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Friday, May 10, 2019

Smithsonian Folkways releases epic box set celebrating 50 years of New Orleans Jazz Fest



Smithsonian Folkways Releases 5-Disc Epic Box Set of Louisiana Music Legends

Celebrates 50 Years of New Orleans Jazz Fest

Key Musical Legends in the Box Set Include Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Kermit Ruffins, Terence Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Champion Jack Dupree, Buckwheat Zydeco, and more

Coverage from Rolling Stone, The FADER, Billboard, Bandcamp, Newsweek, Relix, LA Times, Jazziz, All About Jazz, and more


For 50 years, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
        Festival
,
        known to Fest-goers as simply
Jazz Fest, has brought the sights, sounds, and
        tastes of the Big Easy to millions of festival goers. In celebration of
        Jazz Fest’s golden anniversary, venerable record label
Smithsonian
        Folkways
is proud to
        present a comprehensive box set of live recordings from the festival’s
        past. The five discs in
Jazz Fest: The New Orleans
        Jazz & Heritage Festival
present the sounds of the festival as you’d hear them while
        wandering across the 145 acres of the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race
        Track in the Gentilly neighborhood.

Though the festival attracts some of
        the biggest rock stars on the planet, the focus of this ambitious new
        box set is on the roots of Louisiana music, which comprise the vast
        majority of the festival’s bookings, from Jazz to Bounce, Zydeco to
        Gospel, Brass Bands to R&B. Carefully selected from countless hours
        of live recordings, the box set includes unreleased material spanning
        the years 1974 to 2016 and features key moments with celebrated artists
        like
Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint (solo and in a duet with Bonnie
        Raitt
), Dr.
        John
, Kermit
        Ruffins
, Terence
        Blanchard
, Preservation
        Hall Jazz Band
, Champion
        Jack Dupree
, and Buckwheat
        Zydeco
, among many
        others. The music is accompanied by a 135-page book, filled with
        exclusive photographs drawn from the archives of the New Orleans Jazz
        & Heritage Foundation, The Historic New Orleans Collection and
        independent photographers, as well as historical essays by journalist

        Keith Spera
and
        author
Karen Celestan, a retrospective of the music heard at
        Jazz Fest by
Robert H. Cataliotti, and in-depth notes by Jeff
        Place
and Huib
        Schippers
of
        Smithsonian Folkways, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation
        archivist
Rachel Lyons, WWOZ’s Dave Ankers, and Jon Pareles of the New York Times.





“We are simply
        delighted with this collaboration,” says Smithsonian Folkways director
        and curator
Huib
        Schippers
.
        “It immediately made sense to us as soon as we started discussing it.
        There is a compelling and beautiful synergy between the first fifty
        years of an iconic music festival and a 70-year old record label
        committed to documenting and celebrating this country’s sound legacy
        and keeping it available in perpetuity, in whatever format, for a
        listenership of 230 million and growing. We are so pleased that we can
        bring some of the amazing sounds and sights and impressions from New
        Orleans to new and familiar audiences.”
 
The box set starts
        with the song “Indian Red,” sung here by The Golden Eagles, a song
        traditionally sung at the opening of iconic Mardi Gras Indian parades
        and gatherings. And it ends, as the festival did for many years, with a
        rousing version of “Amazing Grace.” Between these bookends, five albums
        of music, taken from WWOZ radio recordings and live stage recordings,
        bring us some of the best Louisiana artists to ever grace the stage.
        Each track was selected by a committee of individuals who know the 50 year
        history of the festival intimately. The set recreates the joy and
        spirited energy of Jazz Fest, placing each listener on the grounds of
        the festival, walking between stages, discovering new music and great
        moments. Most of these recordings have never been released commercially
        and sparkle with life.
Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an immersive
        experience, both for listeners discovering the festival for the first
        time and for some of the millions who’ve been there in person.


Champion Jack Dupree & Allen Toussaint

Musical genres roll and flow across the
        Fair Grounds at Jazz Fest, and the varied arrangements of the discs
        showcase this musical diversity.
Disc One strolls
        through the powerful jazz offerings at the festival, with a festive jam
        from New Orleans saxophonist
Donald Harrison Jr and a racing traditional jazz tribute to
        Louis Armstrong from
Kermit Ruffins, plus boogie-woogie piano from Champion
        Jack Dupree
. Discs
        Two and Three
guide
        the listener through Jazz Fest’s many ties to New Orleans blues, soul,
        and R&B, from the legendary
Allen Toussaint to definitive soul singer Irma
        Thomas
, with detours
        to virtuoso guitarist
Snooks Eaglin, and New Orleans soul natives Dixie
        Cups
. Highlights
        include the great
Dr. John on “Litanie des Saints,” and a remarkably
        spirited cover of “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” from
Preservation
        Hall Jazz Band
.
        Gospel deep dives come in
Disc Three with a powerful performance of “Old Rugged
        Cross” from
Irma Thomas, and inspired sets by the Zion
        Harmonizers
and Johnson
        Extension
. Disc
        Four
brings the
        listener to the Cajun and Zydeco Fais-Do-Do stage, with sets from
Buckwheat
        Zydeco
, Boozoo
        Chavis
, The
        Savoy Family Cajun Band
,
        and
Beausoleil, before moving to the mainstage and major live sets from The
        Neville Brothers
and
       
Allen Toussaint & Bonnie Raitt. Disc Five is the most genre-smashing selection,
        with mainstage sets including a surprising cover of “Take the ‘A’
        Train” from blues guitarist
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and a burning “Fire on the Bayou” from The
        funky Meters
. As a
        city that’s always birthed new American music forms, New Orleans’
        hip-hop is paid homage to here with a blazing set from Bounce
        ambassador
Big Freedia.


To thrive for
        fifty years, any festival needs to learn how to fight and survive, and
        some of the story of this box set speaks to these battles for cultural
        survival. The indelible impact of Hurricane Katrina, which shook the
        festival itself and almost led to its cancellation, echoes through
        these selections. New Orleans singer
John Boutté’s impassioned reworking of the song
        “Louisiana 1927” is one of the most powerful moments in the set, and,
        to this day, in the festival’s history.
Sonny
        Landreth
’s “Blue
        Tarp Blues” speaks to the devastation of Katrina as well. Beyond
        Katrina, it’s been a fight to keep the festival going so long with so
        many cultural changes and the economic pressures on festivals today.
        The foundational vision of Jazz Fest that has helped it endure so long
        is a boundless love for the music and people of New Orleans and
        Louisiana. It seems like a simple idea for a festival’s core mission,
        but Jazz Fest’s embrace of little known but locally celebrated musical
        geniuses like
Professor Longhair or Dr. John is still radically out of step with the
        profit-driven world of big music festivals. Though later years have
        seen huge headliners on the main stage, there’s a humility to everyone
        who performs at Jazz Fest, no matter how famous, a recognition that New
        Orleans is the birthplace of American music.


Jazz Fest: The New
        Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
was created by The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage
        Foundation
,
        utilizing its Archive and with the assistance of the Jazz &
        Heritage radio station
WWOZ; the production was made possible through
        the generous support of
The Helis Foundation, a Louisiana family foundation dedicated
        to increasing access to the arts. The Helis Foundation has pledged to
        donate copies of the box set to every branch of New Orleans Public
        Library, ensuring all citizens of New Orleans can access this
        unparalleled collection.
 
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell is a co-production of Festival
        Productions Louisiana, LLC. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Festival
        Productions, Inc.-New Orleans) and AEG Louisiana Production, LLC. (a
        subsidiary of AEG Presents).


*****

  

 

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