Edited by Matt Iarrobino
Written By James Bailey, Bart Basile, Brian Friedman, and Matt Iarrobino
Photos by Mike McNamara
It's JazzFest time again here in NOLA. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the annual auditory bliss is about to commence. Since it's earliest settlement, New Orleans has developed a rich musical heritage that gave birth to 20th century American music. Musicians from this fertile crescent were the first to incorporate African rhythms with Western melody, beginning with culture-blending jam sessions at Congo Square. This mix gave rise to such musical pioneers as JellyRoll Morton, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, Earl King, The Meters, Dr. John and others too numerous to mention. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is a celebration of the music of this great city, and of the new artists whose music is forging ahead the spirit of the musical traditions established there.
For those who have never been to the Crescent City, get ready because this year not only are the Fairgrounds hot (pun intended) during the day, but Superfly Presents has been crowned Supreme Overlord of Nighttime Shows. With so much music to see, it is hard to get down a full schedule; some people like to wing it and see where the night takes them, and others like to have their entire trip planned out. It doesn't matter either way because if you're in the city limits, you will be bombarded with a plethora of shows.
This year is also looking like it will be a little different than last year as far as the number of people that will be attending. Last year at the Fairgrounds, about 120,000 people were counted at the Acura Stage for The Dave Matthews Band. That's almost 40-50,000 people more than the high for the previous year. These huge numbers obviously carry over to the late night shows, making them harder and harder to get into. Wherever possible, I recommend getting tickets prior to the shows because they will sell out. Here's a little tip: If a show is sold out or is about to, get there late (like second set) because many New Orleans venues (with the exception of the theaters) will let more people in as others leave.
Knowing how to space your time is a key factor when enjoying your ‘Fess. Due to the sheer amount of shows almost every night, a sacrifice is almost always necessary. As a wise man once said, "Judge JazzFest not by what you saw, but by what you had to miss to see what you saw." Read it slow, you’ll get it. With the overwhelmingness of options, it is easy to burn out fast, as many of the weak do. But, be forewarned my friends, forcing a night out may be the cause of your demise. The police here in good ol' N'Awlins don't take no mess; screw up and you'll be in O.P.P. (Orleans Parish Prison) for a good amount of Fess. For example, if for some reason you get arrested on a Friday night, chances are you won't get out ‘til Monday morning. If you know you are going to be out raging (ahem), it is a great idea to keep a lawyers phone number on you just in case something silly happens.
Is anything better than two weeks of bands playing from 11 am to 6 am? If there is, I sure don't want to know about it. So rage responsibly and don't forget where you are; in a city founded by pirates, prostitutes, and pickpockets.
- Bart Basile and Matt Iarrobino
This year’s line-up crosses all styles and is eclectic enough to attract all kinds of music fans … and scenes. Here is preview of some of the nighttime shows, Superfly and beyond!
Frank Black and the Catholics
Frank Black is not as famous as Kurt Cobain or Thom Yorke, yet both artists consider him as one of their prime musical inspirations. His fans revere him, much in the way one would revere the Pope, Dali Llama, or any member of Pink Floyd. The Pixies built the foundation for the musical explosion that took place in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. One might even ask themselves whether or not there would have even ever been a Nirvana had The Pixies not ever formed, much in the way that I would not be here alive and well today had my parents not met.
It's been about ten years since The Pixies broke up. Since then, their leader and creative force, Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis, has recorded more albums as a solo artist than he did with the legendary Boston punk band. But, I’d hardly consider Black’s most recent album, Dog in the Sand, "punk". Although he is a true anarchism rock veteran, Black’s new music sounds much more stripped down than his earlier artful marriages of pop and noise. It’s as if he’s going back in time musically.
Black’s latest album, Dog in the Sand, sounds more like classic rock and blues than punk, incorporating instruments such as the pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar, piano and banjo. Yet his Americana-based rock songs are loud, melodic, dynamic and driving enough to be called rock, with an Exile on Main Street-era Stones/early Bowie feel to them. Black’s music floats in and out of Riff rock, 50’s doo-wop, and country rock while maintaining a punk-pop vocal style and the genius songwriting that he’s famous for.
Go and pay your respects to Frank Black and the Catholics when they play The Howlin' Wolf on Wednesday April, 24
- Matt Iarrobino
The Radiators are known for their highly energetic and improvisational live performances, which are an innovative mix of roots rock, funk, blues and R&B. With eighteen years of live performances under their belt, The Radiators' rich musical heritage and tireless devotion to spontaneous performances has established them as one of America's most enduring live acts. What better place to see them then in New Orleans, the very city where their music was born and bred. Forming in 1978, The Rads were growing as a band during a time when they could still go out and see the artists that influenced their playing; Influences like Professor Longhair, Fats Domino and Dr. John. The Rads took these influences, as well as rock and R&B, to develop their own rhythmic blend of soul-infused rock and roll. The result is an original New Orleans Rock and Roll mixed with some R&B, jazz, country soul, swing, and gospel. The band is also famous for it’s high energy, party-like concerts which exchange mutual energies between the band and the audience.
The Rads play on Friday, April 26 on The Riverboat Cajun Queen
- Matt Iarrobino
With the explosion of New Orleans spawned supergroup trios these days like Garage A Trois (Stanton Moore, Charlie Hunter) or Oysterhead (Trey Anastasio, Les Claypool) touring extensively and successfully, Vida Blue has stepped in and stretched the boundaries of our ever-expanding ‘genre' even further. Where Garage a Trois is jazzy, and Oysterhead fu**in' rocks, Vida Blue is cool and collected; mixing dance/trance and clavinet layered loops to form a sort of "electronojazz." None too aggressive; none too passive, Vida Blue has tapped into the new bloodline of the ‘Jam' scene with progressive beats and one hell of an all-star line-up.
Vida Blue is comprised of Page McConnell (Phish) on various keys, Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit) on bass, and Russell Batiste (The Funky Meters, Papa Grows Funk) on drums. The only member you may not recognize is the drummer Russell Batiste; but if you see this badass play you will never forget it. He may be the best-kept secret on the scene, but his hometown fans of New Orleans know him well. Keep an eye out for him late night; he's known to put down a drink or two.
Vida Blue is playing at the Orpheum Theater on April 27th. the New Deal will be opening and this is a Superfly Presents show.
- Bart Basile
High off their recent acceptance of a Grammy Award for best Latin/Rock Alternative Album, Ozomatli plays The Howlin' Wolf on Saturday April, 27.
Just as New Orleans music is a mix of cultures and styles, so is Ozomatli’s. They are one of the few bands that I know of where you’ll find people dancing salsa to a hip-hop samba. The band’s most recent album "Embrace the Chaos", co-produced by Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, is a polyethnically mixed bag of Caribbean, salsa swing, jungle rhyme and urban beat that teams with the energy you’d expect at one of their live shows. "Timido," a song that has become a favorite in Ozomatli live sets, came spontaneously out of the band's trip to Cuba. "1234" is reminiscent of New Orleans second line brass band music.
For the past three years, Ozomatli has been on the road playing venues of all shapes and sizes from stadiums to political benefits to high schools. Plus, they’ve traveled to and played in Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico and Cuba and have had the pleasure of playing with the likes of Santana, Johnny Pacheco, Yomo Toro, and Los Lobos.
A band committed to sparking social change and community-building through their music, Ozomatli supports such causes as The Taco Bell Truth Tour, Woman in Prison, School of the Americas Watch, Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, The United Farm Workers, Revolutionary Worker, and Refuse and Resist.
Ozomatli is Wil-Dog Abers: Bass/Vocals, Asdru Sierra: Trumpet/Lead Vocals, Ulises Bella: Tenor Sax/Guitar/Clarinet/Vocals, MC Kanetic Source: Rap Vocals, Raul Pacheco: Guitar/Vocals, Andrew Mendoza: Drums, Jiro Yamaguchi: Percussion, Justin Poree: Percussion, DJ Spinobi: Turntables.
Ozomatli plays on Friday, April 26 at the Saenger Theatre and Saturday April 27 at The Howlin' Wolf.
- Matt Iarrobino
The Super Furry Animals
Next to Grandaddy, these guys are my favorite band right now. I’ve have had about five months to digest their recent album, Rings Around The World, but it only took about two listens for me to fall completely in love with the it, and their original style of indy/pop/electronic/rock. These Welsh psychedelic visionaries have been around for about 10 years, but I only heard of them last fall. Makes me realize that I don’t really know as much about music as I thought, and forces me to wonder how many other great bands in this world I have yet to discover. I look forward to that.
The Super Furries are one of the leading bands of the mid-'90s Welsh music movement, which also consisted of bands like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, 60 Foot Dolls, and Catatonia. The thing that sets The Furries apart from these bands is their wildly whimsical, yet melodic songs that talk about left wing political activism, Presidential Suites, and the one and only Sidewalk Surfer Girl. Sometimes they sing in their native language of Welsh, and much of the time I have no idea what lead singer Gruff Rhys is saying. But hey, can you really understand what the hell Billy Bragg and Tom Waits are saying half the time?
The album is all over the place, hitting all kinds of styles. On the one hand you have the seductive string laden "It’s not the End of the World", the romantically erotic "Juxtaposed With You" and the Bert Bacharach-stylings of "Presidential Suite". On the other hand, there’s the genre flipping, pinball machine rock lunacy of 'Receptacle for the Respectable' and 'No Sympathy' whose insane sonics assault the senses.
Their irreverent ability to bastardize every genre within range and streamline disparate influences into one melodic whole, make the Super Furry Animals pop's nearest equivalent to the Kellogg’s variety pack, minus the Bran Flakes.
Herein lies the genius behind their fabulously tilted furry vision. Don’t miss these guys!! Their live show comes with a side surround sound, stunning visuals and a kick ass light show.
Wednesday May 1 at Shim Sham Club.
- Matt Iarrobino
The New Deal
Coming straight outta Toronto, these boys know the groove outside in, and ride it out all the way through the night. Self described as "live improvisational breakbeat house," this trio does it all: from dancy-trancey, to ambient space, to downright nasty electronica, but it’s totally appropriate that these guys play JazzFest. Each member of the New Deal has roots in the Canadian jazz scene. Keyboardist Jamie Shields came from the horn-infused One Step Beyond while drummer and beatboxer Darren Shearer migrated from Gypsy Sol and bassist Dan Kurtz from Que Vida.
Without the help of samplers, digital enhancement, or a DJ, The New Deal gets it done. To hear them playing from outside a club one may think, "Damn that DJ is tight!" but no my friend, no. They are live all the way and subscribe to the new school of improv that moves you all night long and leaves you questioning where those last few hours went.
the New Deal players are Dan Kurtz (bass), Jaime Shields (keys), and Darren Shearer (drums and beatbox). Not only will they be opening for Vida Blue, but also have a late night gig at The Howlin' Wolf the same night, on April 27th at around 3am!! Ozomatli will be going on at around 1am, so try to get there a little early and catch them as well.
- Bart Basile
Garage a Trois
Garage a Trois is a percussive jazz-electronica trio (& quartet with percussionist Mike Dillon) comprising three of the most exciting young players today. With drummer Stanton Moore of New Orleans' soul-jazz brethren Galactic, eight-string jazz guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter and skronk saxophonist Skerik, Garage a Trois is always a tough ticket to come by at the festival; their Riverboat show last year sold out in minutes.
Skerik is known for his fearless "saxaphonics" in the Seattle jazz community as a member of Critters Buggin, Crack Sabbath, the new Black Frames and Epic recording artists Tuatara, as well as for his frequent collaborations with Seattle keyboardist Wayne Horvitz (of Zony Mash). Stylistically, Moore's playing can be linked to Meters' funk pioneer Zigaboo Modeliste, and he was schooled by Astral Project’s John Vidacovich. However, Moore is very much a student of the traditional New Orleans jazz scene. Hunter is renowned for playing bass and chords simultaneously on the eight-string guitar that he invented. He tours frequently as a solo artist, bringing various quartets with him and has released five albums on Blue Note Records.
Performing Monday, April 29 at Old Point Bar, Tuesday April 30 on The Riverboat Cajun Queen and Wednesday May, 1 at Tipitina's Uptown.
Dark Star Orchestra
Dark Star Orchestra are more than a Grateful Dead cover band. Even calling them a really good Grateful Dead cover band is still an understatement. The band caught the attention of Bob Weir and the Grateful Dead organization, and Bobby invited him to sit in at The Rex Foundation Benefit on Saturday April, 13 at The Warfield in San Francisco.
Other than the Zen Tricksters (with Rob Baracco), I have yet to hear a Grateful Dead cover band that captures the energy of The Dead from the mid to late seventies as well as Dark Star Orchestra. The band plays complete Dead shows from years past, even re-creating the stage set-up and equipment list from that show. Kind of like playing make believe when you’re a kid, but these aren’t kids anymore. In essence, rather then covering the Dead, DSO are actually re-creating them. It’s the closest thing to actually having been at those legendary shows at Barton Hall, Maples Pavilion or The Swing Auditorium. The band studies tapes of specific Dead shows and re-creates them with as much precision and faithfulness to that moment as possible.
The DSO provides it’s audiences with a convincing glimpse into the past that serves to give a younger generation some idea of the magic that was the Grateful Dead while at the same time giving old school Deadheads a musical flashback to a transforming time and place.
Wednesday May, 1 at the Orpheum Theater
- Matt Iarrobino
Yonder Mountain String Band
Expanding upon traditional bluegrass arrangements and ballad-oriented songs, this drumless quartet of banjo, guitar, stand-up bass and mandolin from Colorado has been working hard. In 2001 alone, Yonder Mountain String Band played 127 shows throughout America. Their hard work is paying off. In February 2000, they played for 200 happy bluegrass fans at the Connecticut Yankee in San Francisco. In February 2001, they sold out The Fillmore in San Francisco and returned in November to sell out two nights. In April of 2002, they almost sold out the Denver Fillmore, over 3500 people packed in! Fans of the band are packing venues across the U.S. to get a taste of Yonder’s sweet harmonies and powerful "jamgrass," with some jams extending for up to sixty minutes! The music is a fast picking, high-energy brand of bluegrass, amazingly pulled off with no percussion. A young band, YMSB plays with the conviction of seasoned professionals twice their age combining good taste with instrumental prowess, with the ability to raise the intensity level of any venue. Yeeee Haaaaaaaaawwww!!!!!!!
See them at Friday May 3 on The Riverboat Cajun Queen.
- Matt Iarrobino
DJ Logic &Project Logic
In the mood for some filthy funk with a side of jazz improv all served over a bed of the most imaginative DJ work this side of drum and bass? If the answer is what it should be – HELL YEAH! – then you’re ready for The Project. DJ Logic & Project Logic. For the past several years, these guys have been blowing minds all over the world with their unique blend of live and sampled jazz-funk. Jason Kibler, aka DJ Logic, band leader and turntablist extraordinaire lays down Bitches Brew style soundscapes which are supported by the bulletproof rhythm section of Stephen Roberson (drums), Lamont McCaine (bass), and Mike Weitman (keys). The melody department is handled by the neo-Maceo sax/flute/ewi work of Casey Benjamin.
Constantly changing its line-up from tour to tour and its sonic focus from night to night, The Project sees to it that you never quite know what you are going to get at any given show. This spontaneity is an integral aspect of the band’s identity and musical mission. But don’t let this fool or discourage you. No matter what mood they’re in on a given night there are three givens at a Logic show: You will dance, you will think and more than once, you will catch yourself staring at the stage jaw agape. And if past JazzFest performances are any indication, you’ll see the sun far before you’ll see the house lights. Project Logic will perform late night at The Howlin’ Wolf on Friday May 3rd (which is sold out but hey, where there’s a pill...uh...I mean a will, there’s a way). Last but certainly not least, Logic will be spinning and sitting in most nights this fest with New Orleans’ own Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the intimate (a.k.a. tiny as hell) Mermaid Lounge in the Warehouse District. These shows could be flat out legendary with some of New Orleans’ and the nation’s sickest musicians sure to drop in for a sit-in or ten. So if you know what’s good for you and your ears, go see Logic in at least one of his many oh-so-glorious mutations.
Logic playing a whole slew of shows during Jazzfest, including his late night show at The Howlin' Wolf on May 3rd.
Originally named ‘Galactic Prophylactic' these new school revivalists
are responsible for putting the funk back in funktion. The neo-funk ensemble Galactic is a brew of deep funk, acid jazz, and melodic southern rock. Unlike it’s predecessors The Greyboy Allstars, Galactic gravitates more towards the stylings of New Orleans legends The Meters and The Neville Brothers. These guys blend funk, blues, and dance grooves with a New Orleans vibe, often reminiscent of Mardi Grad parades, traditional jazz and rhythm and blues, always driven by Stanton behind the kit.
New Orleans own Crowned Princes of Funk have taken to the road as of
late, spreading the swamp vibes and taking over other cities such as San
Francisco and New York. A mixture of spacey loops, rock laden guitar licks,
powerful stop/start beats, and soulful vocals, Galactic comes back home for
five, count ‘em, five Jazzfest shows, including one at the Fairgrounds. The
list is as follows:
4/25 Tipitinas Uptown
4/26 Saenger Theatre
4/27 The Fairgrounds
5/2 Saenger Theatre (with Jack Johnson)
5/4 Saenger Theatre
With so many dates there is no excuse to miss these guys if you are an
out-of- towner. They are a must see. Last year their shows sold out
day-of-show, so get down on it if you want to down with it.
Astral Project are musical shape shifters of modern New Orleans jazz who play precise, tight jazz with feeling. Their jazz from the stars often darts from one musical focus to the next as the spirit of the moment dictates. It’s pure mellifluous improvisation. The Astral Project have actually been New Orleans’ most respected modern jazz group for more than twenty years, and consists of members who have played with some of the patron saints of New Orleans music.
Johnny Vidacovich is an astonishing drummer, flowing at every speed and tempo available. He’s performed with such jazz greats as Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Kenny Barron, Professor Longhair, James Booker, John Scofield and Mose Allison. Vidacovich plays a laid back New Orleans street beat and swing while maintaining the uncanny ability to detect and quickly enhance any change in musical direction.
Guitarist Steve Masakowski has long been regarded as one the great guitarists and composers in contemporary music. He plays a custom-built seven string guitar, providing him with more range then the standard six string, from which he pulls out some New York sophistication, Latin swing and Southern Blues.
Bassist James Singleton’s harmonic sense and rhythmic sensibilities are the foundations of Astral Projects sound. He’s played with such greats as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Lionel Hampton, Arnette Cobb and Banu Gibson in all types of outfits, including traditional and modern jazz, rock and roll, and even Haitian Voodoo ceremonies. His innovative soloing complements his funky upright bass style.
Last but not least, Tony Dagradi leads Astral Project on tenor and soprano saxophone, bringing emotional urgency to each solo. Over the years Tony has appeared with Ellis Marsalis, James Black, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and Bobby McFerrin.
These guys have been around the block, and have been playing with each other for so long now that they’ve developed a remarkable rapport that allows them to read each other’s minds and jump any change with flawless precision. Check them out at The Maple Leaf on Thursday April 25.
Tickets will be available at the door. Doors 9PM / Show 10PM
The Disco Biscuits
The Disco Biscuits (TDB) are redefining live music with each and every performance. They are masterful improvisational musicians whose music is constantly evolving and taking on new shapes of sound. Their musical expression has been dubbed 'trancefusion' because they combine high-octane guitar driven sorceries with pulsating sounds of the electronic movement. Going to a TDB show is like having your brain thrown into a giant fruit juicer... they press liquefy and then serve you up freshly squeezed!
Many fans new and old alike may leave the show with questions like "wait… what just happened?" or "… am I dead?" No, far from it my friend. You've just experienced what the biscuits community describes as a b'gocking. TDB play with such ferocity that many people feel that they have pulled a musical rabbit out of their hats. TDB's space aged music is constantly reformulating and respectfully fans forge their own TDB terminology to help describe these phenomena. The beauty lies in the diversity in which they play; each night is a new and exciting musical journey.
On any given night no one knows exactly what to expect from this band. They are like a witch stirring a steamy hot cauldron of musical genres. This melting pot of sounds can happen over their standard three-course meal (2 sets + encore), or can all happen within the same song! Pulling songs from their massive collection of originals the band branches out into an exploratory unknown. The jam section of a song is where the music teaks off on it's own metamorphosed spaceship and leads the listener into the next composed section. This formula of song with improvisational jam sections has at times made these four separate minds function like one digital entity. This sound can be easily mistaken for a live DJ. Trying to sound like one mind is the goal of any band, and TDB have achieved this time and time again. One thing is for certain when you see the disco biscuits; they will take you for an explosive musical ride.
The Disco Biscuits play late night on May 3 at Tipitina's Uptown, from 2am 'til sunrise!
- Brian Friedman
The Brotherhood of Groove
Brotherhood of Groove (BOG) is a forceful band with songs that shake your rump and move your mind. The Brotherhood is a revolving and ever-evolving group of talented musicians captained by guitarist Brandon Tarricone. The anchor of the BOG is phenomenal New Orleans drummer Dan Caro. Tarricone and Caro form a symbiotic relationship that lays foundation for an improvisational journey. Enhancing the BOG’s sound are horn masters: Michael Ray (trumpet, Cosmic Crewe/Sun Ra/Kool and the Gang/Phish) and Mikiel Williams (sax’s, Unit 1, Soul Rebels). Also frequently included in the rotation are John Ellis (sax, Charlie Hunter Quartet) and Henley Douglas, Jr. (sax, Heavy Metal Horns/Boston Horns). On the Bass, Jon Stonbely (Jonas Risin) keeps his Jaco-esque bass lines thumping, which ensures no matter how deep the exploratory groove digs, a funky path out always remains.
Brotherhood of Groove Jazz Fest Schedule is as follows:
Wed April 24 at The Maple Leaf (with John Ellis)
Sun April 28 at Maple Leaf - a sunrise show at 2:30am (Brian Haas and Reed Mathis of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey playing with BOG for both sets)
Mon April 29 at Old Point Bar opening for Charlie Hunter
Tues April 30 at Blue Nile (with Carlos Washington's Giant People opening)
Wed May 1st at Tower Records (New Orleans Juice as well)
Fri May 3rd at Old Point Bar (shared bill with The Motet)
Mon May 6th at Mermaid Lounge
Tues May 7th at Old Point Bar
Matt Iarrobino & Bart Basile
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