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Jazz Fest 2017: performance picks for Friday, April 28 

click to enlarge Helen Gillet | 1:50 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Helen Gillet | 1:50 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

11:25 a.m.-12:25 p.m.
Batiste Fathers & Sons
Acura Stage

Funk-filled R&B rooted in second-line and Mardi Gras Indian rhythms shines in this drum- and percussion-heavy family legacy band made up of members hailing from the Batistes' local music dynasty. Helmed by keyboardist David Batiste Sr., Batiste Fathers & Sons features the patriarch alongside his progeny, drummers Russell and Jamal, drummer and keyboardist Ryan, percussionist Damon and David Batiste's grandson, Christopher. Together, they carry the torch for a legacy that's influenced New Orleans brass, funk and jazz institutions, ranging from the Olympia Brass Band to The Meters.

12:30 p.m.-1:20 p.m.
Kristin Diable & the City
Gentilly Stage

With her 2015 album, Create Your Own Mythology, Baton Rouge-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Diable moved into new territory, opening up her soulful lyrics to a more confessional bent. Combined with expansive, layered arrangements, phrasing that isn't afraid to languish in a moment and guitar work that draws on both the blues and '60s psychedelia, the release earned national praise. "Magnolia," her new single, proves that Diable's adopted hometown of New Orleans inspires her. Proceeds from the song benefit the Roots of Music, Derrick Tabb's after-school music education and life skills program for local kids.

12:40 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Soul Brass Band
Lagniappe Stage

Derrick Freeman corralled a crew of young modern jazz all-stars for his new project, Soul Brass Band, a parade-ready eight-piece group boasting flexible grooves, tight horn arrangements and smart takes on old-school jams and brass band standards. The lineup also features Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown, Terrance Taplin, James R. Martin, Steven "Tuba Steve" Glenn, Danny Abel, Kevin Louis and Aron Lambert, all of whom have contributed to the city's jazz, funk and traditional brass band communities in recent years. Freeman, a drummer and singer with dynamic stage energy and a biting sense of humor, has fronted several funk and soul bands in the decades since he came to New Orleans to study jazz at the University of New Orleans. He also has worked closely with luminaries including Shannon Powell and Walter Payton, experiences that help inform his role in leading a brass band, particularly given that he's not behind his drum kit here, playing snare. Soul Brass Band's debut album is due out this fall.

12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m. & 3:15 p.m.-4:10 p.m.
Septeto Nacional Ignacio Pineiro
Cultural Pavilion Stage

Lead singer Eugenio Rodríguez stands at the helm of the famed Septeto Nacional Ignacio Pineiro, a traditional Cuban son group founded by Ignacio Pineiro in 1927. Pineiro died in 1969, but the group continues to perform his timeless compositions. Pineiro is best remembered for adding trumpet to his son compositions, giving them constant countermelodies that keep the songs moving. There have been many lineup changes over the years, but the group has retained a core sensibility, style and repertoire. Its 2009 U.S. tour was its first visit in 76 years. This year, the group returns with renewed vigor, performing its dance-friendly, exciting repertoire with style, energy and sophistication.

1:40 p.m.-2:40 p.m.
Trumpet Mafia
WWOZ Jazz Tent

What began as a group of trumpeters practicing together in summer amid a seasonal lack of gigs and abundance of heat and humidity has become one of the most creative — and swinging — modern jazz acts in town. Trumpeter Ashlin Parker leads the band, which usually also features Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown, Michael "King Fame" Bradford and Scotty "High Notes" Frock. Guests have included more experienced players like Nicholas Payton. Listeners may hear anything from jazz arrangements of OutKast tunes to standards such as "Caravan."

1:50 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Helen Gillet
Lagniappe Stage

A staple of New Orleans' thriving improvised music scene, Helen Gillet's solo performances showcase a mix of her original cello playing, vocals and loop-based compositions as well as bits and pieces from her extensive repertoire of traditional music. French chansons? Check. Belgian drinking songs? Yep. While her unique instrumentation and Belgian upbringing often are noticed first, Gillet's also a powerful songwriter and an expressive singer capable of moving a crowd to tears, laughter and, well, drinking, all in the course of one set. Keep a tissue in your pocket for the heart-wrenching "Julien" and a beer in your hand for the boozy Francophone numbers.

3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Pine Leaf Boys
Fais Do-Do Stage

Cajun country natives the Pine Leaf Boys delve comfortably into traditional and modern Cajun and zydeco music. While the group's sound ultimately is rooted in its members' Cajun heritage, they're adept at both styles. They also bring serious energy, chops and individuality to what they do. Founder Wilson Savoy, whose parents are Cajun music masters Ann Savoy and Marc Savoy, handles accordion and fiddle duties, though his Jerry Lee Lewis-esque keyboard playing often elicits the biggest cheers. Fiddler Courtney Granger is as much a student of Cajun music history as he is well-versed in the old-school country feel of his solo work. Guitarist Jon Bertrand is prone to technically precise, fast-paced retro rock-outs. Balfa Brothers devotee Drew Simon plays drums and Thomas David plays bass.

3:10 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Leon Bridges
Gentilly Stage

There's a vulnerable innocence at work in much of singer/songwriter Leon Bridges' '60s soul-influenced 2015 album, Coming Home. His voice catches almost imperceptibly at one point on the aching "Better Man" as he asks for another shot at a presumably failed relationship. "Lisa Sawyer," an homage to Bridges' mother, is steeped in glowing yet simple imagery, including the depiction of his mom's childhood on Louisa Street in New Orleans. Details like those — along with the album's warm, analog hum and the muted gospel undertones of Bridges' singing style — make it easy to see why Sam Cooke's name gets invoked in reference to the 27-year-old. But Bridges doesn't limit his influences when it comes to finding sources of inspiration. "Sometimes I need to throw on some (John) Coltrane," he tweeted in March, "and sometimes I need to throw on some Young Thug."

click to enlarge Mokoomba | 3:40 p.m., Congo Square Stage
  • Mokoomba | 3:40 p.m., Congo Square Stage

3:40 p.m.-4:50 p.m.
Mokoomba
Congo Square Stage

Friends and musical collaborators since childhood, this young sextet from Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls has earned global acclaim for its self-described "Afro-fusion" mix of music styles reflecting cultures from across southern Africa. Tonga, the language in which Mokoomba sings and the Zambezi Valley culture in which much of its rhythmic style is based, mixes with soca, soukous (uptempo dance music from the Congos), jazz, dance hall and even doo-wop in Mokoomba's award-winning music. Its latest recording, Luyando, sees the band moving away from the bigger sound of earlier work such as its breakout 2012 album, Rising Tide, toward a more focused, acoustic vibe, spiked with welcome surprises like six-part a capella harmonies.

5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Harry Connick Jr.
Acura Stage

Despite being one of New Orleans' most successful jazz exports, Harry Connick Jr. has long juggled his music career with film and television work that can keep him off the road and out of the studio for extended periods of time. That may be why he often seems so consumed with the spirit and sounds of his city when he returns to perform. A soulful singer whose voice seems custom-made for ballads, Connick also is a strong multi-instrumentalist, a skill he showed off on 2016's That Would Be Me, which also saw him delving into rap (sort of), along with some other surprises. If the past is any indication, he's likely to have former teachers James Booker and Ellis Marsalis in mind when he sits down at the piano at Jazz Fest. He often performs songs from New Orleans' modern jazz repertoire, and it wouldn't be a surprise to hear work from That Would Be Me, and hopefully, at least one tribute to his childhood mentor, Booker.

5:30 p.m.-6:45 p.m.
Blue Lu Barker Remembered
Economy Hall Tent

Baton Rouge based singer-songwriter Quiana Lynell joins Meschiya Lake for this homage to New Orleans jazz and blues legend Blue Lu Barker, whose voice made classics out of tunes such as "Don't You Feel My Leg," which she recorded with her husband, banjoist Danny Barker. While Lake shares Barker's affection for irreverence, Lynell's recent musical tribute to Baton Rouge suggests a sense of place resonates in her work, as it did in Barker's. It's probably not a coincidence (particularly if Shannon Powell is in the drum chair) that Barker's final recording was captured at the 1989 Jazz Fest set she played with Powell and her husband.

6:05 p.m.-6:45 p.m.
Pastor Terry Gullage and the Greater Mount Calvary Voices of Redemption Choir
Gospel Tent

This sprawling choir hails from New Orleans' West Bank, where services feature a live band and plenty of praise-invoked dancing from the 40-plus singers backing Pastor Terry Gullage and the church congregation that makes up his fan base. The long-running choir and its backing band are reliably high-energy and soulful, tapping into New Orleans musicians' long history of looking to the church for creative inspiration.

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