New Orleans Suspects
What could have been simply another paid-for-jam-sessions supergroup of New Orleans-based musicians has developed into something much more. The New Orleans Suspects bridge generations and genres in forging a distinctive swamp funk/rock sound, which combines silky Hammond B-3 organ grooves of classically trained pianist C.R. Gruver (Outformation), founding Radiators bassist (and 1970s-era James Booker associate) Reggie Scanlan, the tenacious drumming of "Mean" Willie Green (Neville Brothers), sax playing of Jeff Watkins (James Brown, Joss Stone) and guitarist Jake Eckert, whose shred-heavy axe work lends a psychedelic edge to recent-vintage Dirty Dozen Brass Band music. Taken as a collective, this merger hits its highest peaks in an improvised live format. In 2012, the Suspects released an eponymous studio debut as well as Caught Live at the Maple Leaf, recorded during a raucous weekend at the Uptown haunt that serves as something akin to headquarters for this developing, heavy-touring band.
• 11:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m.
Sharing the same day and stage at 2012's Voodoo Experience with the Soul Rebels, even the masterful Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) admitted to being awe-struck by the fierce energy and expert musicianship evident in the Rebels' cover of "Sweet Dreams" — a still-thriving gem of '80s Brit pop that the veteran New Orleans brass band has reinvented as an extended jamming, booty-shaking crowd-pleaser. Such is the trademark power of the Soul Rebels, a close-knit group that began with Southern University Marching Band alums Derrick "Oops" Moss and Lumar LeBlanc. After serving as Uptown street-parade staples, the Soul Rebels began touring internationally in the mid-'90s, after their stage debut as openers for the Neville Brothers at Tipitina's. In 2012, the hip hop- and funk-infused band released Unlock Your Mind, which, along with including the "Sweet Dreams" cover, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Regional Roots Album.
• 1:20 p.m.-2:10 p.m.
Tommy Sancton & the New Orleans Legacy Band
It's easy enough to characterize Tommy Sancton as a globe-trotting, festival-favorite clarinetist. But his story — revealed in the sweeping, eloquent 2012 memoir Song for My Fathers — parallels that of traditional jazz in New Orleans and its venerable present-day home, Preservation Hall. Sancton was introduced to traditional jazz players — contemporaries of Louis Armstrong then fading into old age and obscurity thanks to a world turning to rock and modern sounds — by his father, also named Tom, who left his native New Orleans to become a renowned writer in New York City, where he last served as a New Republic editor before returning to his hometown. The elder Sancton — who contributed pro-civil rights articles to underground publications espousing views radical for a white Southerner at the time — found inspiration in jazz and, more intimately, the jazz men he found in a modest French Quarter art gallery. These "mens," as the musicians called themselves, took in the younger Sancton as a clarinet apprentice. After hearing George Lewis play the clarinet on the radio, the younger Sancton took up the instrument and performs at the now world-famous Preservation Hall with the New Orleans Legacy Band. Playing both improvised instrumentals and classics from the early years of jazz, Sancton's band — Clive Wilson (trumpet), Lars Edegran (piano), Jason Marsalis (drums), Ronell Johnson (trombone) and Kerry Lewis (bass) — mixes races and generations in a way that would make Sancton's father proud. It's also a mix that keeps New Orleans' indigenous music alive and well.
• 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
Dr. John & the Nite Tripper
Just weeks before his last Jazz Fest appearance, Dr. John earned wide acclaim (along with a new, younger audience) with the release of his Nonesuch label debut Locked Down. Boldly offering to produce "the best record you've (Dr. John) made in a long time," Dan Auerbach (guitarist of the Black Keys, who jammed with Dr. John at Bonnaroo in 2011) delivered on his promise with Locked Down. The album expertly melds Dr. John's studio songwriting and performing skills and trippy y'at-shaman persona with Auerbach's driving guitar hooks and bridges traditional New Orleans tones to hard rock. Following the most successful year in his decades-long career, Dr. John fired his management and veteran backing band, the Lower 911, last December. Jazz Fest fans will get a taste of what the revival of his renowned 1970s Night-Tripper phase will sound like in a new decade.
• 3:50 p.m.-4:50 p.m.
Gary Clark Jr.
Last year's buzzed-about Blues Tent delight, twentysomething Texas axe-slinger (and Jimi Hendrix heir apparent) Gary Clark Jr. arrives at the Gentilly Stage after a blockbuster 2012. In February 2012, Clark rendered a smoldering cover of traditional blues tune (and Hendrix classic) "Catfish Blues" at the White House for President Barack Obama and a national PBS audience. October marked his major label debut (on Warner Bros., after releasing albums on his own Austin-based Hotwire Unlimited label since 2004) with Blak and Blu. Although it packs a few cringe-inducing moments evident of a possible sophomore slump, Blak and Blu also packs plenty of promise, such as the inclusion of a cover of fellow Texan Albert Collins' "If You Love Me Like You Say" and a deft weaving of Hendrix's instrumental masterpiece "Third Stone from the Sun" — a live-set staple of Clark's that he shredded to pieces before a setting sun in City Park during the Voodoo Experience. As anyone who was there there can testify, sophomore slump or not, Clark possesses the stuff of greatness.
• 4 p.m.-5:10 p.m.
Joshua Redman Quartet with Aaron Goldberg, Joe Sanders and Kendrick Scott
Lawyer jokes aside, it's a good thing for music lovers at large, and modern jazz in particular, that tenor-sax titan Joshua Redman delayed Yale Law School for what he presumed would be a year after graduating (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, mind you) from Harvard University. Taking up some friends' help-us-make-the-rent roommate offer of apartment space in Brooklyn, Redman instead immersed himself in New York City's avant-garde jazz scene, playing a vibrant nightclub circuit with the likes of Peter Bernstein and Larry Goldings. Five months later, Redman, a native of Berkeley, Calif., whose parents are acclaimed saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff, won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Today, Redman touches on influences from John Coltrane to Ornette Coleman to Led Zeppelin in creating hard-hitting jazz that is arguably the finest among his contemporaries.
• 4 p.m.-5:20 p.m.
Zatarain's WWOZ Jazz Tent
Mississippi-born and south Louisiana-bred, Sonny Landreth is without equal when it comes to his blistering style of swamp rock-infused blues. Landreth last year released his 11th album, Elemental Journey, an all-instrumental effort on which the guitarist plays with abstract abandon, a hallmark of his live shows.
• 4 p.m.-5:10 p.m.
New Orleans Guitar Quartet featuring Jimmy Robinson, John Rankin, Phil DeGruy and Cranston Clements
The "putting on a clinic" cliche comes fully realized in six-string form with this quartet of veteran local guitarists capable of everything from prog-rock peak fests (visit local haunts such as Checkpoint Charlie to witness Jimmy Robinson's superb Woodenhead, a strange bedfellow with his acoustic work) to eloquent jazz (such as Phil DeGruy's Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro sets). For this performance, expect everything from original compositions to New Orleans standards to Beatles covers.
• 5:20 p.m.-6:35 p.m.
Given the tabloid-fodder lifestyle that brings to mind John Mayer's "sexual napalm" tryst with Jessica Simpson, masturbation manifesto in Rolling Stone and recent break-up with Katy Perry (which compelled gossip guru Perez Hilton to investigate whether Mayer's so depressed he's unable to dress himself), it's sadly easy to forget how fine a guitar player he is. Don't call it a comeback, but the Connecticut-born, Clapton-blessed Mayer arrives at Jazz Fest on the third date of his six-month, global Born & Raised tour.
• 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.
Band of Horses
Born in Seattle in 2004 but now residing among the greener pastures of its native South Carolina, Band of Horses makes you feel good about the future of rock 'n' roll. It incorporates elements of folk and pop into its hard-driving sound, and bandleader Ben Bridwell recently confessed that continual collaboration is the secret to its success — obvious in both the Horses' Grammy-nominated 2010 release Infinite Arms and its follow-up, Mirage Rock.
• 5:45 p.m.-7 p.m.
Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience with guest Queen Ida
Maybe it's the freewheeling fun of Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience's shows that propels the band; it's performed at 28 consecutive Jazz Fests, and in 7,000 shows in 45 countries. An eighth-generation St. Landry Parish Creole, Simien leads the band's explosive, expansive take on traditional zydeco. This show also features Lake Charles-born Ida Lewis "Queen Ida" Guillory, hailed as the first female accordionist to lead a zydeco band and known for her Caribbean flourishes.
• 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
"Big" Sam Williams
"Big" Sam Williams leads Big Sam's Funky Nation (1:50 p.m., Sun., April 28, Congo Square Stage) and performs with the Midnight Disturbers (4:15 p.m.-5:20 p.m. Sun., April 28, Jazz & Heritage Stage). What's he looking forward to at the Fair Grounds?
• Gary Clark Jr. (4 p.m.-5:10 p.m. Fri., April 26, Gentilly Stage) "I didn't get a chance to see him at Voodoo, and I love his album (Blak and Blu)."
• Maroon 5 (5:20 p.m.-7p.m. Fri., May 3, Acura Stage) "I like their style. The grooves they lay down are killer. I know it's pop but they really get into it. It's really funky."
• Anders Osborne (2:30 p.m.-3:25 p.m. Fri., April 26, Gentilly Stage) "He's a monster. I definitely want to get in on that action and maybe jump onstage."
• Soft shell crab and alligator po-boys (Food Area II, Food Area I, respectively) "I walk to the first booth I see, I swear. You can even follow me. I go in with my umbrella so I don't get a tan. For some reason I'm always eating alligator po-boys."
• Ya-ka-mein (Food Area I) "I always go and find Ms. Linda the Ya-ka-mein lady and see what she's cooking."