New Orleans Jazz Fest showcases city's musical 'bloodlines'

Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:02am EDT
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - As crowds flock to New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for performances by Eric Clapton and other international stars, many also have their sights on home-grown talents like Trombone Shorty, Aaron Neville and Irvin Mayfield.

Local musicians have for decades been mainstays of the seven-day event that begins on Friday and stretches across two weekends in the heart of New Orleans.

The 45-year-old Jazz Fest presents hundreds of bands on more than a dozen stages offering not only jazz, but also blues, rock, pop, hip hop, gospel, African, Latin and other styles, all the while spotlighting the distinctive local music that helps define New Orleans and whose future some consider endangered.

"The question that always comes up is, when something gets popular, does it get loved to death?" said Tulane University anthropology professor Nick Spitzer, who is host of the public radio music program "American Routes."

Spitzer said New Orleans' popularity has grown during the years since Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005 as more people have come to appreciate the area's ethnic diversity and its culture.

"New Orleans feels culturally different from the rest of the United States, it has a deeper sense of continuity, tradition and creativity...and that appeals to a lot of people," he said.

Worries about whether New Orleans can retain its distinctiveness from "outside" influences abound among residents who are fiercely protective of the city's landmarks, architecture and cuisine.

But Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis, who helped found the event with Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein, said when it comes to New Orleans' musical traditions, he's not fretting.   Continued...

Musician Dr. John performs during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana in this file photo taken April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/Files