The 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s first Friday is something of a soft opening. Super-smooth jazz-pop ensemble Steely Dan closes out the main Acura Stage with a set of agreeable FM radio chestnuts. Janelle Monae lights up the Congo Square Stage with contemporary R&B from the future, and jam-band guitar hero Warren Haynes rides with Gov’t Mule at the Gentilly Stage.

Don’t miss:

Shannon Powell’s Smokey Johnson tribute, 12:20 a.m.-1:10 p.m., Blues Tent.

Drummer Powell personifies the spirit of the historic Treme neighborhood; he is fluent in every type of New Orleans rhythm, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He’ll salute the late Smokey Johnson, one of the greatest New Orleans drummers. (Note: This set was originally scheduled to open the Blues Tent. Now guitarist Mason Ruffner is up first on Friday at 11:15 a.m.; Powell and Alvin “Youngblood” Hart were moved to later slots to replace Eric Lindell, who had to cancel.)

Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans, 12:30 p.m.-1:25 p.m., People’s Health Economy Hall Tent

For many years, clarinetist and vocalist Doreen Ketchens and her family band have entertained passers-by at the intersection of Royal and St. Peter streets in the French Quarter. They’ve also traveled all over the world with their irresistible medley of hot jazz, popular songs and everything in between, all illuminated by Ketchens’ horn and gusto.

Matt Lemmler, 2:50 p.m.-3:45 p.m., Zatarain’s / WWOZ Jazz Tent

Stevie Wonder won’t be at Jazz Fest in person until the second weekend, but Matt Lemmler will showcase Wonder’s songs on opening day. Lemmler is a skilled jazz keyboardist, composer and arranger. On his brilliant 2001 album “Portraits of Wonder,” he reimagined such Wonder classics as “Higher Ground,” “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Ribbon in the Sky” in a jazz context. His band at Jazz Fest includes crackerjack drummer Brian Blade.


The festival’s first Saturday concludes with three heavyweights on the main stages. Pearl Jam returns to rock the Acura Stage. The mercurial Van Morrison sings at the Gentilly Stage. And reborn neo-soul singer Maxwell, who will be back in town this summer for the Essence Festival, closes out the Congo Square Stage.

Don’t miss:

Leo Nocentelli, 12:20 p.m.-1:10 p.m., Acura Stage

Three years ago, Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli started sharing stages with Parliament and Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, finding common ground between their two styles of funk. Worrell is suffering from cancer, but plans to be onstage at Jazz Fest with Nocentelli and a band that includes saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and Galactic drummer Stanton Moore. Look for them to alternate Meters classics (“People Say,” “Fiyo on the Bayou,” “Re-form”) with P-Funk favorites like “Flashlight” and “Mothership Connection.”

Tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, 4:10 p.m.-5:20 p.m., Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent

Dr. Michael White is an especially literate and lyrical traditional jazz clarinetist. Ragtime/stride pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson spent a dozen years leading the “Prairie Home Companion” house band. Pianist Henry Butler’s skill set includes funk and R&B as well as fleet-fingered jazz. They join forces to revisit the catalog of Jelly Roll Morton, a New Orleans jazz founding father.

Cha Wa featuring Papa Mali, 4:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m., Jazz & Heritage Stage

Cha Wa is a cross-cultural Mardi Gras Indian funk band led by drummer and Berklee College of Music graduate Joe Gelini, Big Chief Irving “Honey” Banister of the Creole Wild West, and Monk Boudreaux’s grandson, J’Wan Boudreaux, spyboy of the Golden Eagles. On “Funk ’n’ Feathers,” their recent debut album, they convincingly revive classics from the Mardi Gras Indian canon. At Jazz Fest, swamp-funk guitarist Papa Mali joins in.


The Red Hot Chili Peppers will likely stamp a big, loud, concluding exclamation point on the festival’s first weekend at the Acura Stage. Simultaneously, pop star Nick Jonas elicits screams and swoons at the Gentilly Stage while J. Cole raps at the Congo Square Stage. In the Jazz Tent, trumpeter Terence Blanchard & the E-Collective follow the Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter Duo.

Don’t miss:

New Orleans Suspects, 12:20 p.m.-1:10 p.m., Acura Stage.

The all-star New Orleans Suspects evoke a Big Easy version of the Allman Brothers Band. Founding bassist Reggie Scanlan, best known for his 33-year stint with the Radiators, is retiring from the Suspects after Jazz Fest. He’s leaving the band in the hands of longtime Neville Brothers drummer Willie Green; saxophonist Jeff Watkins, who led the James Brown Band and Joss Stone’s band; former Dirty Dozen Brass Band guitarist Jake Eckert; and keyboardist CR Gruver.

Leroy Jones & New Orleans’ Finest, 1:40 p.m.-2:35 p.m., Peoples Health Economy Hall Tent

As his band’s name asserts, Leroy Jones is indeed one of New Orleans’ finest trumpeters. He knows the traditional repertoire inside and out, but also contributes new music, a la his new CD, “I’m Talkin’ Bout New Orleans.”

Ed Volker’s Quintet Narcosis, 2:35 p.m.-3:45 p.m., Lagniappe Stage

Pianist and vocalist Ed Volker wrote songs faster than his longtime band, the Radiators, could learn, perform and/or record them. Post-Radiators, he is still a prolific songwriter. Hear what he’s been up to via his Quintet Narcosis.