than with Johnny and his hard swinging bunch. With the feel of an old time rock 'n' soul revue (shrunk down to a few very talented cats), Sketch and the Dirty Notes play hard with a smiling dedication to YOUR enjoyment, whoever you might be.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Cochon de Lait Po-Boy (milk fed pig)
Sunday, April 25
1. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians
| Big Chief Monk Boudreaux|
4:35 PM :: Jazz & Heritage Stage
A living link to history, Monk Boudreaux is the Big Chief of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe, and when they roll onstage at Jazz Fest you can count on deep NOLA funk, hypnotic chants and ass-shaking R&B. You just can't get this shit anywhere but New Orleans.
2. Imagination Movers :: 1:25 PM :: Gentilly Stage
JamBase has keyboardist extraordinaire and NOLA know-it-all Robert Walter to thank for hipping us to this "child-centered rock band." Describing themselves as the "Beastie Boys meets Mr. Rogers," the Movers, according to Walter, put on some of the loudest, rowdiest gigs in New Orleans. A bold claim but a reliable source, and their studio work shows they've got chops and tunes to spare. Whether you're "with child" or not, this set could be a Sunday highlight.
3. Grayson Capps :: 3:00 PM :: Lagniappe Stage
Capps is a Southern singer-songwriter gem with the straight shootin' eye of Johnny Cash melded to the hobo philosophizing of Townes Van Zandt, hard time veracity of John Prine and the wicked humor of Loudon Wainwright III. Backed by his top-flight band The Stumpknockers, Capps is truly lethal. A longtime New Orleans chronicler, he'll be dishing up some of the finest, smartest roots rock going down at the Fairgrounds this year.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Crawfish Monica
Continue reading for JamBase's 2nd Weekend Must-See Band...
Thursday, April 29
1. Dr. Klaw :: 3:00 PM :: Jazz & Heritage Stage
| Eric Krasno|
Just seeing the musicians that make up this once-in-a-blue-moon project is enough to get you drooling – Eric Krasno (guitar), Adam Deitch (drums), Nick Daniels (bass), Ian Neville (guitar), Nigel Hall (keys, vocals) and Calvin Turner (bass). Funk rock with sharp teeth is one likely assumption, though with players of this caliber we'd say all bets are off. Dr. Klaw will also perform a night show during Jazz Fest on Friday, April 23 at the Blue Nile.
2. Jazz Ladies Sing The Blues :: 1:45 PM :: WWOZ Jazz Tent
This celebration of the blues will feature a quartet of talented women drawn from the jazz and contemporary gospel spheres - Gina Brown, Angela H. Bell, Tereasa B. and Heather Rothstein. These gals will celebrate the blues singing individually, as background for each other and as a group in a program likely to be full of cool surprises.
3. Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove :: 12:10 PM :: Acura Stage
One of the greatest sousaphone players of all time, Kirk Joseph helped redefine what the instrument is capable of. During his tenure with the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band Joseph developed a unique style and with Backyard Groove he continues to break new ground with a crew of New Orleans' finest musicians.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Beignets with frozen Café Au Lai
Friday, April 30
1. Astral Project :: 1:30 PM :: WWOZ Jazz Tent
| Astral Project|
Founded by saxophonist Tony Dagradi in 1978, Astral Project is one of the most adventurous jazz ensembles to ever grace New Orleans. Joining Dagradi are drummer Johnny Vidacovich, bassist James Singleton and seven-string guitarist Steve Masakowski, making this one of the most talented quartets one is likely to find anywhere. This is jazz without a safety net, dangerous and fun the way it was meant to be. This band is never short of amazing.
2. José Feliciano :: 3:40 PM :: Gentilly Stage
The blind Puerto Rican guitar wizard has been an international chart-topper since the late 1960s, when his ear-catching originals and sophisticated, passionate covers of The Doors, The Beatles and others launched a career that's still going strong today. His voice rings with emotion and his lightning fast fingers make guitar strings do things others can only dream about. It's almost always worth sitting at the heel of a legend, so don't miss your chance with this enduring great.
3. New Orleans Social Club :: 4:15 PM :: Blues Tent
For all the gifted groupings in NOLA, there's few that could compete with the pedigree of the Social Club, which features two Meters alumni (Leo Nocentelli and George Porter Jr.), three Nevilles (Cyril, Ivan and Charles), keyboard marvel Henry Butler and Dumpstaphunk drummer Raymond Weber. This is going to be a smooth master class in all things New Orleans, musically speaking, with abundant charm and talent to spare.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Fried Eggplant w/ Crawfish Sauce
Saturday, May 1
1. Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band :: 2:00 PM :: WWOZ Jazz Tent
| Brian Blade|
Known to many as the superlative inducing drummer behind such luminaries as Joni Mitchell, Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan, Blade is also a gifted, subtle composer who has carved out his own sound when his relentless studio schedule and duties behind the kit for the Wayne Shorter Quartet allow. Often languid and consciously paced, Blade's compositions and empathetic band offer intense texture with real intelligence, which might be the ideal respite from the stomp 'n' blast of New Orleans groove music happening elsewhere on the Fairgrounds.
2. Allen Toussaint Jazzity Project :: 3:40 PM :: WWOZ Jazz Tent
Like the Marsalis and Batiste families, the Nevilles, George Porter Jr. and Dr. John, Allen Toussaint is an ambassador for New Orleans. On Friday at the main Acura Stage Toussaint will pull from his catalog of hits for the masses, but on Saturday he'll sneak into the Jazz Tent with his Jazzity Project where he'll perform songs off his 2009 Grammy-nominated album Bright Mississippi. Either setting is sure to be a good time - Toussaint really doesn't disappoint - but something tells us the more intimate show full of obscure selections might unearth some real genius from this living legend.
3. Chris Thomas King :: 2:35 PM :: Blues Tent
King's reach stretches across the entirety of the blues – from gravely 78 rpm era recordings by blind men and fallen preachers through the '60s electric revival and into today's more streamlined variety (and everything that falls in between these broad marks). His voice can make you shiver and his guitar playing can leave you slack-jawed, and he's the sort of artist that'll always keep you guessing at what he has up his sleeve.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Fried Oyster Spinach Salad
Sunday, May 1
1. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue :: 2:00 PM :: Gentilly Stage
| Trombone Shorty|
It's only a matter of time until Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews is a household name. Born and raised in New Orleans' Treme neighborhood, Andrews played his first Jazz Fest in 1990 at the ripe old age of four. Since then he's toured the world with Lenny Kravitz and made a believer out of everyone from Bo Diddley to Bono. We highly recommend you start your Sunday in the Gospel Tent (because that's where all Sundays should start at Jazz Fest) and then promptly make your way over to Trombone Shorty's performance.
2. Van Morrison :: 3:35 PM :: Acura Stage
At a time when most artists of his era are resting on their laurels (or worse, six feet under), Van the Man has been in the midst of a golden years revival for better than a decade, where he's revisited his original inspirations, re-teamed with old mates and marvelously rendered his finest studio album, Astral Weeks, in concert (JamBase review). Those only familiar with hits like "Moondance" and "Brown Eyed Girl" may be surprised at how much real nitty-gritty blues and gospel figure in his work, as well as how bloody hard Van can swing if he puts his mind to it. Not one for stage chatter or audience baiting, his live shows nonetheless are pretty much a guarantee of high quality music.
3. Richie Havens :: 5:50 PM :: Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Havens' tireless creativity, sustained musical brilliance and enormous heart and soul arguably mark him as the Woodstock veteran whose gifts (and philosophical perspective) have changed the least over the ensuing decades. A brilliant, honest storyteller and dazzling musician, his performances continue to be life-affirming boons to anyone smart enough to be in his presence. Always a bit more clear-eyed than his hippie cohorts, Havens has somehow maintained the soul of the sixties, and his power and magnetism are almost enough to make today's much more cynical audiences believe that we really shall one day overcome the injustices of this world.
Don't Miss Culinary Delight: Boiled Crawfish
Continue reading for Late Night info, Restaurant Suggestions, Insider Tips, Photos and more...
As always, there is no shortage of amazing late night entertainment during Jazz Fest. With so many options it's near impossible to select one show over another, and that's why you'll want to look at our complete concert listings to find what tickles your fancy. As you're perusing our virtual pages be sure to give some thought towards venues. If you've never been to the Rock 'n' Bowl or raged on the Riverboat Creole Queen you might want to make that happen. There's also the newly reopened Mahalia Jackson Theatre, as well as always reliable haunts House of Blues, Howlin' Wolf, DBA and Republic. And no trip to NOLA is complete without a stop at Tip's. And if you can somehow sneak into the My Morning Jacket/Preservation Hall Jazz Band show at the tiny Preservation Hall on Saturday, April 24, more power to you!
The Jazzfest Grids are an incredibly useful tool to help you plan your nighttime parties. Use the links below for a complete breakdown of all the late night shows.
First Weekend :: Second Weekend :: Daze Between :: Extra Days
New Orleans Restaurant Suggestions
1. Cochon :: 930 Tchoupitoulas St.
A local favorite and great value serving up the classics and more. They're offering a private dining experience with a special Jazz Fest menu.
2. Dante's Kitchen :: 736 Dante St.
The best 'NOLA comfort food' in the city. Get the shrimp n' grits. Chef Emann is the boss!
3. Dick & Jenny's :: 4501 Tchoupitoulas St.
Uptown near Tip's, this casual fine dinning restaurant takes no reservations and is open on Mondays.
On A Budget
1. Domilise's Po-Boys :: 5240 Annunciation St. (right off Tchoupitoulas)
The quintessential po-boy resource. It's a local favorite for a reason.
2. Coop's Place :: 1109 Decatur St.
If ya don't know now ya know! This just might be the best fried chicken and seafood gumbo in town. Get the Taste Plate or the two piece dark with rabbit jambalaya.
3. Verti Marte :: 1201 Royal St.
A French Quarter staple, this joint is open 24/7 and serves real food at a reasonable price.
- When you're leaving the Fairgrounds after a long day of dancing in the sun, don't rush right into the cab line. Walk on over to Liuzza's at 3636 Bienville Ave. Get yourself a bite to eat or a drink and dig the scene. There's always bands playing in the area and there's no better people watching than the sea of heads rolling out of the Fairgrounds.
- Don't deny the Lagniappe Stage. As well as Rotary Downs, Red Stick Ramblers, Grayson Capps, Klezmer Allstars and Bobby Long all playing there, it's the ONLY place to get fresh Louisiana oysters! I know y'all come for the music, but you stay for the fresh, Louisiana caught seafood. Lache pas la patate!
- If you're looking for the sweetest local t-shirts, stay out of the tourist traps and be sure to check out Dirty Coast. Run by a bunch of great NOLA cats, the money goes right back to the people who make this city so amazing, and the shirt designs are just awesome. Get one for yourself and bring another home; they make great gifts!
- Official New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival website: nojazzfest.com. This link includes "The Cubes" which break down every set of the weekend by artist, stage, day and time, the link also includes a list of all food at the festival, news, artist bios, ticket info and Jazz Fest history.
- Jazzfest Grids website: jazzfestgrids.com. This link has a complete listing of all late night club shows for First Weekend, Second Weekend, Daze Between and Extra Daze.
- JamBase Jazz Fest Show Listings: New Orleans 4/22-5/3. This link will show you all events scheduled in New Orleans from April 22 (the start of First Weekend) through May 3 (the end of Second Weekend).
- JamBase 2009 Jazz Fest Coverage: Weekend 1, Weekend 2
- JamBase 2008 Jazz Fest Coverage: Weekend 1, Weekend 2
- JamBase 2007 Jazz Fest Coverage
- JamBase 2006 Jazz Fest Coverage
- Local site nola.com/jazzfest offers a plethora of news and Fest updates
Be sure to keep an eye on JamBase during Jazz Fest as we'll be reporting live from New Orleans with daily updates...
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