Music » Music Special Issue

Jazz Fest 2018: picks for Friday, May 4

Beck, Jason Isbell, LL Cool J and Jupiter & Okwess perform

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Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra
11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
Jazz and Heritage Stage

Rooted in the 9th Ward percussive prowess of Afro-Brazilian outfit BateBunda, a fixture of Mardi Gras parades, Kumasi came about during Carnival 2014 with the addition of elements of world beat, a la Fela Kuti, to that forerunner ensemble. The name Kumasi is derived from the pre-colonial West African capital city of the Ashanti Empire and its vast cultural legacy. The group draws heavily from Kuti, the late Nigerian maestro whose groovy fusion of jazz, rock and traditional African rhythms formed its own genre and won over fans worldwide in the 1970s. Kumasi creates a rich, dense musical texture as spirit-lifting as it is hip-shaking. It performs original compositions by bandleader/drummer Logan Schutts and bassist Jonathan Solomon, and the band packs plenty of power, particularly in the frenetic flourishes of saxophonist/lead vocalist Stefan Poole. It has a symphony worth of swagger as it jams well past 10 minutes on tunes such as "Trinity Gritty" and soars to higher heights.

Motel Radio
11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
Acura Stage

The darlings of an under-appreciated indie/pop-rock scene in New Orleans, this young quintet gained recognition with its debut album Desert Surf Films (Roll Call Records, 2016), which it recorded and released just 18 months into the band's existence. Motel Radio was formed via scattered LSU music scenes and benefitted from personnel that mesh the styles of their native Austin, Texas and New Orleans. The group already has toured across the country and hit festivals including SXSW, Lollapalooza and Jazz Fest. The band is wise beyond its years, and its strengths are catchy pop hooks, soaring guitar leads and ethereal songs of love and loss — all delivered with an intention so genuine fans can almost touch it.

Tatiana Eva-Marie and the Avalon Jazz Band

12:25 p.m.-1:25 p.m.
Fais Do-Do Stage

3:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Cultural Pavilion Stage

For preview, see 1:50 p.m. Thursday.

Maggie Belle Band
1:50 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Lagniappe Stage

Maggie Belle moved from California to the Crescent City to start her career in nursing and follow her muse of becoming a singer-songwriter. Often mining her work in the medical field for material ("Ain't no remedy for thoughts that won't go away"), Belle forged a distinctive voice over the past five years and formed a funky band. A high-energy blend of R&B and funk with a palpable downtown New Orleans bohemian vibe takes listeners on a wild ride with heartfelt, powerfully sung lyrics. Belle is backed by drummer Cedar Howard, keyboardist Brian Scheller and bassist Max Hass, and the lineup takes a lively jazz turn with the addition of three horns for some live gigs. Belle gained attention with her debut EP Runnin' Out in 2014, and likely will convert new fans in her Jazz Fest debut.

The Nth Power
1:35 p.m.-2:25 p.m.
Congo Square Stage

Nikki Glaspie is a heavy hitter. She already had toured the world drumming for Beyonce for five years when she hopped behind the kit to propel Dumpstaphunk, turning heads and dropping jaws in audiences stunned that a non-New Orleans native could funk so hard while singing.
  Formed on the spot during an impromptu jam session late one night during Jazz Fest 2012, The Nth Power brings together the divergent talents of Glaspie, bassist Nate Edgar (John Brown's Body, Groovechild) and guitarist Nick Cassarino (Jennifer Hartswick Band, Big Daddy Kane). The resulting soul/jam/rock powerhouse is as at home at nightclubs as on the hippie festival circuit. Departing Dumpstaphunk on good terms to realize the big-time potential of this trio, Glaspie has taken her considerable talents to a higher level and found a musical home.

Betty Winn and One A-Chord
1:55 p.m.-2:40 p.m.
Gospel Tent

Betty Winn and her One A-Chord choir's spirituals range from straight-ahead blues to funky Staples Singers-like grooves to reflective numbers that'll just about knock anyone to their knees in a plea for redemption. The group performs classics of traditional African-American gospel — "Down by the Riverside," "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," "Since I Laid My Burden Down" — and some secular pop standards such as "What a Wonderful World" and "Put a Little Love in Your Heart."

Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots
3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage

Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes is well-schooled in the ancient African sounds imported to the New World by the slave trade, and he is a local leader of the Northside Skull and Bones Gang Carnival tradition that connects many of our city's present-day rituals to their roots. An immensely talented multi-instrumentalist, Barnes is a veteran of everything from straight-ahead jazz duos to otherworldly Carnival rhythms in the Mardi Gras Orchestra to playing accordion and harmonica on Paul Simon's Graceland-era gems. With his long-running band, the Louisiana Sunspots, he plays an infectious blend of zydeco, gospel, blues and boogie.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
3:25 p.m.-4:40 p.m.
Acura Stage

Guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell left the Drive-By Truckers more than a decade ago. Having found a sober life and settled down in his adopted home of Nashville, the Alabama native has taken the music world by storm since facing his demons and clearing his mind. Hailed by many critics as the savior of country music in this era of Pro Tools-produced pop, Isbell's stripped-down sound, turn-of-phrase genius and earnest appeal has propelled him to the top of the charts. His last two albums, Southeastern (2013) and The Nashville Sound (2017), became instant classics. Whether pulling out an electric guitar to belt out Truckers-era (2001-2007) anthems or an acoustic guitar to strum more reflective recent numbers, Isbell shows why he's considered among the best troubadours of our time.

Jupiter & Okwess
4:45 p.m.- 5:40 p.m.
Cultural Exchange Pavilion

Jupiter, aka Jean-Pierre Bokondji, lets his life's journey play out in nearly every song. He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo three years after the country gained its independence, but he grew up in Germany and discovered American soul music. It was later that he embraced Congolese-style rumba, and the styles overlap in their devotion to rhythm and a penchant for bass lines that an audience can feel. So the music of Jupiter and his band Okwess has a frenetic drive, as everything from vocals to guitar to drums serve a rhythmic purpose. It's an irresistible sound that's attracted collaborators such as violinist Warren Ellis and Blur/Gorillaz guru Damon Albarn, both of whom appeared on Jupiter's 2017's LP Kin Sonic. Jupiter & Okwess also perform Saturday.

Beck - 5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.acura stage - PHOTO BY PETER HAPACK
  • Photo by Peter Hapack
  • Beck
    5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
    acura stage

Beck
5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Acura Stage

Beck seems to be enjoying a mid-career renaissance. Not that he ever disappeared. Beck broke through with his 1994 album Mellow Gold, featuring the self-loathing anthem "Loser," and followed with killer album after killer album, whether the inspiration was the hedonistic pursuits of Odelay (1996), the world-weary heartbreak of Sea Change (2002) or the infectious synth insanity of Colors (2017). Born Bek David Campbell, the son of composer David Campbell (who played on Carole King's Tapestry at age 23 before going on to work on hundreds of gold and platinum records), he now approaches the half-century mark with a seemingly refreshed zest for life and boundless energy for live performance.

LL Cool J feat. DJ Z-Trip
6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Congo Square Stage

LL Cool J isn't just a friendly face on NCIS: Los Angeles. Indeed, Ladies Love Cool James and long have. The sexy, shirtless torso that rocked America in the video for "Mama Said Knock You Out" still thrills, and that same 1990 album's "Around the Way Girl" is as romantic as real rap gets. But beyond the pretty face and muscled body, LL is an ambassador for old-school hip-hop, from the fire and fury of his Def Jam debut Radio in 1985 to his breakthrough single a year later, "Going Back to Cali." Here, he's backed by DJ Z-Trip, a globetrotting festival-set phenom (Bonnaroo, Coachella) who's also the producer credited as the creative force behind the mash-up movement that's such a music-industry staple today.

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