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New Orleans Jazz Fest Kicks Off, Includes Sets from Dr. John, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Cheikh Lô, Allen Toussaint

Jazz Fest 2012: Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Cheikh Lô, Carolina Chocolate Drops

The 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, better known as Jazz Fest, gets under way today and runs through this weekend and the next at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. Among the performers set to take the various stage at the festival this year are four artists familiar to readers of the Nonesuch Journal: two New Orleans legends and hometown heroes, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, plus two artists whose unique musical styles will make them feel right at home at Jazz Fest, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Cheikh Lô.

Carolina Chocolate Drops and Cheikh Lô have both arrived in Louisiana a day before their official Jazz Fest sets, with the Chocolate Drops in New Orleans to perform at The Temple tonight as part of the Backbeat Jazz Fest series. Lô is in Lafayette for the Louisiana International Festival both today and Sunday and heads to the New Orleans Jazz Fest on Saturday afternoon to play the Congo Square Stage. This marks the end of his North American tour of music from his latest album, Jamm. Carolina Chocolate Drops play their official JazzFest set on the Fais Do-Do Stage, also on Saturday afternoon, and continue their own tour featuring music from their new album, Leaving Eden.

Dr. John has fused New Orleans R&B, rock, and the Mardi Gras party spirit to come up with his own brand of "voodoo" music that's sure to receive a hometown welcome this weekend. And there's much to celebrate, given how well his latest album, Locked Down, has been received since its release on Nonesuch earlier this month. Dr. John gives the locals a treat with a Saturday night show at Tipitina's before hitting the festival's main stage Sunday afternoon, just before headliner Bruce Springsteen is set to close the first weekend's festivities.

There's more music-making in New Orleans from Dr. John next week as he joins Trombone Shorty, Irvin Mayfield, Marcia Ball, Kermit Ruffins, and others for a New Orleans Musicians for Obama fundraising concert at Generations Hall, hosted by Alfre Woodard, Tuesday night. He returns to the Fair Grounds next weekend join the Warren Haynes Band as a special guest for a performance in the Blues Tent next Saturday.

Allen Toussaint, who released The Bright Mississippi, an album exploring the work of his New Orleans forebears, on Nonesuch in 2009, performs at Snug Harbor this Saturday night and then is on tap to play two sets for Jazz Fest's second weekend, hitting the Main Stage next Saturday afternoon and then joining the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the Gentilly Stage for a celebration of its 50th anniversary, along with Ani DiFranco, Jim James, Steve Earle, Trombone Shorty, and Bonnie Raitt, as well as Wendell Eugene & Lionel Ferbos and Jazz Fest creator George Wein.

For all of the festival details, go to


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