11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m
The Deslondes is a New Orleans band that doesn't sound like it's from New Orleans. Rising from the devastated landscape of the Lower 9th Ward following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, The Deslondes parlayed cheap rent into creative gold while developing a space-cowboy boogie that mines the Deep South's musical riches. Frontman Sam Doores' poetic imagery celebrates women and whiskey in a surreal world that's equal parts serene, scary and silly. Though capable of producing brilliant studio work, as found on its 2015 self-titled debut album and last year's superb follow-up Hurry Home, the Deslondes more than deliver live, bringing all the emotional urgency of their songs and a foot-stompin' frenzy to the stage.
11:25 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Given Mykia Jovan's stage presence, it's not hard to believe she initially set out to become an actress. She started off singing a cappella with monologues in between songs and hoped to turn heads in the local theater community. But she fell in love with music along the way and now leads a cherished Frenchmen Street band, a four-piece that can expand to eight. Jovan weaves often improvisational jazzy renderings of tales of beauty, violence, life and love. With her stirring, emotive voice it's clear she chose the right stage for artistic expression.
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet
1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Fais Do-Do Stage
It's almost impossible to quantify all the Cajun musical know-how gathered in this ensemble. Since forming in Lafayette in 1975, BeauSoleil has gained a worldwide following for its ability to honor Cajun musical tradition while deftly blending in the sounds of New Orleans jazz, zydeco and country music. The group has released albums intermittently since the late 1970s, and highlights include tunes like "Zydeco Gris Gris," the blistering opening track on the 1987 album Bayou Boogie. But it's live onstage where BeauSoleil delivers the goods, as revealed in a recording of the band's 2008 Jazz Fest show which later earned BeauSoleil a Grammy for Best Cajun Music Album.
Shades of Praise
2 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Jazz vocalist Phillip Manuel and Loyola University New Orleans theologian Michael Cowan set out in 2001 to form a racially integrated group to sing gospel music in the African-American tradition and foster healing. The 60-member ensemble has released five albums. Its outreach efforts span race, class and denomination and its annual Jazz Fest appearances are a spirited sight to behold.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
2:50 p.m.-3:50 p.m.
WWOZ Jazz Tent
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah has come a long way since the days he performed at Jazz Fest as a guest trumpeter at his uncle Donald Harrison Jr.'s sets in the Jazz Tent. And since he graduated from the Berklee College of Music and released the Miles Davis-ish Rewind That. In 2015, he released Stretch Music, and he continues to develop his concept, which he describes as stretching "jazz's rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions" in a genre-blind approach. He's also described his approach as cubism for music, but it's not simply abstraction. Scott released a trio of albums last year that focused on various musical traditions, including Mardi Gras Indian music, which also runs in the family. He also held a Stretch Music Festival in New York which explored jazz, stretch, trap and alternative rock.
Alexis & the Samurai
3:10 p.m.-4:05 p.m.
Jokingly referring to themselves as a "two-man trio," Alexis and the Samurai make a mighty noise. The pair united in 2009 when vocalist Alexis Marceaux recruited multi-instrumentalist Sam Craft for support on her solo album, Orange Moon, a follow-up to her powerhouse debut, Dandelion (2009). They cut their teeth during a long-running residency at Chickie Wah Wah and now are easy to find at Frenchmen Street clubs. Marceaux provides eloquent lyricism and plenty of power with her guitar and percussion and Craft plays violin, guitar, keyboards and drums and also sings. The duo also anchors the rollicking band Sweet Crude, but Alexis & the Samurai is steadfast in its quest to push the envelope with its indie/folk/pop, as found on the eclectic 2016 album Move into View.
Ron Carter Trio
4:15 p.m.-5:15 p.m.
WWOZ Jazz Tent
Turning 81 next weekend, Ron Carter is arguably the most prolific and influential bassist in jazz history. He has logged more than 2,200 recording sessions in a career that started with the Miles Davis Quintet in its glory years and continued in the company of Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, B.B. King, Thelonious Monk and many other luminaries. When Carter ventured into a solo career, he was rewarded with two Grammys in the 1990s. He's a maestro on both the double bass and cello, and he's also a best-selling author. In recent years, Carter has released technical manuals and artful autobiographies while continuing to tour the world with a trio (typically including guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Donald Vega), performing jazz standards such as "Autumn Leaves" and "So What."
4:15 p.m.-5:20 p.m.
Guitarist and singer Samantha Fish often is labeled a blues artist and she's proven herself in the man's world of the blues, impressing no less than a surprised Buddy Guy while sharing the stage. She was drawn to the blues of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough while growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. Fish recorded her 2017 album Chills & Fever in Detroit, backed by the Detroit Cobras. Even with the garage rockers aboard, the album has a polished sound and at times gets playful and cute, as on the title track. Fish moved to New Orleans last year, and she performed recently at Hogs for the Cause. Backed by a six-piece band including horns, the set heated up the more she let loose, which seemed to justify keeping an assistant busy as she changed guitars with every song and rocked the tent through an encore. In tune with Southern rockers, she called on Luther Dickenson to produce her latest album Belle of the West.
Calvin Johnson's Native Son —
Stories of Sidney Bechet featuring Aurora Nealand and Brian "Breeze" Cayolle
4:20 p.m.-5:25 p.m.
Economy Hall Tent
Calvin Johnson was raised at Preservation Hall. Citing Hall legends and ancestors such as his uncle Ralph Johnson as heartfelt influences, the saxophone wunderkind is steeped in New Orleans' jazz traditions that he has shaped in contemporary styles in several projects. For this performance, Johnson and his Native Son band pay tribute to seminal clarinet maestro Sidney Bechet, who blew with the force of a freight train and the delicacy of a winged bird in creating a swinging musical style that helped define America's indigenous art form. Johnson has enlisted the timeless skat phrasing of vocalist Aurora Nealand and clarinetist Brian "Breeze" Cavolle for this look at how New Orleans jazz came to be.
5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.
Sturgill Simpson was a relative unknown in 2015 when he played Jazz Fest for the first time. He came to town flying high on the buzz surrounding his genre-bending, industry-shaking sophomore album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Critical acclaim and global attention quickly followed and Simpson upped the ante with another monumental studio effort, A Sailor's Guide to Earth. A Kentucky native with a coaxing baritone in the spirit of Waylon Jennings, Simpson hired a trio of New Orleans horn players — Brad Walker on saxophone, Scott Frock on trumpet and Jon Ramm on trombone — to complete a soulful sound that spanned the American musical tradition. No matter his Grammy nominations and Saturday Night Live appearances, Simpson relishes his outsider persona, which cuts against the grain of the manufactured pop currently coming out of Nashville's Music Row. What makes today's king of outlaw country great is his superb musicianship, compelling narrative lyricism and a reckless-yet-calculated sense of adventure that all manifest in blistering live performances. The best part is that the maverick troubadour's journey has only just begun.
Leslie Odom Jr.
5:40 p.m.-7 p.m.
WWOZ Jazz Tent
The jazz world isn't full of dangerous beefs. It'll have to settle for approximation as singer/actor Leslie Odom Jr. won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Vice President Aaron Burr in the Broadway production of Hamilton. (Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel). Odom also performed in Rent and other productions on and off Broadway. While busy onstage and onscreen, Odom has released two albums — a holiday album and a self-titled release full of slow, jazzy renditions of standards such as "Autumn Leaves," and a few tunes from Broadway.
- Photo by Rick Olivier
Bobby Rush | 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
5:50 p.m.-7 p.m.
Given his love of risque lyrics and stage antics, audiences might or might not guess that Bobby Rush's father was a preacher. Rush has no guilt about enjoying himself, and he's more than earned the right. The Grammy Awards finally recognized him last year, when he claimed a trophy for his 2016 album Porcupine Meat. Rush has released hundreds of records, including 45s and albums, and won numerous blues honors. He was a friend of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, and he's got a couple of years' seniority on Buddy Guy.