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Jazz Fest 2017: performance picks for Saturday, April 29 

click to enlarge Lost Bayou Ramblers | 11:15 a.m., Gentilly Stage

Lost Bayou Ramblers | 11:15 a.m., Gentilly Stage

11:15 a.m.-12:05 p.m.
Lost Bayou Ramblers
Gentilly Stage

Hailing from Arnaudville, bandleader brothers Andre (button accordion, lap steel) and Louis Michot (fiddle, vocals) built a band on the traditions and memories of Les Freres Michot, the Cajun family band into which they were born. What they created with the Lost Bayou Ramblers is a blend of traditional and modern elements and a dance-friendly cacophony of structured punk rock energy and sound. The Ramblers drew a Grammy Award nomination in 2008 for 2007's Live: A la Blue Moon, created the score for the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, collaborated with artists including the Pogues' Spider Stacy and Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano and recently delivered an unforgettable afternoon show at Preservation Hall. The band is at its very best live — stripped down to the basics of timeless Cajun-French melodies and lyrics that allow its stage-shaking rhythms to shine through. The band will release the album Kalenda in August.

12:25 p.m.-1:15 p.m.
Septeto Nacional Ignacio Pineiro
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage

Lead singer Eugenio Rodriguez 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.
ALSO PLAYING AT: 3:20 p.m.-4:15 p.m., Cultural Pavilion Stage

1:55 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
& 4:35 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Telmary y Habana Sana
Cultural Exchange Pavilion

Telmary Diaz, born in Havana and based in Toronto, is a self-described "jazz poet." The rapper/singer has gained renown through her colorful fusion of traditional and contemporary Afro-Cuban and Latin sounds with rap, spoken word, reggae and other stylistic influences. Often switching between styles and aesthetics within the same song or passage, there is a global noisiness to her work, albeit positioned within a Cuban musical framework. Her music videos are colorful, abstract and post-modern, and her music can be described the same way. She discusses her music at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

3:05 p.m.-4:05 p.m.
Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots
Fais Do-Do Stage

Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes was born in Benton, Arkansas, and gained an affinity for French-Creole Louisiana at an early age, influenced in part by his Louisianan mother. The vocalist, accordionist and percussionist focused on zydeco music following a stint in the NFL, and while working as a photographer, television and film actor and a ranger at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. He and his band, the Louisiana Sunspots, perform high-energy Afro-Louisiana roots music, particularly zydeco and Creole.

3:25 p.m.-4:35 p.m.
Amos Lee
Gentilly Stage

Folk and soul singer-songwriter Amos Lee was performing at open mics in his native Philadelphia before a demo CD led him to gigs opening for Norah Jones and Bob Dylan, as well as a contract with Blue Note Records, which has released five of his albums. He since has toured with Elvis Costello, Merle Haggard and Adele. Lee's style of roots music emphasizes technical skill and mood, drawing comparisons with David Rawlings. Touring off the strength of his 2016 album Spirit, which he also produced, Lee infuses more modern R&B sounds into his hybrid style. Spirit features careful arrangements that also work well live, a step outside the intimacy of his other work's singer-songwriter approach.

4:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Tribute to Pete Fountain
Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent

With his clarinet, Pete Fountain brought New Orleans' traditional jazz sound into American living rooms through countless appearances on The Lawrence Welk Show, The Tonight Show and many other television programs. A musical ambassador for New Orleans, Fountain died in August 2016, leaving behind a legacy built on the Warren Easton High School alum's local pride, prolific recordings and warm personality. This musical tribute features clarinetists Tim Laughlin, a protege and friend of Fountain's, with whom he opened the Blue Room at The Roosevelt Hotel in 2009, and Evan Christopher, a California native who pursues early Creole jazz styles. Wendell Brunious, the longtime Preservation Hall trumpeter, and swing-style jazz singer Banu Gibson also perform. Pete Fountain's great-granddaughter, Isabella "Izzy" Harrell, also makes an appearance with the band.

click to enlarge JOHNNYSWIM | 4:35 p.m., Fais Do-Do Stage - PHOTO BY DARREN LAU
  • Photo by darren lau
  • JOHNNYSWIM | 4:35 p.m., Fais Do-Do Stage

4:35 p.m.-5:50 p.m.
JOHNNYSWIM
Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do-Do Stage

Songwriter/guitarist Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano, who is Donna Summer's daughter, met in Nashville and began a songwriting partnership that later resulted in marriage. The duo currently is based in Los Angeles, and a 2014 NPR Tiny Desk concert helped the band reach new audiences. Polished vocals and bright, layered pop sounds feature prominently on the duo's latest album, 2016's Georgica Pond, which was produced by Ramirez. Its close harmonies, busy lyrics and sharp guitar work are matched by the duo's upbeat energy. Georgica Pond is their most ambitious work to date, and it features a host of guest players and instruments, concluding with a great cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game."

click to enlarge Alabama Shakes | 5:15 p.m., Gentilly Stage - PHOTO BY DAVID MCCLISTER
  • Photo by david mcclister
  • Alabama Shakes | 5:15 p.m., Gentilly Stage

5:15 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Alabama Shakes
Gentilly Stage

Lead singer/guitarist Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell, Heath Fogg and Steve Johnson comprise Alabama Shakes, a band that incorporates disparate musical elements into a cohesive roots rock whole. At turns channeling influences from Otis Redding and Amadou and Mariam, Alabama Shakes has combined garage rock and blues aesthetics and organic charm to appeal to critics and audiences alike. The band's 2015 album Sound and Color is a soulful and introspective departure from its debut, Boys & Girls, which featured the hit "Hold On." "Don't Wanna Fight," the lead single on Sound and Color won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and in 2017, the band was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance for "Joe" live from Austin City Limits.

5:15 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Maroon 5
Acura Stage

Bandleader Adam Levine has taken Maroon 5 to new heights in recent years via his role as the lead judge on NBC's The Voice. With Maroon 5, his signature octave-leaping, falsetto vocals and pop sensibilities propelled tunes including "Moves Like Jagger," "Payphone" and "One More Night" to the top of the charts. More recent works include 2017's "Cold." New Orleans-born and New Orleans-based keyboardist P.J. Morton joined the group in the early 2010s, giving the band some local appeal.

5:25 p.m.-6:55 p.m.
Usher and the Roots
Congo Square Stage
Partnering for a three-hour concert at the Philadelphia band's annual music festival last year, The Roots — the versatile hip-hop outfit and current house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon — backed one of the best-selling artists of all time, a giant in modern R&B and a radio staple for nearly 20 years. But, as drummer and bandleader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson explained to The Fader, the band didn't merely play the tracks for Usher, whose output is full of perfectly polished gems. Thompson wanted to find the dirt. "What if Usher came out in 1973?" Thompson said. "When most people think of Usher, they think of the sexiness factor, of women oohing and aahing. Here's the thing: He has an amazing voice. I wanted to use that in its pure form."

  And with that, The Roots and Usher became one unit, with the band using its signature warmth and off-the-cuff adaptability to mesh with Usher's star power, transforming massive club tracks and hyper-compressed radio singles into pure funk. It worked so well they took it on tour.

  The performance joins the growing list of high-profile collaborations on the Congo Square Stage, from Nas and The Soul Rebels linking up in 2017 (5:30 p.m. Friday) to John Legend's soul set with The Roots in 2011. The stage (and the festival) is at its best when it bridges genres and shows audiences — as Thompson said of the band's work with Usher, a key to "understanding the way that the present connects to the past, understanding what the future's job is in maintaining that connection."

5:35 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Jonny Lang
Blues Tent

Fargo, North Dakota-born blues rock guitarist and vocalist Jonny Lang canceled a 2016 Jazz Fest appearance in the Blues Tent, but he's back on the bill this year at the heels of an Experience Hendrix tour, a guitarist-driven celebration of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Lang was a teenager when he released his debut album Lie To Me, and he followed up with several albums, including 2010's Live at the Ryman. His 2013 studio album, Fight For My Soul, was released on his own label and features his touring band. Now 36, Lang has packed a lifetime of experience into his short career, having shared stages with The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Aerosmith and Buddy Guy, and he has weathered personal difficulties and addiction.

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