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Apr 11th, 2014

Jazz Fest Weekend 1 Previews

_DSC5487Royal Teeth - Gus Escanelle

 Friday, April 25

Laura Mvula
Acura Stage; 1:35 - 2:35 p.m.

With her visceral and sophisticated sound, Laura Mvula has blazed on to the contemporary pop scene with jazzy neo-soul songs that capture your attention immediately. Birmingham-born Mvula was hailed as the “The Voice of 2013” by The Evening Standard. Her debut album, Sing to the Moon, released in the US in May of last year garnered her tons of critical attention. Mvula was honored with two MOBO awards in 2013 for Best Female Act and Best R&B/Soul Act. This February, she performed the single “Heroes” with Tinie Tempah at the BAFTA Awards. Her high profiled performances have only just begun as, this March; she also took the stage at the Royal Commonwealth’s High Commissioners’ Banquet in London. Mvula has also been nominated for British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artists for the 2014 BRIT Awards. A Birmingham Conservatoire graduate, she was recently named one of the Alumna of the Year for her accomplishments.  Her classical training is evident in her music, infused with influences from her Caribbean background. –Nicola Jones

Congo Square Stage; 1:40 - 2:35 p.m.

As someone who has had the pleasure of meeting a couple of these strapping gentleman, rest assured that they are as charming as their music is dance inducing. The best part about the Brass-a-Holics is that they are not just a brass band – while they employ the same elements of a brass band (horns section), they refuse to limit themselves to traditional music of the genre. The Brass-a-Holics pride themselves on their ability to cross boundaries and fuse their “DC go-go” sound with hip-hop, rock n’ roll, and anything (even Katy Perry’s “Roar”) else that can help them connect to their audience. When you see them, it’s evident they have perfected this process. The result is one of the most unique and energetic live shows happening in NOLA today. With the help of friend and mentor Irvin Mayfield, the band released their first album I Am a Brass-a-Holic in October. Although the studio presented new challenges compared to the well-oiled machine that is the Brass-a-Holics live show, the album still manages to harness the energy and musical variety the band is known for from the jazzy R&B stylings of “Hey Baby” to the hip-hop infused “Get it In” and the more traditional sounding “Alien Love Factory.” The most popular place to catch these guys is either at their residency at Publiq House on Thursdays or down on Frenchmen where they are known for putting it down with Mannie Fresh at the Maison. You may have caught them last year at Jazz Fest where, per usual, they drew a crowd that signified the depths of the BAH Nation. And when they aren’t prompting our city to “get it in,” they’ve been known to spread the love in DC, New York, Miami and more. This will be one of the best shows you can catch all weekend. Start your Jazz Fest weekend off right by admitting the inevitable: I am a Brass-a-Holic.  –Lauren Adam

Sasha Masakowski
Lagniappe Stage; 2:20 - 3:30 p.m.

You’d know her voice anywhere. A gem of the New Orleans jazz scene, young, yet already established vocalist Sasha Masakowski has become a sought-out entertainer and will be performing in her fifth Jazz Fest this year. Her musical roots are solidly in place thanks to her father, the local jazz guitar legend Steve Masakowski, her piano-playing mother and her bass-strumming younger brother. The Masakowskis are a true New Orleans musical family for the history books, and Sasha is creating her own niche with rich, forward-thinking projects that are all her own. She can often be heard playing with other contemporary jazz musicians like Cliff Hines, a frequent partner in crime with whom she has found a unique musical connection that they have both explored and enriched over the years. Besides appearing on countless collaborations with other artists, Sasha has also released her own recordings, Musical Playground (2009) and Wishes (2011), recorded as Sasha Masakowski & Musical Playground. With all of her former and current projects to use for inspiration, her performance at Jazz Fest this year is not one to be missed.  –Carolyn Heneghan

Acura Stage; 5:10 - 7 p.m.

There’s not much to be said about Latin-influenced super group Santana that hasn’t been written in the band’s storied, almost fifty year career spanning decades of musical influences and revolutionary moments. From their storied breakthrough at the Woodstock festival in the sixties, to their experimental deviations in the seventies, the band was easily one of the landmark sounds of the era. Started in 1967 by then dishwasher and ambitious lead guitarist Carlos Santana, percussionist Marcus Malone, drummer Rod Harper, bassist David Brown, and vocalist Gregg Rolie, the then Santana Blues Band were told they would never make it in the San Francisco music scene playing their now iconic Latin-Jazz Fusion. Undeterred, Carlos and the gang continued to strive, rising to commercial success before falling on hard times in the eighties and disbanding for an unprecedented seven years. However, after their induction in to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1998, things began to pick up for the band with the release of Supernatural which topped the Billboard 200 that same year and Shaman three years later. Since then the band had a slew of successful releases with their newest release, Corazon, set to be released in May. Santana’s first Spanish language release, it has been a labor of love for Carlos and the band, and an even deeper return to their Latin-inspired roots. Voted number twenty of Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists”, Carlos Santana never disappoints with excellent musicianship and infectious beats. –Craig Magraff

Public Enemy
Congo Square Stage;  5:45 - 7 p.m.

Formed in 1982 during the genesis of the crack epidemic and Reganomics, the Hip Hop group, Public Enemy, consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, DJ Lord, The S1W group, Khari Wynn and Professor Griff, found plenty of fodder for their first four albums, all certified gold or better. Few rap acts can boast such success or critical acclaim especially with such controversial and politically charged lyrics. Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, Carlton Douglas Ridenhour aka Chuck D began the group by polishing his rhymes while delivering furniture for his father’s business and teaming up with fellow Adelphi University student and co-worker William Drayton, Jr. better known now as Flavor Flav. After teaming up with then inexperienced producer Rick Rubin and opening up for the Beastie Boys during their Liscense to Ill-era and fame, their third album, Fear of a Black Planet, contains the megahit “Fight the Power” chosen as the theme song for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The album was also selected for preservation by the Library of Congress and is their most successful album to date. Known for the raucous stage shows and Flavor Flav’s antics, Public Enemy promises to be one of the most colorful shows of the opening weekend. –Craig Magraff

Saturday, April 26

NOCCA Jazz Ensemble
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent; 11:15 - 12 p.m.

A regular group appearing in the WWOZ Jazz Tent year after year, the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble provides a unique look into the progression and future of jazz. These young, up-and-coming musicians are getting their feet wet in front of all of the people crowded in the Jazz Tent as they perform everything from traditional and New Orleans jazz to modern and progressive jazz. While they may be less experienced on stage than other musicians that will take the stage before and after them, the members of the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble are nothing short of extremely talented musicians who are bound to make their way into the New Orleans jazz scene as they grow and mature in their music careers. It’s an exciting set to catch full of well-chosen music played by musicians with a fresh perspective on the standards and flourishes of greatness as can be seen in many young, budding musicians. This may seem out of the ordinary, but it’s a great set to catch if you can make it over in time. –Carolyn Heneghan

Davell Crawford
Congo Square Stage; 12:55 - 1:50 p.m.

Having performed since the age of seven, Davell Crawford has truly come to embody the music he plays. Dubbed as the “Prince of New Orleans,” Crawford has traveled across the country and around the world delivering his blend of New Orleans style piano, blues, R&B, and a hailstorm of other styles as he furiously wails on the piano and soothes the crowd with a voice of gold. Having released his latest album My Gift To You in 2013, his sixth album to date, the artist has expanded his enormous repertoire even more. Through working with the likes of other local players such as Dr. John, Nicholas Peyton, Big Freedia, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, and more on this album Crawford again exemplifies his outstanding musicianship and collaborative ability that have taken so many New Orleans pianists far in the past. Fueling his exciting live performances with his own wild charisma on the keys and outstanding chops, the soul of Crawford’s voice brings it all together in a beautiful artistic display of generosity as the smile on his face emanates into the audience.  Gaining his knack for music early in life, Davell was born into a great New Orleans tradition, as his grandfather was none other than R&B singer James “Sugar Boy” Crawford. Through his upbringing in New Orleans and the natural talent he has displayed since he first sat down at a piano at the age of two, Davell Crawford has come to embody New Orleans style piano in a new age in his own brilliant way. –Chris DiBenedetto

Jeremy Davenport
Zatarain's/WWOZ Jazz Tent; 2:50 - 3:40 p.m.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri into a musical family, jazz trumpeter Jeremy Davenport was immediately baptized into a world of music. While his father played with the St. Louis Symphony, young Davenport would tag along to study and play, soon sparking a friendship with jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. This would eventually lead to an introduction to Harry Connick Jr. and their combined urging for him to move to New Orleans; he eventually joined Harry Connick Jr.’s touring band for six years. After releasing three albums, he most recently released We’ll Dance ‘Til Dawn in 2009 with Basin Street Records. A staple on the jazz scene in New Orleans, Davenport can routinely be found at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. In a lounge named after him, he blares his trumpet every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a regularly jubilant crowd drinking gorgeous hand crafted cocktails. Using a mix of vocals and trumpet, he is exuberant on stage, harkening back to a very different era. –Nicola Jones

Kermit Ruffins    
Congo Square Stage; 2:15 - 3:15 p.m.

You’re always guaranteed to receive an over the top performance from bandleader, singer, and songwriter Kermit Ruffins. He’s a well-known music ambassador to the city with musical influences by New Orleans legend Louis Armstrong and New York jazz singer Cab Calloway. While developing his music career, countless performance tapes were watched to perfect his performances and inspired to break away from typical jazz musicians. After leaving Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit formed the Barbeque Swingers, a jazz group combining his love for music and food. You can enjoy Kermit’s famous barbeque served with red beans and rice after his shows every Thursday night at Vaughan’s Lounge on Dauphine Street. With his extensive music career, Kermit has also taken his talents from the stage, to owning his own club and soul food restaurant Kermit’s Tremé Speakeasy. When he’s off stage, you can catch Kermit playing himself as a recurring character on HBO’s “Tremé”. Kermit continues to delivers charisma and caters to his audience by providing feel good music for the soul and those feet that can’t keep still! –Sionne Rushing

Big Freedia
Congo Square Stage; 3:45 - 4:35 p.m.

While there are plenty of Jazz Fest acts representing the old guard of New Orleans music, few artists represent new NOLA more than Big Freedia and her high-energy sissy bounce music.
Freedia has spent the past year riding a wave of twerking popularity brought on by the antics of Miley Cyrus, while simultaneously distancing herself from whatever dance it is that Miley’s doing. “To see someone else come in, trying to jump on something that’s hot: It’s very offensive to me, and it’s very offensive to my audience who know where twerking comes from,” Freedia recently told Out Magazine.  For Jazz Fest, she brings her off-the-wall stage show, oversized personality and mission to convert the world “one twerker at a time” back to her home, the epicenter of booty poppin’ music. Though I doubt she’ll find many people in the crowd in need of a conversion. –Alex Galbraith

Robin Thicke
Congo Square Stage; 5:25 - 7 p.m.

Canadian-American R&B singer Robin Thicke has been attempting to make a major splash on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2002. As both Robin Thicke and the singular Thicke, he has released several albums that mixed throwback soul and funk vibes with tender bedroom jams and developed a cultish following. But where contemporary Justin Timberlake rode that wave to massive mainstream success, Thicke has been left to toil in relative obscurity (outside of R&B fans, that is). That all changed with the release of “Blurred Lines,” 2013’s song of the summer. Suddenly, Thicke was at the center of pop music, releasing controversial videos and taking part in scandalous stage shows. Of course, Thicke was named “Sexist of the Year” by the End Violence Against Women Coalition for his efforts. He’s also fighting a court case against the Marvin Gaye estate due to his breakout single’s similarity to “Got to Give It Up.” However, we doubt Jazz Fest crowds will care much about Thicke’s checkered history once the propulsive “Everybody get up!” and Hey Hey Hey’s start. –Alex Galbraith

Sunday, April 27

Royal Teeth
Samsung Galaxy Stage; 12:45-1:45

New Orleans has always been the place for indie artists to prosper. With members hailing from cities across Southern Louisiana, Royal Teeth came together in New Orleans to add musical legacy to the city. Their music tells a story about entering a world into the unknown and wants listeners to visualize the exploration. Breaking away from the typical locally based group, you won’t find any New Orleans references in the lyrics. Their hit song “Wild” sparked listeners’ interest above and beyond Louisiana. From then on the young musicians had tour dates booked across the country. Although you won’t hear jazz band instruments on the album, the New Orleans connection is within their upbeat music. If you enjoy positive vibes, feeling happy while dancing and listening to music, then Royal Teeth is the band to add to your collection. –Sionne Rushing

Rebirth Brass Band
Congo Square Stage; 1:55-3:05

Besides food, festivals, and fun, New Orleans is also widely known for its music. The Grammy Award winning Rebirth Brass Band has been the definition of legendary music in the city for over 31 years. Bass drummer Keith Fraizer along with trumpeter Kermit Ruffins formed the group along with other members from their high school marching band. The guys started out as street performers and since then have graced concert and festival stages allover worldwide.  Locals and other visitors can catch them performing nightly at Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street in the Uptown neighborhood. Not only does Rebirth have 11 notable albums, but they’ve also made an appearance on the hit HBO show “Tremé,” about life in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. The band has developed a signature sound that exudes the essence of true New Orleans soul. –Sionne Rushing

Chocolate Milk
Congo Square Stage; 3:35-4:40

If you’re an R&B old school New Orleanian then you’ve definitely boogied down to the funk and soul sounds of Chocolate Milk. It’s been 31 years since the band performed together but their essential grooves still remain a part of households. With hits such as “Girl Callin’” and “Groove City,” concert-goers will have no choice but to sing and dance along. Prior breaking into the R&B charts, the group performed back up for Pattie Labelle and New Orleans’ soul queen Irma Thomas. Chocolate Milk can be compared to Kool and the Gang, the Ohio Players, Earth, Wind, & Fire to name a few, but none can amount to the hard funk and horns of their music. This reunion is definitely a performance to look forward to leaving you thirsty for more. –Sionne Rushing

Vampire Weekend
Samsung Galaxy Stage; 5:20-7:00

These darlings of the indie circuit had a big year in 2013. Rolling Stone named Modern Vampires of the City the best album of the year and, whether you agree with that or not, you have to admit their blend of afro-pop, indie, and punk is not only catchy but innovative. Throughout the last 5 years, the band has found popularity in tracks like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” off the self-titled Vampire Weekend (2008), “Cousins” and “Giving up the Gun” off Contra (2010). However, for lovers of the genre, Modern Vampire of the City doesn’t have a bad track. “Step,” “Don’t Lie,” and “Diane Young” are all prime examples of the songs where the guys have preserved their light-hearted pop sound without getting stale. Appropriately, they have also done outstanding covers Springsteen’s “I’m Goin’ Down” (HBO’s “Girls” second season soundtrack) as well as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” If by some stroke of luck the stars align, their set list might include one of these gems as a tribute to their fellow Fest performers. Don’t miss your chance to see VP on their seemingly endless journey to the top. –Lauren Adam

Eric Clapton
Acura Stage; 5:25-7;00

Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton is playing Jazz Fest this year. That’s right; no need to go back and make sure you read it right. His career started in 1963 when he joined The Yardbirds, and from the very beginning, his guitar talents and playing style not only stood out but was noticed. After leaving The Yardbirds, Clapton’s next great success was when he joined Cream, and along the way, he somehow found time for a solo career with hits like “Tears in Heaven,” “Layla,” and “Change the World” to name a few. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. This is a man who is not only considered a rock and roll legend but he, furthermore, set the bar for guitarists everywhere. Clapton’s sound came out and paved the way for something new. He was slow and edgy, and his cover of “Cocaine” gave a younger audience something to cling to. For the 20-something generation, this is a man who was grandfathered in to our music collection. Everything that came before our time, along with hits that Clapton continues to put out to this day. There’s something for everyone in Clapton’s collection. Whether you’re in love with one of his many covers such as “I Shot the Sheriff” or his many classic originals, there’s at least one song for everyone. It’s rare that one man can reach across generations of fans, but Eric Clapton does just that.
–Lee Pointer

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