The 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell drew 460,000 festivalgoers to this year’s event, Jazz Fest organizers announced today, as the Festival once again transformed the Fair Grounds Race Course and the entire city into a cultural destination for music lovers from all over the world.
The festival returned for it’s second consecutive year following the Covid-19 pandemic. Following the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2019, it was canceled in 2020 and 2021 with the on-going pandemic then. As always they were a number of great bassists to see including local legends.
Weekend one included Rob Mercurio with supergroup Dragon Smoke, Dennis Crouch (Robert Plant & Allison Krauss), MonoNeon with Nicholas Payton, Kenny Lee (Steve Miller Band), Bill Dickens (Leo Nocentelli) and Sunday included the dual Dumpstaphunk bassists Nick Daniels III and Tony Hall, Brandon Boone (Tedeschi Trucks), and Conrad Lozano (Los Lobos). Weekend two kicked off Thursday and there were back to back performance from Buddy Guy (Orlando Wright) and Santana (Benny Reitveld) on the Festival Stage (formerly Acura). Saturday the festival gates opening was delayed with severe thunderstorms and the first hour of performers were all canceled. Opening the festival stage in the rain was New Orleans legend George Porter Jr. and his band Runnin’ Pardners followed by Anders Osborne with Jimmy Kimmel Live bassist Jimmy Earl also in the rain. The rain continued through the following set of Preservation Hall (Ben Jaffe) and finally before Dead & Co.’s (Oteil Burbridge) 2.5 hour set beginning at 4:30, the rain cleared up.
The average headliner set is typically an hour 40, but for a band like Dead and Co. that played two sets with an intermission. On the third try Dead and Co. finally played Jazz Fest ahead of their tour kick off in L.A. which take place May 19th. Dead and Co. had been scheduled for the two cancelled from Covid. Over on the Gentilly stage at 5:20 was the Lumineers with Byron Isaacs. Sunday’s third act on the Festival Stage was local heroes Galactic with Rob Mercurio followed by Mumford and Sons (Ted Dwane) who brought out annual Jazz Fest closer Trombone Shorty and Jon Batiste who headlined Friday of the second weekend. Since the Neville Brothers retired, Trombone Shorty has been the Festival Stage closer. Maze has been the Congo Square stage closer for a number of years as well. Closing out the Gentilly Stage was the iconic Tom Jones with Dave Bronze.
“The success of Jazz Fest owes everything to the magic of New Orleans and to all of the culture bearers of the state of Louisiana,” said Quint Davis, Producer/Director of the event. “We’re already working on next year’s Festival. Let’s do it again!”
Over its two weekends Jazz Fest presented seven days of the region’s best music—blues, gospel, rock, R & B, traditional and contemporary jazz, Cajun and zydeco, brass band and Mardi Gras Indian music, and much more—along with an unparalleled mix of the greatest American roots and world music. As always, Jazz Fest served up more than 100 different dishes of Louisiana’s famously irresistible cuisine from an only-at-Jazz Fest menu that offers fine-dining quality food in a festival setting. Three acclaimed arts and crafts fairs also showcased the handmade crafts of Louisiana and beyond.
Highlights this year included: An opening day Festival Stage show of back-to-back-to-back all-stars—Big Freedia, Tank and the Bangas, and an exhilarating Jazz Fest debut by Lizzo; farewell tour appearances by both Dead & Co. and Kenny Loggins; Ed Sheeran’s return to the Festival as an international superstar; the “Locals Thursday” guitar legend double bill of Louisiana-born blues hero Buddy Guy and Jazz Fest favorite Santana; reggaeton sensation Farruko, among the many musical highlights from Puerto Rico, as the Festival’s Cultural Exchange Pavilion celebrated the rich culture of the U.S. territory; a jazz funeral in honor of the late, great bluesman Walter “Wolfman” Washington; and a redesigned exhibit tent area named the Bruce Brice Art Village, featuring artists Richard Thomas, Terrance Osborne and Brandan “Bmike” Odums. After being the subject of the 2022 poster but unable to perform last year due to a scheduling conflict, Jon Batiste returned to Jazz Fest for an epic performance on Friday, May 5, featuring members of the St. Augustine Marching Band and the Gospel Soul Children. On the final Sunday, Batiste also made surprise appearances with both Mumford & Sons and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, helping to bring the Festival to a climatic conclusion.
Next year’s event is scheduled for April 26 – May 5, 2024. For the most up-to-date Jazz Fest info, visit www.nojazzfest.com and follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc. is the nonprofit organization that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The Foundation’s proceeds from Jazz Fest are used for year-round activities in the areas of education, economic development and cultural enrichment. Visit http://www.jazzandheritage.org/ for more information on the Foundation.