After Katrina, there was controversy over the propriety of re-starting the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. For those who were able to attend, including myself, it was clearly the correct decision, showing both the city and the world that New Orleans culture would survive and become an integral part of the rebuilding efforts.
For 2008, the schedule is being expanded to include Thursday, May 1, for the first time in several years. The complete Fest runs Friday-Sunday, April 25–27 and Thursday-Sunday, May 1–4. Musically, the big news is that hometown heroes the Neville Brothers will return to their traditional spot closing out the Festival on the final Sunday.
A complete schedule, plus ticket information, is available at: www.nojazzfest.com. The eclectic bookings are epitomized by the opening day's featured artists: Buckwheat Zydeco, Sheryl Crow, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Burning Spear, Ozomatli with Chali 2na, Lizz Wright, Tab Benoit, Anders Osborne, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Terence Simien & Zydeco Experience, Leo Nocentelli's "Rare Gathering" feat. Bernie Worrell, Doug Wimbish & Will Calhoun, Doyle Bramhall with C.C. Adcock & the Lafayette Marquis, Ellis Marsalis and more.
The next day, Saturday April 26, headliners include: Dr. John, Billy Joel, O.A.R., The Count Basie Orchestra feat. Patti Austin, Cowboy Mouth, James Cotton, Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters, Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, Ponderosa Stomp Revue feat. Tammy Lynn, Archie Bell, Roy Head and Dennis Binder, Big Jay McNeely, Warren Storm w/ Willie Tee & the Cypress Band, NewBirth Brass Band, Astral Project, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys and more.
Sunday, April 26 highlights include Irma Thomas, Tim McGraw, Rev. Al Green, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, Cassandra Wilson, Delbert McClinton, Del McCoury, Pete Fountain and more.
Then skipping ahead to Thursday, May 1, we find Randy Newman, Widespread Panic, Tower of Power, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, Bettye LaVette, Gene "Duke of Earl" Chandler, Deacon John, Donald Harrison and others.
Friday, May 2 ratchets up the energy, with Art Neville, Stevie Wonder, John Prine, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Richard Thompson, John Butler Trio, John Hammond, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave., Marva Wright & the BMWs, Terence Blanchard & the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Papa Grows Funk, Sunpie's Tribute to Clifton Chenier, Zigaboo Modeliste and The Bad Plus, to name but a few.
Just a few if the highlights for Saturday, May 3 include Marcia Ball, Jimmy Buffett, Diana Krall, Steel Pulse, The Roots, Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Henry Butler and Aaron Neville's Gospel Soul and a Tribute to Max Roach feat. Herlin Riley, Jason Marsalis and Shannon Powell.
Closing day, Sunday May 4, brings it back home with The Neville Brothers, Santana, Maze feat. Frankie Beverly, The Raconteurs, Dianne Reeves, Galactic, The Radiators, The Derek Trucks Band, Keb' Mo', Rebirth Brass Band, Sonny Landreth, Snooks Eaglin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tribute to Mahalia Jackson feat. Irma Thomas, Marva Wright and Rachelle Richard.
Full details are available at www.nojazzfest.com
Much of the musical action takes place evenings (which tend to run into the mornings) at the club scene. Clubs range from the traditional settings of Preservation Hall to the current jazz scene at Snug Harbor, rock and funk emporiums such as Tipitina's, Howlin' Wolf and House of Blues and too many more to be listed here. For the past two years, my haunt of choice has been the Blue Nile, in a series of shows presented by San Francisco's Boom Boom Room. Last year had amazing funk/jazz throwdowns with the likes of Dr. Lonnie Smith (currently gracing the cover of DownBeat), then-San Franciscan Will Bernard, the mighty Stanton Moore and more. You can subscribe to the e-mail update list by going to www.boomboomblues.com. Early announcements include Dr. Lonnie Smith/Stanton Moore/Donald Harrison/Will Bernard.
Frequently updated club and other information may be found at www.jazzfestgrids.com.
Eh las bas, laissez le bon temps rouler!