Jazz Fest 2013 City, music enthusiasts ready for start of 44th Jazz Fest
22nd April 2013 · 0 Comments
By Geraldine Wyckoff
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival begins on Friday, April 26 and rolls for three days this weekend (through Sunday, April 28) and four days (May 2 – May 5) the following week. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the festival, which has been vital to this city’s music community and international image for over four decades, has something for most everyone.
The abundance of artists that Jazz Fest presents from superstars to virtual unknowns represents an incredibly broad range of styles – traditional and modern jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, zydeco, Latin, African, Cajun, Mardi Gras Indian, rock, pop, soul, funk and more. Those credentials can not be matched by any other of the myriad of music events worldwide.
Then again, some die-hard foodies barely take notice of the music, opting instead to graze around the Fair Grounds heading to booths that offer a menu of dishes that boast a diversity equal to that of the music.
Diversity pops up again when considering how many different ways there are to “do” Jazz Fest. Some certain Jazz Festival personalities do emerge. First, there are the “regulars,” who often brag about how many years they’ve been attending the festival and tell stories about the early days when tickets were cheap and you could actually bring in coolers of beer, often transported atop a red wagon. They’ll say that chairs at the Fest, which regulars still consider a bane, were practically unheard of with most folks opting to dance or relax on a blanket. The downside, they often recall, was the horribly long lines for the port-a-lets and trash overflowing barrels and strewn around the grounds.
The “regulars” have had their “must see” acts picked out since the Jazz Fest schedule was announced yet they also realize that flexibility is key to discovering new artists and also helps in not driving oneself crazy.
Then there are the “one show” attendees who stroll through the festival gates around 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. They are all about the big act of the day usually performing on the Acura Stage. (Regulars still refer to that venue as the Fess Stage and the late great Professor Longhair’s image remains at the top.) This year the one-shows will undoubtedly be found heading to hear rockers such as the Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic.
The “one day” people, and granted the limitation may be due to financial considerations, seem to choose to attend the Jazz Fest on the final Sunday even though, as the “regulars” know, that day is usually one of the most crowded. Justifying the “one day” philosophy this year are the strong closing acts on Sunday, May 5 that include vocalist Aaron Neville, the always-popular Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, multi-talented Taj Mahal and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who, for the first time is holding the place of honor as the final act on the Acura Stage.
The first weekend of Jazz Fest is often the mellower of the two weekends though it doesn’t lack for great music. Here are a few picks with more highlights to come in next week’s edition of the paper. Also, don’t forget the motto: When in doubt go to the Gospel Tent – it always swings.
Friday, April 26
Joshua Redman Quartet, Jazz Tent, 4 p.m. – 5:20 p.m. Joshua Redman, 44, is at the pinnacle of his career as both as a major saxophonist of his era and as a composer as can be realized on his latest release, Compass. The son of the late great saxist, Dewey Redman, he packed this quartet with musicians from the cream of today’s modern jazz scene. It includes his longtime associate, pianist Aaron Goldberg, the young bass phenom, Joe Sanders and the amazing drummer Kendrick Scott.
George Benson, Congo Square Stage, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Benson began his career as a straight-ahead jazz guitarist but his 1977 album Breezin’ , on which he sang just one song, changed his direction as audiences responded to his vocal approach. For this set, the 10-time Grammy-winner, who just released a new album, Inspiration (A Tribute to Nat King Cole), will perform some of the material from the disc plus tunes that offer a retrospect of his long, successful career.
Saturday, April 27
Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra, Jazz Tent, 4:05 p.m. – 5:25 p.m. Nine-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri, 77, isn’t your ordinary bandleader and keyboardist. In his over 50 year career, he’s built his reputation in Latin jazz not only for his musical talent but for his charisma and drive. He once said that he’s a frustrated percussionist so he takes it out on his piano.
Jill Scott, Congo Square Stage, 5:40 p.m. – 7 p.m. The title of her first album Who Is Jill Scott? could be answered by looking into her roots as a spoken word artist and poet. The Grammy-winning vocalist, who first got attention by her collaboration with The Roots drummer Questlove Jenkins and infuses contemporary R&B with jazz, uses her talents as a lyricist to tell her stories and connect with audiences.
Sunday, April 28
The Nevilles, Acura Stage, 3:10 p.m. – 4 p.m. Since the departure of sibling, vocalist Aaron Neville, the name of New Orleans first family of funk band is no longer the Neville Brothers but simply The Nevilles. (Hey, that’s what we called the group anyway.) With keyboardist/vocalist Art “Poppa Funk,” percussionist/vocalist Cyril and saxophonist Charles onboard beefed up with next-generation Nevilles keyboardist/vocalist Ivan and guitarist Ian, this band gets down as heard at its recent, kickin’ performance at Tipitina’s.
Earth, Wind & Fire, Congo Square Stage, 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. There will undoubtedly be a lot of reminiscing going on when the legendary funk and groove band Earth, Wind & Fire hits the stage. The group’s greatest hits list goes on and on dating back to the 1970s. Noted for its tight horn section, vocal prowess and eye-catching stage shows, EWF has earned a remarkable 20 Grammy awards and earned inducted in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
This article originally published in the April 22, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.