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Jazz Fest 2017: performance picks for Friday, May 5 

click to enlarge Leyla McCalla | 2:20 p.m.-3:20 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Photo by Sarrah Danziger

Leyla McCalla | 2:20 p.m.-3:20 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

12:10 p.m.-12:55 p.m.
Feufollet
Fais Do-Do Stage
The Cajun-focused roots rock outfit Feufollet has been evolving since bandleader Chris Stafford was 12 — so it's no surprise the band's current incarnation, which features singer and multi-instrumentalist Kelli Jones-Savoy, makes music that takes its time getting where it's going. At times, Feufollet sticks to the Cajun dance tunes for which the band first became known, relying on Stafford and Jones-Savoy's mix of accordion, guitar and fiddle skills as the group seeks new frontiers for traditional ideas.

12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.
The Pedrito Martinez Rumba Project featuring Roman Diaz
Cultural Exchange Pavilion
See Thursday for description
Also playing at: 2:55 p.m.-3:50 p.m.

1:35 p.m.-2:35 p.m.
Changui Guantanamo
Cultural Exchange Pavilion
See Thursday for description.
Also playing at: 4:45 p.m.-5:35 p.m. Jazz & heritage stage

2:05 p.m.-3:05 p.m.
Adonis y Osain del Monte
Congo Square Stage
See Thursday for description
Also playing at: 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Cultural Exchange Pavillion

2:05 p.m.-3:10 p.m.
Lake Street Dive
Gentilly Stage
On 2016's sunny, retro pop-fueled Side Pony, Lake Street Dive returned to the same strong formula it used on 2014's Bad Self Portraits. Both albums feature playful, hooky melodies. Both showcase the conservatory-trained band's skill at delivering casually complex arrangements where a sly use of a processor or a knotty harmony deepens rather than distracts from the overall sound. Vocalist Rachael Price takes center stage with her deep, round and almost unnervingly athletic alto and evocative phrasing. The lineup includes bassist Bridget Kearney, drummer Mike Calabrese and Mike Olson on trumpet and guitar, and all members share writing and arranging duties. In April, Kearney released her debut solo album, Won't Let You Down.

2:20 p.m.-3:20 p.m.
Leyla McCalla
Lagniappe Stage
If it's possible for a region to be someone's soul mate, there's a good chance that's what Louisiana has become for Leyla McCalla. The self-described "singing cello lady from NOLA via Haiti and Brooklyn" shares a symbiotic relationship with her adopted home, where French Quarter buskers, traditional jazz bands and Cajun string players have embraced her connections to Caribbean Francophone culture. A veteran of the Grammy Award-winning Caroline Chocolate Drops, McCalla sings and plays cello in a spare, undecorated fashion that fits seamlessly into Cajun country's string tradition. Her voice, whether singing in English, French or Creole, is similarly economical. Still, when she strums her cello on original songs such as "Heart of Gold," her hands have a way of quietly weaving around the strings as if she's conjuring musical ghosts from an unidentifiable time and place. She emerges from a busy year of touring in support of her second critically acclaimed album, A Day for the Hunter, A Day For the Prey.

2:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
Jason Marsalis
WWOZ Jazz Tent
Though he started his career as a drummer, Marsalis has used some of his seemingly boundless energy to focus on vibes and a wide array of mallet instruments. His recent 21st Century Trad Band album includes a return to the "Discipline" theme he's recorded in the past. Different versions have featured Marsalis solo on marimba, glock, tubular bells, xylophone and vibes, although you get the sense he would play drums simultaneously, if he had a few more arms. Other tunes on the album position Marsalis, along with bassist Jasen Weaver and guitarist Cliff Hines, as modern pioneers of ideas drawn from the foundations of traditional New Orleans jazz. His 2016 album Heirs of the Crescent City casts a wider net on New Orleans music history as a source of inspiration.

3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Tim Laughlin
Economy Hall Tent
On his 17th birthday, Tim Laughlin sneaked into Pete Fountain's club in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside and asked if he could meet the clarinetist. They chatted after the show. The still-underage Laughlin returned regularly to sit in a chair on the landing outside the club and listen. Eventually, Fountain and Laughlin graduated from mentor and student to collaborators to friends. In 2016, Laughlin and his dulcet clarinet led mourners out of Fountain's funeral service playing "A Closer Walk With Thee." Though he's become one of the city's most respected interpreters of traditional New Orleans jazz clarinet, Laughlin's tone still bears the marks of his early mentor. "Every note (Fountain) played had a smile on it," Laughlin said in an interview last year. "When he played, you felt good inside." Laughlin's music swings whether he's playing New Orleans standards or original compositions, making him a standout on the city's traditional jazz scene.

3:30 p.m.-4:40p.m.
PJ Morton
Congo Square Stage
When producer, singer and keyboardist PJ Morton moved back home to New Orleans in 2015, his arrival was followed by buzz about his status as a member of Maroon 5. That focus was quickly overshadowed by the energy and creativity he put into achieving his goal here, which was to help the development of local artists through his record label, Morton Records. He kicked off that endeavor by releasing a free mixtape featuring performers he felt synergy with, including Trombone Shorty, Juvenile and 5th Ward Weebie. He followed it up by hosting listening parties and appearing as a guest at other artists' shows and on albums including Terence Blanchard's Breathless. His new album, Gumbo, dropped last week. It features his gospel-trained voice and interesting arrangements that highlight his spot-on grasp of what makes a great contemporary R&B song.

3:45 p.m.-4:55 p.m.
The Deslondes
Lagniappe Stage
Flexibility and an appreciation for communal life are required for those who wish to see America via hitchhiked rides and hopped trains. That explains a lot about the music The Deslondes have made since the group recorded with its former traveling buddy, Alynda Lee Segarra, aka Hurray for the Riff Raff. In the course of one performance, the 9th Ward-based five-piece band is likely to shift from countrified honkey-tonk to an ageless and heart-rending folk spiritual with lilting fiddles, to something like the small-town image-stuffed "Muddy Water" off its forthcoming album, Hurry Home. The band's range can be credited to the group's open-source teamwork. Lead voices shift, as do songwriting approaches, between Sam Doores, Riley Downing and Cameron Snyder.

5:20 p.m.-7 p.m.
Wilco
Gentilly Stage
Grim weather and lightning cut short Wilco's headlining set at Jazz Fest in 2015, when the band squeaked out 10 songs and ended, dangerously so, with guitarist Nels Cline's ecstatic performance on fan favorite "Impossible Germany." The band returned later that year to christen the newly reopened Orpheum Theater as the first rock band to hit its stage after the theater's extensive renovations. It was an appropriate rebirth for Jeff Tweedy and his slippery shapeshifters, who had returned that year with the wildly irreverent Star Wars, followed by 2016's Schmilco, the band's 10th album and one of its most straightforward releases yet. Back at Jazz Fest for a re-do, the band has plenty of time to mine its extensive alt-country and rock 'n' roll catalog and dig into its latest wave of eccentric pop.

5:55 p.m.-6:45 p.m.
Seguenon Kone and Ivoire Spectacle
Jazz & Heritage Stage
For the past decade, drummer, dancer and percussionist Seguenon Kone has provided New Orleans' music and dance scenes with a contemporary link to the city's West African cultural heritage. During Kone's high-energy performances, he usually leads a large drum-and-dance band, whose members merge their roles as musicians and movement-based artists. He's also well-versed in New Orleans jazz, modern Afrobeat and more traditional music from his first home on the Ivory Coast.

6 p.m.-7 p.m.
Nathan and the Zydeco ChaChas
Fais Do-Do Stage
This elder statesman of zydeco accordion has said he got his start at his brother's legendary dance hall, El Sid O's Zydeco and Blues Club in Lafayette. A Clifton Chenier devotee, Nathan Williams' rubboard, drums, keys, guitar and bass-stocked band gets shot through with jolts of Texas blues and Western swing without compromising a lick of soul. While Williams' son, Nathan Williams Jr., has gradually worked his way to the forefront of a younger, more hip-hop-driven style of R&B with his band, the Zydeco Big Timers, the senior Williams keeps his feet planted firmly in the traditional style.

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