The Cajun-music influenced Sweet Crude makes its Jazz Fest debut this year. The band's indie pop sound is rooted in layers of driving percussion, overlapping vocal harmonies and washes of synthesizers, electric bass and violin. Its live performances are heartfelt, ebullient affairs, as the musicians dance, shout and smile their way through upbeat songs that combine French and English lyrics. Sweet Crude released the EP Super Vilaine in 2013 and currently is in the studio working on a debut full-length album.
12:20 p.m.-1:10 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra with Dee Dee Bridgewater
Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater's forthcoming album, Dee Dee's Feathers, is a collaboration between Bridgewater and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Bridgewater won Grammy Awards for her tributes to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and earned a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway musical The Wiz. Mayfield, a musician, educator and ambassador of contemporary New Orleans jazz, won a Grammy with the 18-piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra for the 2010 album Book One. Together, they perform traditional songs such as "What a Wonderful World" and "St. James Infirmary" and original compositions like "Congo Square."
1:45 p.m.-2:55 p.m.
An African-born singer, author and activist, Angelique Kidjo won her second Grammy Award for last year's EVE, an exuberant celebration of African women. Earlier this year she released the equally impressive Angelique Kidjo SINGS with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg. Her music is rooted in the traditions of West Africa, but it expands beyond those borders through her collaborations with artists including composer Philip Glass, Gilberto Gil, Carlos Santana, Ziggy Marley and frequent collaborator Branford Marsalis.
Kidjo uses her fame and influence to boost her work as a human rights activist, working with organizations including UNICEF and Oxfam, and co-founding the Batonga Foundation, which promotes education and opportunities for girls in Africa. Her struggles and successes are detailed in her 2014 memoir, Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music.
1:55 p.m.-3:05 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Victor Goines and Faubourg Quartet present Charlie Parker with Strings
Jazz giant Charlie Parker is primarily known as a bebop pioneer, but he also recorded several sessions with classical string sections, offering his interpretation of jazz standards "Summertime" and "I'm in the Mood for Love." For this tribute to Parker's softer side, clarinetist and saxophonist Victor Goines teams up with the Faubourg Quartet, a classical string quartet led by NOCCA faculty member Jee Yeoun Ko and featuring musicians from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
A New Orleans native, Goines started playing saxophone at St. Augustine High School before embarking on a career as a jazz musician and educator. In addition to his work as a solo artist and bandleader, Goines is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet, and he also serves as the director of Jazz Studies at Northwestern University in Chicago.
2:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent
and Abigail Washburn
Banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck brought bluegrass to the masses with the progressive New Grass Revival band in the 1970s, and he proved the versatility of his signature instrument with his jazz fusion group the Flecktones. Last year, Fleck and wife Abigail Washburn, also an accomplished banjo player, released their first album as a duo, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder). Their songs showcase the couple's technical skills and creative approach, ranging from the original classical composition "For Children: No. 3 Quasi Adagio, No. 10 Allegro Molto — Children's Dance," to unique takes on folk songs like "Pretty Polly" and their version of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."
3 p.m.-4:10 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Shirley Caesar, known as the First Lady of Gospel, launched her legendary solo career more than 50 years ago. When she's not performing for presidents at the White House or racking up industry awards, Caesar serves as pastor at Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. At 76 years old, Caesar continues to make a joyful noise with her powerful voice and soulful performances.
3:45 p.m.-4:45 p.m.
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band
Jimmy Buffett has been making regular appearances at Jazz Fest since 1989, mostly with his Coral Reefer Band, and occasionally without them. In 2012, Buffett and longtime sideman Mac McAnally played a rare acoustic set as a last-minute replacement for an ailing Eddie Vedder. Last year, Buffett wasn't on the bill, but the "I Will Play for Gumbo" singer was spotted at the Fair Grounds buying gumbo from the Prejean's Restaurant booth. Unlike some of the big acts who might be more accustomed to playing late nights at indoor arenas and stadiums, the sun-soaked atmosphere of Jazz Fest is a perfect setting for Buffett's laid-back party music.
5 p.m.-7 p.m.
and Lady Gaga
It's an unlikely pairing — the classic crooner and the meat-dress-wearing provocateur — but the results speak for themselves. Cheek to Cheek, an album of old-school jazz standards as duets by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, topped the Billboard charts last year and earned the odd couple a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. The duo is capitalizing on the success of the album with a slew of spring and summer tour dates, playing festivals and concert halls in the U.S and Europe to the delight of both little old ladies and little monsters everywhere.
5:15 p.m.-7 p.m.
Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton featuring David Boeddinghaus and Dr. Michael White
Jelly Roll Morton may be one of the few people who lied about his age in order to appear older. He is reported to have exaggerated his age later in his life (he died in 1941 at age 50) to enhance his claim to be a founder of jazz. Without sorting that out, he was a very talented and influential bandleader and piano player, known as one of the piano "professors" who performed in the parlors of Storyville brothels. Morton's "Jelly Roll Blues" was the first piece of published jazz music, and his 1920s recordings with the Red Hot Peppers capture the quintessence of New Orleans jazz from that period. This tribute to Morton's legacy features New Orleans pianist David Boeddinghaus, known for his work with Banu Gibson, Leon Redbone, Pete Fountain and others, and clarinetist and jazz historian Dr. Michael White.
5:35 p.m.-6:35 p.m.
Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
With boogie-woogie piano riffs, bluesy harmonica licks and an R&B-style horn section, Delbert McClinton adds a soulful twist to the honky-tonk music of his native Texas. Since he first broke through in the late 1970s, McClinton, like many fellow Texas troubadours, earned critical acclaim and a loyal following without receiving much exposure on mainstream radio. He did score a No. 1 hit when Emmylou Harris recorded "Two More Bottles of Wine," but he's perhaps better known for live staples like "B Movie Boxcar Blues" and "Going Back to Louisiana."
5:45 p.m.-7 p.m.