The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, or simply “Jazz Fest,” as it’s become known, is more than a gathering of musicians performing for a crowd. Since its founding, it’s become a cultural event; an annual celebration of the unique music, art, food, and people of New Orleans and beyond, with acts ranging from jazz, rock, pop, country, blues, and more.
To celebrate the festival’s fiftieth year, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has announced the May 10 release of Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s a 5-disc box set presented as a large-format, 12″x12″ book. Inside its 136 pages are numerous photos spanning the festival’s history, plus many essays and discographical annotations. There’s a forward from festival founder George Wein, as well as notes from Jeff Place and Huib Schippers from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings; New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation archivist Rachel Lyons; WWOZ’s Director of Content, Dave Ankers; and The New York Times‘ Jon Pareles.
The music promises to be equally impressive, with previously unreleased recordings from the vault of WWOZ Radio and beyond. In all, it totals up to 300 minutes of music and spans the years 1974 to 2016. Disc 1 spotlights jazz, while Discs 2 and 3 feature R&B, blues, and gospel. Disc 4, meanwhile, celebrates Zydeco, Cajun and other New Orleans regional music, and Disc 5 brings the funk, along with rock, blues, and hip-hop. Among the legendary artists present are Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, The Dixie Cups, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint (appearing solo and with Bonnie Raitt), Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dr. John, Terence Blanchard, and Trombone Shorty, whose “One Night Only” is now available as a digital single (see below).
So celebrate a half-century of a New Orleans institution with Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, available May 10 from Smithsonian Folkways. You can find the links and a full track listing below. To whet your appetite for the set, check out the Trombone Shorty’s “One Night Only,” as well as Irma Thomas’ “Ruler of My Heart” and The White Eagles’ “Big Chief Got the Golden Crown,” available from the Spotify player below.
10. Louisiana 1927 – By John Boutte
10. Litanie des Saints / Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya / I Walk on Gilded Splinters – By Dr. John
11. I Can Go to God in Prayer – By Johnson Extension
11. Double-Eyed Whammy – By Tommy Ridgley