By this Friday, hundreds of thousands of music fans will have descended upon the Big Easy to partake in the yearly music and food bacchanal that is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Now in its 47th year, Jazz Fest has come a long way since its freewheeling beginnings in April 1970. While it may have been a more intimate affair (only 350 people attended) the talent booked that first year was a sign of greater things to come.
Before there were elaborate stages, musicians performed scattershot around the city, from the hometown hero and legendary clarinettist, Pete Fountain performing on a stream ship, to Woody Allen playing a spontaneous show at Municipal Auditorium and Mahalia Jackson serenading Congo Square, not to mention Duke Ellington, Al Hirt, Fats Domino, The Meters and Clifton Chenier all rounding out the line-up.
While the festival has grown exponentially both in scale and across musical genres, the heart of the event has remained the same: to “promote, preserve and perpetuate” local music and culture. New Orleans has always been a hotbed of musical cross-pollicisation and this year’s line-up encompasses everything from blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, jazz, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass and a special emphasis on Cuban music and culture this year. The festival runs from the 28, 29, 30 of April as well as the 4, 5, 6 and 7 of May.
The line-up for this year is more impressive than ever with huge marquee names like Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Earth Wind & Fire, Usher with The Roots, The Meters, Patti LaBelle, Kings of Leon, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Alabama Shakes, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Herb Alpert and Lani Hall, Harry Connick Jr, Lorde, Snoop Dogg and many more.
For those who can’t make it New Orleans, the local radio station WWOZ 90.7 FM will be live streaming many of the shows throughout the festival. You can listen online here.
Visit the official New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival site for the full line-up and festival details.