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A Review: The Jazz Fest Lineup

Jazz Fest Roars Back

Tuesday morning The Jazz & Heritage Festival dropped what, at first glance, appears to be their best lineup in some time.  A fair bit of the general festival conversation this year has been around the sameness of many lineups; but Jazz Fest seems to have managed to snag most of the best acts to build an interesting an eclectic program.  This is going to be a huge year as there is a little something for any interest. 

Right out of the gate you have the expected legacy anchors for the Acura stage in Aerosmith, Sting, Jimmy Buffett and Lionel Richie.  This year the gents are joined by Aretha Franklin, which is a huge get for the festival.  In addition to these huge names the headliners are rounded out by a trio of more experimental folks who are legends in their own right: Jack White, Beck and David Byrne.  Jack White will have a new record out by the time the fest rolls around – hopefully he’ll be given a long enough set to really stretch out and get into a groove.  Beck just released the pop-driven record Colors in October so he’ll have a set of old and new tracks to move the crowd.  David Byrne, however, is easily the most exciting thing on this list.  After successful albums with Brian Eno and St. Vincent, Byrne is poised to release his first completely solo record since Grown Backwards in 2004.  To accompany this record, Byrne has put together what he has called his most ambitious stage show since Stop Making Sense (widely regarded as one of – if not – the best concert concept/recordings ever made).  His concept for this tour involves a bare stage with all of the musicians able to move freely through the space.  So far we haven’t seen how this will be accomplished but it will not doubt be worth your time. 

All this and we haven’t left the first line of the announcement yet (it’s a good year).  Country legend Bonnie Raitt will be here as will indie country champion Sturgill Simpson.  Nicholas Payton has spent the last few years pushing at the boundaries of what New Orleans music can be – you’ll want to catch his show.  Charles Lloyd & the Marvels will have Lucinda Williams with them.  Anita Baker is including Jazz Fest in her farewell tour dates before heading into retirement.  There will be a tribute to Fats Domino with special guest Jerry Lee Lewis – gotta see that.  Local indie darlings Sweet Crude continue to make waves.  The Radiators will celebrate their 40th birthday.  Even Calexico and Hiss Golden Messenger are in the scene. 

I was more than a bit frustrated with last year’s lineup – it seemed a bit to much like more of the same – but this year has come together beautifully.  The distribution of local and national acts is well balanced and there are some serious names here that I didn’t expect to see coming through New Orleans.  Well done, Jazz Fest.  We’re all that much more excited for the spring.  See you out there.


To Do This Week

Tonight Johnny Mathis is at the Saenger.  Tomorrow head over to the Maple Leaf for Dave Jordan and the NIA.  On Saturday Lucinda Williams drops into the House of Blues.  Tuesday The Painted Hands are at Gasa Gasa—check these guys out they’re fantastic. 


To Listen This Week



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