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New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: Friday, May 4

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OMG. I need a book to tell you how much fun I had in NOLA last weekend and relate all my stories. You can do a lot of livin’ in a weekend. But I need a nap, so let me share a few recommendations for those of you going down this weekend. Today we’ll look at Friday’s lineup.

Acura Stage is a big hole in the ground after accommodating a gazillion Bruce Springstein fans last Sunday. But the one I’d check out Friday is long, tall Marcia Ball. You may have seen here in Chicago, but this wonderful Texas singer and pianist has a lot of friends in New Orleans, so you never know who’ll join her. She’s always a good time. 1:55.

Over at the Gentilly Stage, Bruce Hornsby shows up at 2:05, and Rodrigo y Gabriella with C.U.B.A. is the headliner at 5:35 (just in case you missed them in Chicago.) If you love guitar, you need to see them.

Congo Square’s headliner at 5:35 is Ziggy Marley. What a great setting to see Bob’s son. This man is not resting on his father’s laurels. He would be a great end to the day. Get there earlier at 1:30 to see local jazz great Donald Harrison. I saw him last year at the excellent Treme program at Symphony Center, and you may have seen him on the HBO series, Treme. He combines jazz, Mardi Gras Indians, and rap. Gotta see some locals while you’re there. On this video, it’s Donald playin sax in the spiffy striped jacket. Playing with Terrence Blanchard, who I saw last weekend.

Speaking of jazz, over in the Jazz Tent you can see a member of the amazing Marsalis family. Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra is the headliner at 5:35. He’s the one that plays trombone. Wouldn’t you like to be at the house when that family holds a jam session.

In the Blues Tent at 4:00 it’s local favorite Deacon John, followed at 5:30 by Little Anthony & The Imperials. Yikes. Why did they book this when I was back up north? Little Anthony is the link between Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and Michael Jackson with the Jackson 5. Amazing mini-dramas and a voice that is like the Roy Orbison of soul in its sorrowful depth. He’s gotta be in his 70′s now. I saw him at a oldies show years ago with a lot of big names, and Anthony was the standout. I’d take a chance on this one. Not every day you get a chance to hear him. At 2:30 he will be interviewed in the grandstand. I’m sure he has some stories.

Some of my best musical moments happen in the Economy Hall Tent. Great place for traditional jazz and some second line marching. You’ll get to see Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans at 3:00. She’s usually playing in the street on Royal. Just heard her there a few days ago. It would be great to see her in a concert setting. Fine clarinet player and a real sweetheart. At 5:50 it’s Wycliffe Gordon Quintet: Hello Pops Tribute to Louis Armstrong. Since Louis can’t join us, this would be a fine NOLA musical experience.

It’s hard to go wrong at the Fais Do Do stage. In fact the Carolina Chocolate Drops set there was one of my major highlights of the weekend. The closer this day will be Lil’ Nathan & The Zydeco Bigtimers.

Saw some fantastic Mardi Gras Indians and brass bands at the often under-appreciated Jazz & Heritage Stage. Don’t pass it buy. The Hot 8 Brass Band plays at 5:50.

And if you only get to do one thing that day, be in the Gospel Tent at 4:50 for Chicago’s own Mavis Staples. You haven’t lived till you hear her in that gospel tent. I know from experience. She’ll return to Chicago Sunday afternoon and I get to present her with an honorary Doctorate degree at Columbia College Chicago. Dr. Staples. Has a nice ring. Tell her I said I’ll see her Sunday in a cap & gown.


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