Faced with serious financial challenges and other logistical hurdles, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announced its lineup last week -- well, sort of. As organizers struggled to put on the finishing touches after adding corporate sponsorship just within the last month, they were only able to announce the performers by weekend as opposed to their traditional announcement of performances by day for the festival that runs April 28-30 and May 5-7.
But just as the city anticipated a badly needed Mardi Gras celebration regardless of the expectations, Jazz Fest officials proudly presented a roster of musicians who have been festival favorites in years past. Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, the Dave Matthews Band, Jimmy Buffett, Koko Taylor, Elvis Costello, Keb' Mo' and Ani DiFranco all have had their time on Jazz Fest stages. Add veteran performers such as Lionel Richie, the Ohio Players and hall-of-fame hip-hop contingent of Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Special Ed & Big Daddy Kane, and this year's Jazz Fest promises a ring of familiarity.
Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis, in what turned into an emotional announcement, also emphasized the importance of local flavor for this year's festival in light of the fact that so many New Orleanians remain displaced due to Hurricane Katrina.
"This is an open invitation to New Orleanians everywhere," said Davis, noting the return reunion performance by the Meters, the highlight of last year's Fest, and the presence of other local legends such as Fats Domino in the lineup. "This is your homecoming dance, and this is your homecoming band." Davis found it difficult to continue, choking back tears.
It was a poignant moment for a man who had to marshal of his resources, and contacts, to get this year's festival back up and running. A few weeks ago, Shell signed on as the presenting sponsor, and American Express was announced last week as another major corporate sponsor. American Express' presence will ensure the return of the Jazz & Heritage Stage that debuted last year focusing on the second-line tradition of brass band and Mardi Gras Indian music. (Other sponsors may still be announced.)
Financial constraints forced Jazz Fest to cut down from its traditional seven days to six spread out over the last weekend in April and the first weekend of May. Repairs are underway at the Fair Grounds, which sustained serious damage from the storm, and organizers are still working out just what is going to be held where. They also have yet to break down the performances by day, and, as has been the custom in the past, may yet add some more acts over the next week or so. But it's safe to say that this will be a scaled-back Jazz Fest.
That's not to say it won't feature top-quality acts, including some nice combinations of local and national performers. Costello will pair up with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint just as the two did a few months ago in the Piety Street Recording studio for The River in Reverse, which will be released on Verve Records in May. Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, whose trio includes New Orleanians Roland Guerin and Jason Marsalis, will perform. Other big-name acts include gospel star Yolanda Adams and country crossover star Keith Urban. The world beat will be represented by Jazz Fest favorites such as Hugh Masekela Angelique Kidjo.
Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the gate. Jazz Fest will return its Big Chief VIP Experience pass, which for $500 per weekend ($600 with parking) provides full access to the performances and VIP amenities including convenient grandstand viewing. For more ticket info, visit www.nojazzfest.com or www.ticketmaster.com.
Friday-Saturday, April 28-30
The Meters, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan, Yolanda Adams, Allen Toussaint with special guest Elvis Costello, Ani DiFranco, Dr. John, Hugh Masekela, Keb' Mo', Yerba Buena, Rebirth Brass Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Galactic, Snooks Eaglin, Cowboy Mouth, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Terence Blanchard, Walter "Wolfman" Washington & the Roadmasters, Sonny Landreth, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers, the subdudes, Ritmo Caribeo, John Mooney & Bluesiana, Terrance Simien, Anders Osborne, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, Charmaine Neville, Banu Gibson & New Orleans Hot Jazz, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with special guest Steve Turre, St. Joseph the Worker Choir, Dukes of Dixieland, Eddie Bo, John Lee & the Heralds of Christ, C.J. Chenier, the Iguanas, Luther Kent & Trickbag, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Rosie Ledet, Lil' Rascals Brass Band, Lil' Band O' Gold, Greater Antioch Full Gospel Church Choir, D.L. Menard & the Louisiana Aces, James Rivers Movement, Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, NewBirth Brass Band, James Andrews, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris, Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots, World Leader Pretend, Gregg Stafford's Jazz Hounds, Shades of Praise Choir, Leah Chase, Jhelisa's Tribute to Nina Simone, Melody Clouds, Christian Scott, Crown Seekers, Popular Ladies, Nine Times Men, Westbank Steppers and the Young Men's Olympians Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, David Egan, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church Choir, T-Sale, J. Monque'D Blues Band, Vivaz, Bryan Lee & the Blues Power Band, Panorama Jazz Band, Los Sagitarios, Cynthia Liggins-Thomas, One A-Chord Gospel Singers, Andrew Hall's Society Brass Band, Louisiana Repertory Jazz Band, Jonathan Batiste, Loyola University Jazz Ensemble, Coolbone Brass Band, Hard Head Hunters Mardi Gras Indians, Mahogany Brass Band, Tim Laughlin, Jo "Cool" Davis, Lighthouse Gospel Singers, Voices of Distinction, Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Kim Prevost, Leroy Jones, San Severino of France, Higher Dimensions of Praise, Joe Krown, Furious Five and Untouchables Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Willis Prudhomme & Zydeco Express, the Revealers, Poor Clares, the Elements, Los Vecinos, SUBR Jazz Ensemble, Jambalaya Cajun Band, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Paulin Brothers Brass Band, Don Vappie, Connie Jones, The Jackson Travelers, Tony Bazley, Providence Baptist Church Mass Choir, Val & Love Alive w/ the Dimensions of Faith, Chops Funky 7 Brass Band, Unstoppable Gospel Singers, Belton Richard, Inspirational Gospel Singers, Pinstripe Brass Band, Local International Allstars, the Bester Singers, Gospel Inspirations of Boutte and more.
Friday-Saturday, May 5-7
Fats Domino, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Richie, Paul Simon, Keith Urban, The Ohio Players, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Special Ed & Big Daddy Kane, India "The Princess of Salsa," Irma Thomas, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Doug Kershaw, Little Feat, Koko Taylor, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr. & the Greater St. Stephen Mass Choir, the Radiators, Angelique Kidjo, Pete Fountain, Donald Harrison with special guests George Coleman & Eddie Palmieri, Le Grand Ballet "Ngalam" du Senegal, Yonder Mountain String Band, Buckwheat Zydeco, Deacon John, Nicholas Payton, Chris Owens, the Ladies of New Orleans R&B featuring The Dixie Cups, Wanda Rouzan & Jean Knight, Roland Guerin with special guest Marcus Roberts, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. & the Zydeco Twisters, Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias, Ellis Marsalis with special guest Lew Tabackin, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Trem Brass Band, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & the Golden Eagles, Marcia Ball, George French, Stephanie Jordan, Hot 8 Brass Band, Sherman Washington & the Zion Harmonizers, Frankie Ford, Tab Benoit, Marva Wright & the BMWs, Lars Edegran & the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, Astral Project, Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band featuring Thais Clark, Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys, New Orleans Klezmer Allstars, Theresa Andersson, Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Jeremy Davenport, Papa Grows Funk, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Lockport Chapter Choir, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Tony Green & Gypsy Jazz, Bruce Daigrepont, The Johnson Extension, Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie, Soul Rebels Brass Band, John Boutt, Thomas "Big Hat" Fields, Rocks of Harmony, Alvin Batiste & the Jazzstronauts, Germaine Bazzle, Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries, Jeremy Lyons & the Deltabilly Boys, Reggie Hall & the Twilighters, New Orleans Spiritualettes, Storyville Stompers, Tornado and Stooges Brass Bands, Scene Boosters, Lady Rollers, Original Men and Ladies Buckjumpers and Valley of the Silent Men Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Lil' Brian & the Zydeco Travelers, Savoy Family Cajun Band, Eric Lindell, McDonogh No. 35 Gospel Choir, Susan Cowsill, Mem Shannon & the Membership, Kim Carson, Easter Rockers, Tyronne Foster & the Arc Singers, La Bande "Feufollet," Zulu Male Ensemble, Jeff & Vida, Zion Trinity, Fredy Omar con su Banda, Driskill Mountain Boys, Bamboula 2000, Otra, Little Freddie King, New Orleans NightCrawlers Brass Band, Chris Clifton, Amina Figarova Band of The Netherlands, Pine Leaf Boys, Michael Ward, Dynamic Smooth Family, the Imagination Movers, Lyle Henderson, Leviticus Gospel Singers, NOCCA Jazz Ensemble, Harvey Spirituals, Real Untouchables and Smitty Dee's Brass Bands, Mandeville High School Jazz Ensemble, Pfister Sisters, Second Nazarine Gospel Choir, June Gardner, Golden Wings, Batiste Brothers, Gospel Stars, Highsteppers Brass Band and more.