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Jazz Fest Artists Spotlight: New Orleans Heavyweights

Three of New Orleans best acts, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars perform at this year’s Jazz Fest.

In New Orleans, our musicians are our greatest asset. They are our role models and part of what makes us fall in love with New Orleans every day, which explains why we get as excited to see local talent as we do international rock stars. Here are three of New Orleans’ favorite musicians. See them play at Jazz Fest and we dare you to not fall head over heels.

Rebirth Brass Band

Rebirth at Brooklyn Bowl (Photo courtesy of

Thanks to the popularity of the HBO series Treme, true New Orleans culture has been thrust to the forefront of everyone’s minds. Across the U.S., people have learned about and embraced gumbo, jazz funerals, the Mardi Gras Indians, and, of course, the music. No local group seems to have benefited from this national spotlight more than Rebirth Brass Band, who earned a long-deserved Grammy award for their talents and efforts. Locally, Rebirth has long been a staple of the local music scene, starting up in the early 1980’s and having now established themselves as the undisputed kings of the Tuesday night music scene with regular appearances at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street. Thanks to the group’s fusion of traditional New Orleans brass band music with funk, jazz and many other styles, there isn’t a soul at a Rebirth show that can resist the urge to dance. I know I can’t! Get your dancing shoes and head out to see Rebirth at Jazz Fest on Sunday May 6 at 6:45 p.m. at the Congo Square Stage.

Red Streetcar

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Big Sam (Photo courtesy of by Jerry Moran)

Fronted by Sammie “Big Sam” Williams, Big Sam’s Funky Nation is about the funk. We’re talking peel-the-paint-off-the-walls funk. “He’s got the chops of Louis, the charisma of Dizzy, the oomph of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band,” says Rachel Levitan of Formerly of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam and his trombone deliver solos that get the crowd on its feet. The band is tight, but Big Sam leaves plenty of room for improv and excitement. Making up the Funky Nation with Big Sam are Andrew Baham on Trumpet/Vocals/Keys, Andrew Block on Guitar, Chocolate MILK on Drums, and Eric Vogel on Bass. Catch Big Sam’s Funky Nation at Jazz Fest on Saturday, May 5 at 1:55 p.m. on the Congo Square Stage.

Voice of the Wetlands AllStars

Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars (Photo courtesy of

The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars is a “Louisiana Supergroup” fronted by Tab Benoit on guitar and lead vocals, Dr. John on piano and vocals, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (who may take the stage once again in a suit-o’-pretty), along with Anders Osborne, Waylon Thibodeaux, Johnny Sansone and Cyril Neville. The rhythm section is equally super, with George Porter Jr. on bass, Stanton Moore on drums, and even Johnny Vidocavich has been known to sit in on drums. Tab Benoit put the group together in early 2005, to make an album whose proceeds would benefit wetlands restoration. The storm added to the group’s sense of urgency, so they continue to do shows to raise money. VOW AllStars will take the Acura Stage at 3:25 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.

Ed Branley

This is part of a series covering the artists on the 2012 New Orleans Jazz Festival lineup. Read about all the other awesome Jazz Fest acts we’ve featured.

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