Brother Tyrone & the Mindbenders
A New Orleans native and Jazz Fest staple, Brother Tyrone developed his prodigious talent as a teenager in nightclubs in Treme and Central City. He sang delicate, gospel-infused blues at venues such as The Golden Pheasant, Grease's Bar and the Candlelight Lounge. By the 1980s, he stood at the forefront of the city's R&B scene, with local luminaries Ernie K-Doe and Jessie Hill clamoring to sit in during his sets. Brother Tyrone didn't hit the studio until 1999, when he released jukebox-gem Blue Ghetto. He's been backed onstage by a rotating cast of Mindbenders in lineups consistently capable of deep-groove improvisations.
3:35 p.m.-4:45 p.m.
Mavis Staples last was scheduled to play Jazz Fest in 2012 as a guest for Levon Helm's show. The drummer for the Band died and that show was canceled. Many people remember her velvety gospel voice oozing over vocals on "The Weight" from Martin Scorsese's monumental 1978 concert documentary The Last Waltz, which forever links Staples to a roster of counter-culture rockers. (Will Staples appear at the Saenger Theatre this weekend for Warren Haynes' two-night Last Waltz New Orleans all-star tribute?) In recent years, she has collaborated to critical and popular acclaim with the likes of Wilco and Neko Case. Now 76, she recently confessed to a dalliance decades ago with Bob Dylan and declined his marriage proposal. In February, she released her 13th solo album (among 42 total), Livin' on a High Note.
Born in Chicago to father "Pops" Staples, Mavis Staples' greatest legacy may be grounded in her civil rights-era activism or anthems such as "Respect Yourself" and "I'll Take You There." Or perhaps it lies in the simple salvation she sang of as a 16-year-old assuming lead vocals on the early Staples Singers' hit "Uncloudy Day": "Well, well, well Lord / They tell me I got a home beyond the skies."
2:20 p.m.-3:30 p.m.&
Tribute to Allen Toussaint hosted by the Allen Toussaint Band
Forever elegant and eloquent, the Gert Town-bred Allen Toussaint shaped signature New Orleans sounds in a way that left audiences rapt and became an intrinsic part of the city's cultural legacy. Pianist, performer, composer and producer, Toussaint helped define musicians' careers — including Irma Thomas ("Ruler of My Heart") and Lee Dorsey ("Working In the Coal Mine") — while crafting his own classics ("Southern Nights," "Night People"). An outpouring of love and appreciation for that legacy arrives in this tribute placing Toussaint's crack band of Brian "Breeze" Cayolle (saxophone), Roland Guerin (bass) and Renard Poche (electric guitar) behind a dazzling guest list including Cyril Neville, Davell Crawford, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt and Jon Batiste (Late Night With Stephen Colbert).
2:45 p.m.-3:40 p.m.
The Mash-Up feat. Ike Stubblefield, Terence Higgins and Grant Green Jr.
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent
Masterful purveyor of silky-smooth Hammond B3 grooves, Ike Stubblefield cut his teeth in Motown 50 years ago, before settling in Atlanta decades ago. There, he came under the spell of the free-form musical frenzy Col. Bruce Hampton preached to his many disciples in a close-knit scene where Stubblefield soon found a home. Stubblefield regularly gigs in New Orleans at venues including Blue Nile and d.b.a, typically travelling from Atlanta with guitarist Grant Green Jr., whose finger-picking brilliance generates trademark tones pioneered by his late legendary father, a luminary from the halcyon days of jazz at the Village Vanguard and Blue Note in early-1960s New York City.
Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Neil Young seems to become ever more outlandishly awesome with age. Now 70, the Canadian troubadour continues to rage against the machine (even if the target today is industrial agriculture giant Monsanto and genetically-modified produce rather than Jim Crow institutions) and rage against the dying of the light with an eccentricity reserved for genius of the highest order. He brought fans inside his processes in the sprawling 2012 memoir Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream. He turned heads when leaving his wife of 35-plus years for starlet Daryl Hannah (to cantankerous David Crosby's chagrin).
In 2015, he started-up his digital-music venture Pono in addition to LincVolt, a company the fanatical car collector formed after years cruising the country in his 1959 Lincoln Continental, customized to showcase a Mother Earth-loving bio-electric transportation model. Young's last two shows in New Orleans (with Crazy Horse at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in 2012 and his Jazz Fest debut in 2009) proved superb marathons.
Here, "Mr. Soul" is backed by Promise of the Real, a crack band of players half his age who apply a polished frenzy to classics such as "Powderfinger," "Down by the River" and "Walk On," a tune boasting Young's self-evident truth: "Sooner or later, it all gets real." Is it unreal to hope Young jams with proteges Pearl Jam on "Rockin' in the Free World" and/or recaptures lightning in a bottle on "Helpless" at Last Waltz New Orleans?
The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley and Ernie Isley
Congo Square Stage
Supersonic '70s soul/rock hybrid the Isley Brothers (attorneys and estates necessitate founding brothers Ronald and Ernie now be included in the bandname, as O'Kelly Isley Jr. died in 1986) make their Jazz Fest debut late in a legendary career but certainly come to pump up signature up-tempo party anthems ("Who's that Lady?") and sensual slow jams ("For the Love of You").
Though born in Burbank, California in 1949, Bonnie Raitt has worked her way into local esteem like few other non-natives. It may come from partying after closing time at the Maple Leaf Bar following a show by her longtime piano man (and fellow Grammy winner) Jon Cleary. But she's the only non-native soul invited as a special guest at Jazz Fest's Allen Toussaint tribute. Sober for decades and not one to rest on still-mounting laurels, Raitt brandished her slide guitar at this year's Grammy ceremony and shredded to pieces signature B.B. King licks in a tribute to the late blues pioneer in a show-stopping performance that outshined on-stage whippersnappers Chris Stapleton and Gary Clark Jr.
The Revelers slayed a French Quarter Festival set last month. Formed in 2011 in Lafayette, this countrified Cajun supergroup blends talents from the Pine Leaf Boys and Red Stick Ramblers, including Blake Miller (accordion), Chas Justus (acoustic guitar), Daniel Coolik (fiddle), Chris Miller (saxophone), Glenn Fields (drums) and Eric Frey (electric bass). The group released a self-titled debut in 2012 and Play the Swamp Pop Classics, Vol. 1 in 2014. Its 2015 album Get Ready drew a Grammy nomination this year for Best Regional Roots Album.
Arlo Guthrie — Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary
Arlo Guthrie is iconoclastic in his devotion to American folk music's subversive origins, which were in part pioneered by his father Woody Guthrie, whose sweet-strumming acoustic six-string was emblazoned with his 1941 screed, "This Machine Kills Fascists." Arlo doesn't always play his signature song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." An 18-minute opus, it recounts Guthrie's arrest for dropping trash (removed from a friend's house on Thanksgiving Day) from a cliff in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, just as other residents had done that holiday. A seemingly tough break for a youthful Guthrie, this offense to society ultimately spared him from the draft during the Vietnam War. He's likely to play the song at this Jazz Fest set. He is backed by son Abe Guthrie (keys), Terry "a la Berry" Hall (drums), Darren Todd (bass) and Bobby Sweet (guitar, fiddle).
Maze featuring Frankie Beverly
Congo Square Stage
Given the group's regular appearances at Jazz Fest and Essence Music Festival, where it often occupies a closing set, one could get the impression Frankie Beverly and Maze is a New Orleans band. It also released a live album recorded in the Crescent City, but the group formed in the early 1970s in San Francisco and is headquartered in Oakland. With a wizardly percussive ensemble, it has built a legion of followers with hypnotic, compositionally complex funk and R&B. Though best known for its chart-topping R&B releases in the 1980s and early '90s, the band has toured consistently and continues to build its local following.