Jazz Fest: Thursday's Best at the Fest and Clubs

The second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell starts today with Locals Thursday. For the first time, locals actually get a discount on tickets—$50 down from $80 at the gate with no fees. Festgoers can get up to two locals tickets at ticket booths at the Fair Grounds with a Louisiana driver’s license, a Louisiana ID card, or college ID from a Louisiana institution if it has a photo on it.

Jazz Fest: Catching Up with Smoking Time Jazz Club

The Frenchmen Street swing/trad jazz scene can sometimes feel like it wants to be boldly rooted in tradition, but musical archaeology doesn't fill the tip jar. The Smoking Time Jazz Club does the work. They declare in all-caps on their website, "When we play the greats like Louis, Duke, Jelly, Bessie or Billie, it's because they really were geniuses," but dig deeper than that for source material for their nine albums, the most recent being last year's Take Your Time and Fly

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: Catching Up with Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet’s Jazz Fest shows present a fascinating challenge. How does she represent the breadth of her musical interests in one solo 55-minute set? She succeeds largely by gesturing toward some parts of it—her improvised music side—while pulling her interests in pop music and art songs together in cello-based, loop-heavy compositions that build efficiently with a sense of drama. Before she’s finished, Gillet displays musical and artistic gravity, but her sense of humor and fun is also evident.

Jazz Fest: Saturday's Best at the Fest and the Clubs

Saturday at Jazz Fest, Rod Stewart tags in for Aretha Franklin. I give Stewart credit for aging into the Great American Songbook--even if I don't want to hear him sing those songs--but when he last played Jazz Fest in 2007, he closed with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy." That might be a question that the then-62 Stewart wondered in his heart of hearts, but making it his final statement/question to the audience made him seem desperate and shallow.

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