2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: Saturday, April 26
The piano-playing Prince of New Orleans released the critically acclaimed My Gift to You (Basin Street Records) in 2013, his first in more than a decade. It's worth the wait. The grandson of James "Sugarboy" Crawford — and former child prodigy who grew up accompanying church choirs before his teens — grounds his work in gospel while gliding through New Orleans R&B, jazz and funk. He embraces with a grin the schmaltz and sentimentality of the mid-album stunner, a cover of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain," showcasing his piano chops and expressiveness before his solo standout on "Southern Nights/ Many Rivers to Cross." The soulful New Orleans balladeer also welcomes artists including Dr. John and Steve Riley on the album — which appropriately ends with an oversized "Ode to Louisiana," fit for a pulpit as big as Broadway. 12:55 p.m. - 1:50 p.m. Congo Square Stage
Big Freedia needs little introduction, despite his list of self-assigned superlatives — whether you prefer queen diva or the queen of bounce, the latter of which is the title of his Fuse network reality TV show. The bounce superstar and interior designer thrust the genre into the international spotlight with glowing profiles in The Village Voice and The New York Times in 2010, followed by a television debut on Last Call with Carson Daly. Freedia's television performance debut, however, came in 2012 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where a team of dancers escorted Freedia to a stage filled with wildly popping booties. That performance easily beat Miley Cyrus to television's twerking "debut" punch at the MTV Music Video Awards in 2013. Freedia later welcomed Cyrus to a challenge, telling Fuse, "Get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons." Peggy Scott Laborde interviews Freedia at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage at 1:30 p.m. 1:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage 3:45 p.m. - 4:35 p.m. Congo Square Stage
Buckwheat Zydeco: A Lifetime Tribute with C.J. Chenier, Terrance Simien and Rockin' Dopsie Jr.
Stanley Dural Jr. worked his way onstage as an organ player for blues legends like Joe Tex and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown before his legacy career as "Buckwheat Zydeco" took off in the late 1970s. He learned to play the accordion — the signature ax for which he is known — at the insistence of Clifton Chenier, one of zydeco's preeminent godfather figures (or royalty, as the late mentor was known as the "King of Zydeco"). As a bandleader for nearly four decades, Buckwheat Zydeco now receives the tribute treatment — from Chenier's son C.J. and the next generation of players. Buckwheat Zydeco earned his nickname for resembling a certain Little Rascal, a look he quickly outgrew. The now 66-year-old Dural — who sports leather vest, wide-brimmed hat, perfect coif, big glasses and earring, an indelible image fronting his rock 'n' rolling zydeco band — has been the go-to accordion player for the likes of Keith Richards, Paul Simon and other rock icons. His latest album is 2010 Grammy Award-winner Lay Your Burden Down (Alligator Records), which tackles Bruce Springsteen ("Back in Your Arms") and Captain Beefheart ("Too Much Time"), among others, and features guests Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Spencer Bohren. More recently, Buckwheat played and sang alongside Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on the comedian's final episode of Late Night. Maybe he picked up a few tips from the viral video expert. Buckwheat aims to be a star of his own — he pushed a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary series on YouTube called "Buckwheat's World," a behind-the-scenes look into his life offstage, from documentary filmmakers Louis Alvarez and Andy Kolker. The project reached more than its $30,000 goal and will debut later this year. 2:55 p.m. - 4 p.m. Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage
& the City
Baton Rouge native singer/songwriter Kristin Diable draws comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, storytellers who excel at lost love letters and bluesy, gutsy guitar songs. On her self-titled 2012 album, the stylish songwriter brings to life ragged living ("Reckless and Free"), honky tonk door-slammers ("I'll Be Leaving") and weary-heart poetry ("I Know a Man," who is "held by the hands of saviors on the edge of their seats"). The album was recorded in New Orleans in an apartment above Jackson Square, over which she sings about mountains, rising rivers, and broken Brooklyn apartments, but her adopted home seemingly takes the lead in album closer "Guess It's Gonna Take Some Time": "I don't know about my city, nothing here ever moved fast. She's got her head stuck in the future, but her body in the past." 3:55 p.m. - 5:05 p.m. Lagniappe Stage
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Phish ACURA STAGE 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
The royal family of jam bands, Vermont's 30-year-old Phish, received a hefty three-hour-long slot at this year's Jazz Fest, one of the longest ever for a music act. On the heels of the chill vibes and blissed out improvisational jams on last year's triple-disc live album Niagara Falls, guitarist Trey Anastasio and company will release their 12th studio album later this year. The band debuted tracks from the tentatively titled Wingsuit at its annual Halloween show in Atlantic City, N.J., last year, during which the band traditionally performs songs by other artists as a sort of costume. The new material spanned Phish's well-cornered repertoire of roots rock, bluegrass and Americana interpreted as long-lasting rock 'n' roll jams. Fest crowds can expect a revolving door of Phish material, guests and covers in its marathon-esque set. 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Acura Stage
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
Robert Plant returns to New Orleans after breaking two possible fire codes here last summer — at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, where he shoved several sticks of lighted incense into stage speakers, and at BJ's Lounge, where he overstuffed a crowd into the tiny Bywater watering hole to jam on harmonica alongside bar regular Guitar Lightnin' Lee. Plant's Sensational Space Shifters — his two-year-old eclectic, African-influenced blues-rock band that follows the Americana and roots rockers in Plant's former outfit, Band of Joy — finds the former Led Zeppelin frontman's Delta blues fixation under the spell of far-out West African and Moroccan rhythms. The band anticipates a late 2014 release for its debut album. 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m. Samsung Galaxy Stage
Yacht rock tunesmith Boz Scaggs — whose '70s earworms "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle" and early '80s hits "Breakdown Dead Ahead" and "Jo Jo" probably have you humming the chorus as you read this — joined a triumvirate of soft rock icons Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen as the Dukes of September in 2010, playing R&B classics and material from their own bands (from the Doobie Brothers to Steely Dan). The reunion of sorts may have inspired Scaggs — known for his marble-mouthed, soulful vocals (not unlike Van Morrison's) — back into the studio, where he recorded 2013's Memphis (429 Records), his first album since 2008. Memphis collects several new original songs and covers, including "Rainy Night In Georgia" and single "Mixed Up Shook Up Girl," originally recorded by Willy DeVille in 1977. 5:45 p.m. - 7 p.m. Blues Tent