Jazz Fest: David Byrne, Jon Batiste End the First Weekend on a High Note

[Updated] This first weekend of Jazz Fest will be remembered—to the degree that it will be remembered at all—for its extreme pleasantness. Whether because Festival Productions economized this year because they have their eye on their 50th anniversary in 2019 or because the right big ticket talent simply wasn’t available this year, the headliners were respectable but not spectacular draws. Sunday was the busiest day of the weekend with David Byrne and Jimmy Buffett topping the bill, but the crowds remained manageable throughout. 

Jazz Fest: Janelle Monae Says an Emotional Goodbye to Prince

Jazz Fest 2016  began with Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys, Thibodeaux dressed for Saturday night on Friday morning. In long-sleeved black pearl-snap shirt, black slacks and a black fedora, he played Cajun music the way it has been played for at least 50 years. It’s the sort of sound that Jazz Fest has long maintained as its musical heart, but ironically, there are few of the old guys who can or still do play their Louisiana music the old way. Some have tried to change with the times, some have passed away. 

Jazz Fest: Saturday's Schedule and Picks

Friday was a slightly soft start to Jazz Fest. There was never enough of a crowd to create lines for anything, and only in the last hour did the schedule force any hard choices. Fortunately, the day ended with a Steely Dan set that was as musical as you'd expect, a Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings set that was a lesson in old school R&B and showmanship, and Janelle Monae's emotional tribute to Prince. It was particularly affecting to see someone as self-possessed as Monae in tears onstage as she played "Take Me with U" and "Let's Go Crazy."

Jazz Fest is Re-Reeling in the Years

This year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell is playing to its base. The festival generally caters first to baby boomers, though in recent years it stretched the “jazz and heritage” concept over Phoenix, The Strokes, Maroon 5, Foo Fighters, and Ed Sheeran as well.This year, Jazz Fest only veers into the pop mainstream for Nick Jonas (really?) and a few Congo Square acts (J. Cole, Jazmine Sullivan, and Flo Rida), and spends a lot of time not just reliving but re-reliving the ’60s and ‘70s.

You Don't Know Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe is noticeably still. I’m shown into a hotel room to interview her and she is poised in a chair, at rest but composed. She’s in her trademark black and white—black hat on the back of her head behind her pompadour, black leather motorcycle jacket, black pants with white stripes down the side, and black and white heels. In that outfit, the red broken heart on her white T-shirt and pistachio green nail polish on her toes might as well be searchlights. 

Nile Rodgers and Prince Make Plans for Essence

[Updated] In his book Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny, Nile Rodgers tells the story of his ascent from guitarist in the house band at the Apollo to Chic--the biggest self-contained band of the disco era--to a successful career as a producer in the '80s, when he recorded David Bowie's Let's Dance

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