NEW ORLEANS — As this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's detailed lineup was released Tuesday, a month before the gates open, organizers said they are energized and expecting to build on last year's growth in attendance.
"Last year's festival was really special," festival producer Quint Davis said at a news conference. "It was the first to show attendance going up a notch. We came out of last year with tremendous momentum and after 44 years to be relevant and growing is a tremendous accomplishment."
He added, "This year's festival has reinvigorated and reignited people and the anticipation has taken off again and that's exciting that people are still energized about going to the festival."
That's thanks in part to a lineup over seven days with more than 80 acts on 12 stages including Billy Joel, Jill Scott, Fleetwood Mac, B.B. King, Frank Ocean, Maroon 5, Gary Clark Jr., Earth, Wind and Fire, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and Aaron Neville.
"There is no other festival that really is as broad as this, that's as deep as this, as indigenous as this, and as close to the community as this is," Davis said.
The festival, April 26-28 and May 2-5, released the coveted schedule "cubes," which show what acts are playing when and where.
"Today is the day that the festival really is defined ... by the unequaled talent of New Orleans because today, with the cubes, you see the shows on each stage," Davis said. "And for every so-called national guest there's a New Orleans equal and New Orleans match. No other city and no other festival can match that."
Davis urged fans to dig deep into the schedule to find the "nuggets and gems" and get beyond the festival's surface.
"I mean, I can't wait for Kermit Ruffins and B.B. King," Davis said, "but as you look through your cubes, think about each day, because nowhere else has this level of talent. Dig deep. There are little things buried everywhere like Earth, Wind and Fire in discussion on the Allison Minor stage and The Selvy singers in the gospel tent."
Davis also showed off the 2013 jazz fest poster created by artist James Michalopoulos and featuring Aaron Neville as well as the 2013 Congo Square poster featuring Buckwheat Zydeco created by R. Gregory Christie.
In addition, the festival will spotlight Native American culture, musical talent, crafts and food. "Our celebration will require a reconfiguration of the festival layout. The entire center of the festival, from the flag pole to the food booths, will be turned into a Native American environment, a village if you will," he said.
He singled out native American flue player Robert Mirabal and a Canadian group, A Tribe Called Red – electronic music DJs who do Native American chants over the music.
"It's really a festival within a festival and one of the greatest Native American exhibits that we've very put together," he said.
The Dirty Dozen brass band, which plays the festival on the second weekend, provided music for Tuesday's news conference. Hasting Stewart, a spokesman for Shell's Deep Water division, the festival's presenting sponsor, and members of the New Orleans City Council also were on hand.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: http://www.nojazzfest.com