Classie Ballou and the Family Band
In the 1950s, Classie Ballou's band had a reputation for being able to back any singer in any style: swamp pop, rhythm and blues, blues, zydeco and many others. Ballou's band backed up Boozoo Chavis in the first zydeco track ever, 1954's "Paper In My Shoe." Ballou also played with Big Joe Turner and Rosco Gordon. These days he's the headliner and plays music characterized by a unique mix of Latin, New Orleans and southwest Louisiana sounds on such songs as "Crazy Mambo," "Classie's Whip" and "Hey Pardner." Ballou's band now includes his children and grandchildren, and they have an intuitive sense that only musicians who share a gene pool could have.
• 11:15 p.m.-Noon
Herb Hardesty and the Dukes
New Orleans and the world owes Herb Hardesty a lot. In the days when Fats Domino, Little Richard, Shirley & Lee and many other rhythm and blues heroes were storming the charts with records made at J&M Studios on either North Rampart or Governor Nicholls streets, Hardesty was part of the saxophone section and contributed killer solos. Hardesty's sound helped define what became rock 'n' roll. Last year, several lost sessions featuring Hardesty and other legendary musicians (Ed Frank, Cornelius "Tenoo" Coleman and others) were released in all their honking, rocking glory.
• 12:20 p.m.-1:10 p.m.
Alexis and the Samurai
Alexis Marceaux's current claim to fame comes from making it through a couple of rounds on NBC's The Voice, but she and her band The Samurai have been paying dues in New Orleans and on the road for the past few years. She has a voice that can both soar into the stratosphere and dig deep in the dirt. The songs are beautiful — with surprising arrangements and nuances in each one. Her sound is atmospheric pop with strings, acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies, but it's more than delicate music — the band rocks with enthusiasm as needed.
• 12:55 p.m.-1:55 p.m.
Herlin Riley interview
Ask anyone in the know who is the best drummer in this drummer-rich city of New Orleans, and many will say Herlin Riley. Riley was the powerhouse behind the later recordings of the Wynton Marsalis Septet as well as Ahmad Jamal. Riley is a great musician who can explain his and others' music with down-to-earth clarity. He also is a member of the Lastie family of 9th Ward musicians whose history is a significant part of the last half-century of New Orleans music. His anecdotes about them and his experiences should be fascinating.
• 1 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage
Lost Bayou Ramblers
There's a great new movement in Cajun music. Centered in Lafayette, it is driven by musicians who are very aware of tradition while adding modern touches like rock guitar and occasional dance music trappings. The Lost Bayou Ramblers are at the forefront of this trend. After releasing Mammoth Waltz, one of the best Louisiana-based records of 2012, the band has been tearing up the country with Cajun music infused with reckless rock 'n' roll attitude. The band plays energetic 21st-century south Louisiana party music for party people.
2:35 p.m.-3:35 p.m. Saturday
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage
Magary Lord grew up in Salvador, the capital city of the Brazilian coastal state Bahia and was influenced by everything from Carnival beats to the music of Gilberto Gil and Michael Jackson. Lord developed his own style of music, called black semba, based on African beats and incorporating Latin and Caribbean sounds, often combining a variety of drums. Much of his music ranges from singing over Latin hip-hop beats with full horn sections to Carnival party music buoyed by tinkling guitars and Caribbean steel pan drums.
• 3 p.m.-4:10 p.m.
Jazz & Heritage Stage
• 12:35 p.m.-1:25 p.m. Sunday
Congo Square Stage
Few New Orleans musicians have been behind as many hits as Allen Toussaint, though often his songs were written for or more famously covered by other artists. The hits "Java" and "Southern Nights" have both been credited with more than two million airings each. Other Toussaint-penned tunes include "Working in the Coal Mine," "Ride Your Pony," "Fortune Teller," and "Mother-In-Law." He Produced LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," and he's worked with a variety of rock 'n' roll legends, including Paul McCartney. His post-Hurricane Katrina album with Elvis Costello, River in Reverse, drew a Grammy nomination, and Toussaint has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. After four decades in the music business, Toussaint continues to write music and perform, and his catalog of songs are both sampled in hip-hop tunes and recorded by new generations of artists.
• 3:30 p.m.-4:35 p.m.
Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra
Pianist Eddie Palmieri is one of the inventors of salsa and Latin jazz. He's a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and winner of nine Grammy awards. His compositions and arrangements showcase the tight horns and unique rhythms of Cuba and Puerto Rico via East Harlem, but they also have the capacity for exploratory and climactic solos and group interplay. He's delivered some great sets at the Jazz Fest before, and he has employed altoist Donald Harrison Jr. for years, so he knows what New Orleans audiences expect.
• 4:05 p.m.-5:25 p.m.
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent
Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite
Harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite has become a blues legend — like the ones he emulated after moving to Chicago in the 1960s. Ben Harper's music touched on blues, rhythm and blues and other roots music as he developed his own soulful sound. His voice works within the notes to add an emotional aura that gives his songs their intensity. Musselwhite and Harper's new collaboration, Get Up!, hollers and stomps at points and coos and sings at others. In a live setting, this pair promises powerfully good roadhouse music.
• 5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires
Listening to Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires is like a time warp to 1970. There is everything from rockers and ballads to tight, riffing funk, soul and rhythm and blues songs with hip-swinging, finger-pointing background singers. Bradley's raspy, emotional voice wraps it all up in a vintage revue.
• 5:40 p.m.-7 p.m.
Jill Scott can flat-out sing. Her voice can sound seductive, strident, swinging, soulful and more. Her music is based in the world of rhythm and blues, but it encompasses the whole scope of African-American music. She can make others' tunes her own, but where she excels is in her own songs' sensitive and incisive poetry. She is the latest in a long line of soul divas, and the power of her live sets are justification enough for that crown.
• 5:40 p.m.-7 p.m.
Congo Square Stage
Sidney Bechet Tribute
Of all the jazz musicians to have come out of New Orleans, Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) might be the best, and that includes Louis Armstrong himself as competition. Bechet's tone, timbre and improvisatory imagination on both clarinet and soprano saxophone still amaze jazz aficionados. Jazz Fest has assembled a great collection of players, including Dr. Michael White, Donald Harrison Jr., Roderick Paulin and Brian "Breeze" Cayolle to play both Bechet standards and rarities.
• 5:50 p.m.-7 p.m.
Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent
You can trace the lineage of the great Mardi Gras Indian funk bands from Willie Tee's New Orleans Project backing the Wild Magnolias to the Wild Tchoupitoulas to June Victory and The Bayou Renegades up through collaborations by Monk Boudreaux, Anders Osborne and Tab Benoit. Now there's 101 Runners. Lead singer War Chief Juan Pardo is both a great singer and improviser of Indian tunes, and the funk behind him is relentless.
• 6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Jazz & Heritage Stage
JOHN MICHAEL ROUCHELL
John Michael Rouchell performs Saturday, April 27 (12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m., Acura Stage). What's he looking forward to at the Fair Grounds?
• Frank Ocean (5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m. Sat., May 4, Congo Square Stage) "Channel Orange is the shit. I haven't seen him live."
• Roy Ayers (5:40 p.m.-7 p.m. Thu., May 2, Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent) "I never thought I'd get to see him live. It'll be insane."
• Crawfish Monica (Food Area II) "That's a must. I have a weird fiend for that thing. I get that itch. 'Oh, it's that time for butter and crawfish and noodles.'"
• Rosemint iced tea (various locations) "For some reason, sitting in the heat and having a huge sugar rush says Jazz Fest to me."
• Oyster sack, crawfish sack, crawfish beignet (Food Area I) "Replace the oyster with an extra crawfish sack. You got to haggle, but it's the right move to make."
Mark Mullins performs with Bonerama (2:05 p.m.-3:05 p.m. Sat., April 27, Gentilly Stage) and 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?
• Boutte Family Gospel (2:40 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Sat., May, Gospel Tent)
•The Black Keys (5:35 p.m.-5:05 p.m. Sun., May 5, Acura Stage)
•Wayne Shorter (4:05 p.m.-5:25 p.m. Sun., May 5, Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent)
• "It seems like I never get to see, hear or eat as much as I want to at Jazz Fest but I do see a lot of the track and the insides of the backstage trailers. If I can swing it, this is what I'm shooting for this year."
Jamaican jerk chicken (Congo Square) "Afterwards, I like to make time to dig into the amazingly tasty Jamaican jerk chicken."