The 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's full schedule has been released, kicking off the countdown to the fest's opening day.
The "cubes," as the scheduling blocks are called, show the stage assignments and performance times for each of the seven days of the festival, which runs April 28-30 and May 4-7 at the Fair Grounds.
The cubes reveal the progressions and stylistic pairings on each stage. They also cause some consternation, as festival fans face tough choices between acts that are scheduled simultaneously.
"We always say, 'Don't lose the forest for the trees,' " Jazz Fest producer/director Quint Davis said during a Tuesday morning news conference in the paddock area of the Fair Grounds. "We have some mighty trees for sure. But today is forest time."
Davis and his team also revealed details about the 2017 festival's focus on Cuba. Festival staffers started working on an extensive presentation of Cuban music and culture two years ago, even before lingering Cold War animosity between the two nations' governments had thawed. At the time, Davis said, "everything we wanted to do wasn't exactly legal."
Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, now a lobbyist and consultant, was enlisted to help facilitate the process. Among other contributions, Davis said, she set up a meeting between festival officials and the Cuban ambassador to the United States.
The festival's team also worked with the State and Treasury departments, as well as the Cuban government, to arrange for 150 or so Cuban musicians to perform at Jazz Fest. An American official at the embassy in Havana helped expedite the visa process.
"We're helping build bridges from Cuba to the U.S.," Davis said. "We're going to shine a light on Cuban music and culture for the whole world."
Bookings range from pop star Pitbull, the Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants, and internationally renowned Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes to a Cuban tobacco farmer and cigar roller.
Indicative of the Cuban component's prominence, the schedule of the Cultural Exchange Pavilion, which will host multiple performances by Cuban acts each day on the Fair Grounds infield, is included for the first time on Jazz Fest's official cubes as the festival's 13th stage.
That pavilion has been expanded, but overall, the map of the 2017 festival grounds looks very similar to the 2016 festival blueprint. The big green bleachers that were introduced at the main Acura Stage and the Congo Square Stage in 2016 will be back this year. The bleachers at Congo Square will be bigger than last year.
As he has since 2013, homegrown New Orleans talent Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews will close the main Acura Stage on the festival's closing Sunday with his hybrid rock/funk band, Orleans Avenue. Kings of Leon will precede Shorty at the Acura Stage.
Meanwhile, the legendary New Orleans funk band The Meters will close the Gentilly Stage at the same time Shorty is performing at Acura. The Meters are the subject of artist Francis X. Pavy's commemorative 2017 Jazz Fest poster.
Jon Batiste, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts graduate who now leads the house band on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," is the subject of the commemorative Congo Square poster by Brandan "B-Mike" Odums. Batiste and his band, Stay Human, will perform on the Acura Stage on Saturday, April 29, at 3:25 p.m., just ahead of Maroon 5.
Georgia jam band Widespread Panic's Thursday, May 4, slot on the Acura Stage is, at 2½ hours, the longest of the festival.
Stevie Wonder, hoping to make up for his rained-out show last year, is allotted two hours and 10 minutes on Saturday, May 6. As he was in 2016, he's scheduled to perform at the same time as Snoop Dogg, who also hopes to make up for his rain-out.
The cubes for each day of what is formally the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell are listed below.