For 50 years, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, known to Fest-goers as simply Jazz Fest, has brought the sights, sounds, and tastes of the Big Easy to millions of festival goers. In celebration of Jazz Fest’s golden anniversary, venerable record label Smithsonian Folkways is proud to present a comprehensive box set of live recordings from the festival’s past. The five discs in Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival present the sounds of the festival as you’d hear them while wandering across the 145 acres of the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Track in the Gentilly neighborhood.
Though the festival attracts some of the biggest rock stars on the planet, the focus of this ambitious new box set is on the roots of Louisiana music, which comprise the vast majority of the festival’s bookings, from Jazz to Bounce, Zydeco to Gospel, Brass Bands to R&B. Carefully selected from countless hours of live recordings, the box set includes unreleased material spanning the years 1974 to 2016 and features key moments with celebrated artists like Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint (solo and in a duet with Bonnie Raitt), Dr. John, Kermit Ruffins, Terence Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Champion Jack Dupree, and Buckwheat Zydeco, among many others. The music is accompanied by a 135-page book, filled with exclusive photographs drawn from the archives of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, The Historic New Orleans Collection and independent photographers, as well as historical essays by journalist Keith Spera and author Karen Celestan, a retrospective of the music heard at Jazz Fest by Robert H. Cataliotti, and in-depth notes by Jeff Place and Huib Schippers of Smithsonian Folkways, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation archivist Rachel Lyons, WWOZ’s Dave Ankers, and Jon Pareles of the New York Times.