Jazz Fest First Weekend Top Picks

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Friday, April 23

Baaba Maal 4/23, CON, 1:55p: This Senegalese singing star with wide-ranging musical interests draws from African traditional forms and American R&B, and more recently he has collaborated with more electronic-oriented artists including Brian Eno and the Brazilian Girls.

Brown, Maurice, Effect 4/23, JAZ, 2:50p: Combining bebop with hip-hop, the former New Orleans/now-Brooklyn-based bandleader was declared “the young trumpeter to watch for sure” by jazz legend Clark Terry.

Chocolate Milk 4/23, ACU, 3:35p; HER, 1p: Debuting with the funky Allen Toussaint-produced Action Speaks Louder Than Words in 1975, this band logged eleven R&B chart hits through the early ’80s, and still performs with six original members. Members will be interviewed at 1 p.m. by David Fricke.

Clinton, George, and Parliament Funkadelic 4/23, CON, 3:45p; HER, 2p: The barely-controlled mayhem of a P-Funk set will be condensed for the Fest into a tidy 75 minutes, which is usually about as much time as it takes them to play “Maggot Brain.” Clinton will be interviewed at 2 p.m. by DJ Soul Sister.

Sancton, Tommy, New Orleans Sextet 4/23, ECO, 3:15p: This clarinetist hails from a family of writers and served as Time Magazine’s Paris bureau chief for 22 years, but as a child he took music lessons from Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s George Lewis. He returned to New Orleans after Katrina and now teaches writing at Tulane when not leading his band.

Osborne, Anders, with John Fohl and Johnny Sansone 4/23, FDD, 4:20p: The three musicians have turned their weekly Tuesday night gigs at Chickie Wah Wah into a blues workshop where they’ve developed songs of their own and collaborated with each other, swapping sideman and bandleader hats from song to song.

New Orleans Nightcrawlers 4/23, J&H, 4:35p: This funky brass band represents the genre’s adventurous edge. Its latest album, Slither Slice, combined funk, hip-hop, Indian chants and a general spirit of rejuvenation.

Rotary Downs 4/23, LAG, 4:40p: This local indie rock band gets national attention for its well crafted tunes and multi-textured arrangements. Shortly before the festival season, it released a new album, Cracked Maps and Blue Reports.

Black Crowes, the 4/23, GEN, 5:30p: Brothers Rich and Chris Robinson revived Southern rock just when the world needed to hear it. After some lean years, the band reunited to play the Jazz Fest in 2005. Last year saw the release of Before the Frost/Until the Freeze, a strong double-live album of all-new material.

Lovano, Joe, Us Five 4/23, JAZ, 5:35p: The bop-inspired saxman rose to much acclaim in the ’90s. He is eclectic enough to draw from funk, African and modern classical, and to interpret repertoire from Sinatra to Caruso. This project includes one of the stars of last year’s Jazz Fest–bassist Esperanza Spaulding–with drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela, and pianist James Weldman.


Saturday, April 24

Bounce Extravaganza feat. Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red and Magnolia Shorty with DJ Papa 4/24, CON, 11:30a; HER 3p: More than a decade after it was pioneered, bounce is once again one of the hottest sounds in New Orleans clubs. This time, Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby and Katey Red are crossing over like perhaps on DJ Jubilee did the first time around. Big Freedia and Sissy Nobby will be interviewed by Alison Fensterstock at 3 p.m.

Grandpa Elliot 4/24, BLU, 12:30p: This New Orleans blues singer is a street performer usually found on Royal Street. Last year, he was featured on the Playing for Change album and tour; recently, he released his own CD, Sugar Sweet Washington, Walter “Wolfman” with the Joe Krown Trio 4/23, GEN, 12:30p; with the Roadmasters 4/24, CON, 2:25: Funky blues favorite who played with Lee Dorsey in the ’50s before striking out on his own. Washington’s trademarks are his gritty vocals and guitar solos, not to mention those sideburns.

Romero, Roddy, and the Hub City Allstars 4/24, FDD, 3:05p: This eclectic Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop and rock ‘n’ roll band is built around well-travelled accordionist/guitarist Romero and pianist Eric Adcock. Their expansive double album The La Louisiane Sessions made OffBeat’s 2007 Top Ten and was nominated for a Grammy.

Blanchard, Terence 4/23, HER, 3p; 4/24, JAZ, 3:45p: Following the Katrina-inspired A Tale Of God’s Will, the Grammy award-winning trumpeter/composer turned philosophical with his latest conceptual work, Choices, recorded at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. He’ll be interviewed Friday at 3 p.m. by Ashley Kahn.

Ledisi 4/24, CON, 4p: The New Orleans-born/Oakland-raised R&B singer has earned hits and Grammy nominations; her latest disc, Turn Me Loose, earned another Grammy nomination with its gospel-influenced sound.

HBO’s Treme w. David Simon, Eric Overmyer, Wendell Pierce, David Mills and Tom Piazza 4/24, HER, 4p: Members of the crew and cast of the HBO television series shot in New Orleans will be interviewed by Harry Shearer.

Campbell Brothers 4/24, BLU, 4:15p: Formed at the House of God Church in Rush, New York, this family group carried the sacred steel tradition into the jam-band world.

Bush, Sam 4/24, HER, 2p; FDD, 4:30p: Mandolin whiz carrying on his former band New Grass Revival’s mission of fusing bluegrass with jazz, world music, acoustic rock and just about anything else that comes along. At 2 p.m., he’s interviewed by Dave Margulies.

Simon & Garfunkel 4/24, ACU, 5:15p: The catalogueÕs timeless, and the reunions donÕt happen often. Onstage, Simon tends to freshen the material with full-band arrangements drawing on his world-music explorations.


Sunday, April 25

Preservation Hall with Jim James & Terence Blanchard 4/25, GEN, 12:10p: Plenty of big names have visited Preservation Hall in recent years. My Morning Jacket’s James and Blanchard are two of the special guests who appear, alongside the likes of Tom Waits and Merle Haggard, on the band’s new benefit/tribute album Preservation.

Ferbos, Lionel, and the Palm Court Jazz Band 4/25, ECO, 12:20p: Arguably the most seasoned performer in New Orleans jazz, Creole singer/trumpeter Ferbos plays the Palm Court every Saturday. He’ll turn 99 this July.

Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars 4/25, ACU, 1:40p: Guitarist and activist Tab Benoit leads a supersession of environmentally-minded musical heavyweights, with Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Cajun fiddler Waylon Thibodeaux and more.

Guerra, Juan Luis, y 440 4/25, CON, 3:25p: This Latin music superstar incorporates meringue and bachata rhythms into his multicultural mix. HeÕs crossed paths over the years with Sting, Paul Simon and the Black Eyed PeasÕ Taboo, who remixed a recent single.

Radiators, the, Pre War Blues 4/25, BLU, 3:50p: Their blues covers have been a dependable part of Rads sets from the get-go. They played their first all-blues weekend at Tipitina’s last fall and bring the earlier half of that repertoire to the Blues Tent.

Blind Boys of Alabama 4/25, GOS, 4:45p: Originally formed seven decades ago, the venerable gospel group did its first all-N.O. album Down in New Orleans two years ago, with a repertoire stretching from Mahalia Jackson to Earl King.

Cowsill, Susan, Band 4/25, LAG, 4:25p: After a brief Continental Drifters reunion last year, Cowsill and drummer/partner Russ Brousard wrapped up Lighthouse, which includes some of her strongest work to date. She’s also known for monthly “Covered in Vinyl” nights at Carrolton Station and still tours with the family group that made her a late-’60s child star.

Lang, Jonny 4/25, BLU, 5:40p: Originally a teenage blues guitar prodigy, Lang took a more gospel-rock turn on his latest studio album, Turn Around. Lately he’s been touring with Joe Satriani and Kenny Wayne Shepherd on the Experience Hendrix tour.

Smith, Keely 4/25, JAZ, 5:40p: Though best-known as Louis Prima’s straightwoman/duet partner, she had big-band hits before Prima and jazz success afterward. Her career lately survived a duet with Kid Rock at the 2008 Grammys.