Washington, D.C. native Nigel Hall moved to New Orleans in 2013. The keyboardist showcases original compositions on his second studio album, Ladies and Gentlemen... Nigel Hall. The album spans genres from feel-good funk to upbeat blues to R&B-laced pop, all featuring Hall's signature vocals and keys, an instrument he's been playing since before kindergarten. He has built studio credentials by recording with the Soul Rebels and Warren Haynes, and he also has put his distinct take on classics like the Isley Brothers' "Lay Away."
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent
Victor Goines started playing clarinet at age 8 and picked up the saxophone in high school. He's performed professionally with a wide array of artists, including Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Ellis Marsalis and was a member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet. Goines has been a prolific bandleader and composer in his own right, most recently releasing A Dance at the Mardi Gras Ball. Equally adept at performing a quick-tempo modern jazz piece on saxophone, or an easier paced number on clarinet, Goines is a legend who's well worth catching in his hometown.
Tab Benoit blends swamp pop, blues and a feel-good stage show. With good ol' boy charm and acclaimed guitar chops, Benoit has explored an array of roots music sounds. His most recent album, 2011's Medicine, was largely co-written with Anders Osborne and shows Benoit moving in new thematic and melodic directions. Besides writing original tunes, Benoit knows how to make a song his own, as with classics such as Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine." Benoit also enjoys sharing a little ribaldry with the crowd between his songs. It shouldn't come as a surprise. He tried comedy before he pursued music full-time.
Motel Radio formed in 2014 and is already making a mark. The five-piece band met when its members attended college in Baton Rouge, but it took a move to New Orleans in 2015 to solidify the group's sound, which combines Americana traditions with contemporary sounds. Sentimental acoustic guitar work is paired with crisp electric guitar for a strong blend of old and new. The band released the EP Days and Nights in November 2015 and is working on a studio album it expects to release this year.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff has established himself with his raucous style. Originally from Mississippi, Rateliff has been performing since 2007 and recently appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He's currently touring with his band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, which released its self-titled debut album in 2015. Rateliff combines some of Americana's grittier strains in a blues-infused rock sound that is sometimes rounded out with jazz and brass band influences. Rateliff has the personality and energy to kick down the fourth wall and wow audiences while performing solo, and that only adds to the band's big presence and sound.
Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton featuring Henry Butler, Butch Thompson and Dr. Michael White
Economy Hall Tent
Pianists Henry Butler and Butch Thompson and clarinetist Dr. Michael White team up to honor New Orleans' legendary pianianist and jazz innovator Jelly Roll Morton. Butler's appearance marks a return home for the New Orleans native. Even though he's spent much of his career elsewhere, his musical style remains firmly rooted in New Orleans sounds. Whether playing solo or leading a blues or a jazz group, Butler brings a modern interpretation to his work. White has focused his career on traditional New Orleans jazz styles. Thompson adds bluesy interpretation of jazz numbers.
- Pearl Jam
After a two-year break from touring, Pearl Jam is hitting festivals including Bonnaroo, Pemberton Music Festival and Jazz Fest. The band's 10 albums include its most recent release, 2013's Lightning Bolt, and the catalog ranges from classics such as "Even Flow" off 1991's Ten to more recent hits like "The Fixer" off 2009's Backspacer. Its grunge rock sound is packed with big, heavy guitar riffs beneath Eddie Vedder's voice, which hasn't aged a day since the band formed in 1990. Vedder doesn't seem to hold a grudge against the city for his 1993 arrest in the French Quarter, a story he mentioned at a 2010 Jazz Fest appearance.
Congo Square Stage
After his debut in the early 1990s, Maxwell's soaring falsetto quickly established him as an artist to watch. As opposed to the avant-garde D'Angelo and the more traditional Anthony Hamilton, Maxwell offers audiences sensual funk- and soul-tinged R&B. He was scheduled to release the second album in a trilogy in 2012, but it was postponed due to vocal swelling. In 2016, new music arrives July 1 in the form of BlackSUMMERS'night. Maxwell released the album's first single "Lake By the Ocean," which he described in a live online Q&A as finding contentment in life's smaller moments. "Being content in a lake when you have an entire ocean near you is the epitome of true happiness." It sets the stage for a new chapter in Maxwell's repertoire.
Boz Scaggs was was born in Ohio, but his family moved to Texas and Oklahoma, where his musical sensibility formed. Although he rose to fame as the guitarist on the Steve Miller Band's first two albums, Scaggs was never meant to be a side player. He became a legend in his own right after going solo in the mid-1970s. His second album, Silk Degrees, featured four hits, including the light-funk track "Lowdown," which showcased vocals reminiscent of Aaron Neville. While his work has shifted with each decade, Scaggs' most recent sound has taken on a darker, jazzier quality. His most recent album, 2015's A Fool to Care, contains more complex arrangements than his previous work.
Even though he's been performing since the early 1960s, 70-year-old Van Morrison hasn't slowed down. In 2015, he released his 35th studio album, Duets: Re-working the Catalogue, which offered fans a new take on some of his most beloved songs. Listeners may be most familiar with his early major hits "Brown Eyed Girl," "Moondance," "Into the Mystic" and "Wild Night," but beyond those oft-requested songs, Morrison has an immense repertoire that has evolved and grown with time. The Grammy Award-winning musician has been a fan favorite for some time.
• Colin Lake