40th Anniversary New Orleans Jazz Heritage and Festival

One wonders what heritage longtime Jazz Fest organizer Quint Davis is championing when you get to the festival’s homepage and have to cycle through Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor and others before landing on an image of the Neville Brothers. Splitting hairs about the name of the festival may be a folly of semantics, for this thing is encyclopedic in scope and much bigger than the intentions that bore it in 1970. And this is a great thing, because I am excited to see Neil Young in the second Sunday night lineup. Whether you’re a hipster, a funk daddy or one of the grown folks, there is plenty else to witness on the fairgrounds April 24–26 and April 30–May 3, so get ready. Be sure to check nojazzfest.com for the most up-to-date information.


Frankly, fans of funk have it the best this year: short of Funkadelic, all the mainstays are slated to appear. On April 25, you are hereby a foolish sucka if you miss Erykah Badu and Rebirth Brass Band with Kermit Ruffins. Earth, Wind & Fire will be headlining April 26. The Meter Men featuring Zig, George and Leo of The Meters will be on April 30. The O’Jays will be on May 2, and on May 3, both the Neville Brothers and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly will perform.


Wynton Marsalis and Joe Cocker are topping the first night’s bill, but the reason for the season is Irma Thomas, who will sing alongside Mavis Staples and Pamela Landrum in a Mahalia Jackson tribute April 24. Local blues king Rockin’ Tabby Thomas is slated to appear April 24 as well, and if you have a hankerin’ for some high lonesome country, seek out Christian Serpas & Ghost Town. On April 25, Erykah Badu brings her funk soul armada into port, and the timeless art of Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Drum & Fife Band will be in effect. Also, Baton Rouge’s own Henry Gray & The Cats will be there. April 26 hosts plenty of classics like Eddie Bo and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, plus relative newcomers Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Rockie Charles & The Stax of Love. The Subdudes and Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys will whet your appetites for Emmylou Harris on April 30, but take a moment to be charmed by country chanteuse Gal Holiday and rockabilly powerhouse Kenny Bill Stinson and the ARK LA Mystics. On May 1, jazz fusionist John Scofield & The Piety Street Band and zydeco fusionist Keith Frank will be around during the day, and grand old man of country blues Doc Watson will show you how it’s done. Be sure to check out the Kind of Blue @ 50 show on May 2 with Jimmy Cobb paying tribute to Miles Davis, as well as Irvin Mayfield leading the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. On May 3 blues master Buddy Guy, country outlaw Guy Clark and Baton Rouge blues legend Kenny Neal will all perform.


Spoon surprised me by their ability to command a large stage at Voodoofest in 2007, and they will be one of the must–sees along with Drive-By Truckers (with legendary organist Booker T. Jones sitting in) April 24. Wilco will be there April 25, but you owe it to yourself to catch the finely tuned bluegrass mastery of the Del McCoury Band, as well as bounce lynchpins DJ Jubilee with 5th Ward Weebie and Ms. Tee. If you missed the Avett Brothers last time they toured Louisiana, you will get another chance April 26. The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars are the force to be reckoned with on May 2 before you squeeze into the masses to witness Kings of Leon, and provided you are not camping out all day for a good spot to see Neil Young on May 3, I highly recommend Mississippi blues dynamos Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm.

And whoever you are, you owe it to yourself to bear witness to the singular sonic experience of pianist Bobby Lounge, with Sarah Quintana, on May 2. Just do it.