01/24/11

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Announces Lineup

Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter and other jazz artists included in JazzFest's usual mix of pop and roots music

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, known by aficionados simply as “JazzFest” recently announced the lineup for the 2011 event, which takes place on seven days over two weekends during April 29 – May 8 at the Fair Grounds Race Course (yes, it can be muddy). Among the headliners are Bon Jovi, Kid Rock, Wilco, The Strokes, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Jones, John Legend & the Roots, and Jamey Johnson. Although there has been considerable grousing in the jazz blogosphere about the inclusion of trendy pop and rock artists, the festival has always been catholic in its programming.

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Ellis Marsalis Barbados
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Last year’s festival featured Simon & Garfunkel, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket and Levon Helm (though at least MMJ and Helm featured various jazz artists and local New Orleans musicians in their shows). Every year, the festival includes pop artists of every stripe on its main stages. What is often overlooked by outsiders is the sheer breadth of the festival, which has twelve separate stages or tents for jazz, blues, gospel, brass bands, zydeco, traditional and other important roots music forms. One could easily attend JazzFest all day, every day and see only top-notch jazz and blues music, going from the jazz tent to the blues tent to the traditional stage and back again. And jazz artists like Sonny Rollins (who will be appearing there this year) have even been known to make an occasional appearance in the Gospel Tent, if the spirit and logistics strike them.

In addition to Rollins, jazz artists booked this year include Donald Harrison, Maceo Parker with Pee Wee Ellis, Ron Carter Trio, Ellis Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Jeremy Davenport, Pete Fountain, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers and many others.

Tickets for the event are now on-sale. Although locals have been known to complain about the ticket prices, neophyte out-of-towners may be surprised by the relative low cost of admission (roughly $45 per day), which is solely general admission, with the exception of a few VIP packages. And a limited number of discount ticket packages including tickets to each day of a particular weekend of the Festival are offered. Ticket packages purchased for all three days of the first weekend (April 29, 30 & May 1) will be $120 ($40 per day), while second weekend packages purchased for all four festival days (May 5, 6, 7, & 8) will be $160 ($40 per day). (Tickets included in each package are day-specific.) Advance single day Jazz Fest tickets are only $45; the gate price is $60. Children’s tickets (ages 2 - 10) are still only $5 and are available at the gate only. Single day tickets to Jazz Fest are on sale by specific weekend, with each ticket valid for a single day’s attendance.

Tickets are available at www.nojazzfest.com and www.ticketmaster.com, at all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (800) 745-3000. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Jazz Fest ticket office located at the New Orleans Arena Box Office. All Jazz Fest tickets are subject to additional service fees and handling charges.

For more information about JazzFest, including schedules, hotel information and various logistics, you can go to their website.

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