Before we are once again bombarded by dozens of "I thought this was JAZZ fest" and "more like the Bad and Heridumb festival!!!" — here is an incomplete list of some of the jazz artists performing this year: Kamasi Washington, Herbie Hancock, six Marsalises, Sasha Masakowski, Terence Blanchard, Tom McDermott, Evan Christopher, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tim Laughlin, Wendell Brunious, Gerald French and four Jordans.
(Also, "heritage" is a pretty inclusive word that I'd argue includes hip-hop, rock 'n' roll, Cajun music and a dozen other things going on at the festival.)
And yes, as usual, the headliners span the pop spectrum (Katy Perry, Chris Stapleton, Logic, Pitbull, Leon Bridges) and Boomer pantheon (The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffett, Doobie Brothers, Santana, John Fogerty, Boz Scaggs).
But there's a strong local presence doing most of the work on the bill each day — anchoring the lineups are familiar Louisiana artists and 20 all-star tributes to local music legends, spread across both weekends.
The 2019 bill reflects the "important year" it is, with the festival pulling out all the stops as its stares down 50 years and is poised to repeat its lineup formula in the years to come. But buried in the daily bills are some underrated highlights and surprises over the two weekends. Here are a few of them.
The Rolling Stones are headed to New Orleans for the 50th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Thursday, April 25
Though the opening day headliners are Earth, Wind & Fire and The Doobie Brothers, a powerful lineup of women artists will kick off the first weekend, with surprise appearances from singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette and R&B artist Ciara — both underbilled in the promo push — and a showcase for the "New Orleans Female Hip Hop Experience" featuring Mia X (the first woman to be signed to No Limit Records), hip-hip duo Ghetto Twins, mixtape queen 3D Na'tee and bounce artist Keedy Black, along with Briki Fa President, DJ Westbank Red and Downtown Leslie Brown.
Friday, April 26
Santana, Robert Cray, Jimmy Cliff and The Head and the Heart top the bill on the first Friday, along with The Revivalists, the local headliner on a a day with a strong local contingent, from up-and-coming folk-pop band Motel Radio and R&B star PJ Morton to jazz stalwarts Astral Project and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.
There's also a lot of funk on the bill — Jazz Fest regulars The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Karl Denson and Terence Blanchard perform that day, and there's a Foundation of Funk revue with Meter mates Zigaboo Modeliste and George Porter Jr. with Tony Hall and Nevilles Cyril, Ivan and Ian.
Saturday, April 27
Katy Perry's genuinely bananas 2018 show at the Smoothie King Center would be far too massive to recreate at the Fair Grounds, which is a shame — it'll be interesting to see what kind of show she puts on with a more-limited stage. Logic should win an award for the world's least interesting rapper alive, so thankfully Curren$y will be there, making his Jazz Fest debut, alongside producer and emcee Nesby Phips.
New Orleans emcee Curren$y's ridiculously prolific career includes six mixtapes and one album (a co-credit with Freddie Gibbs) in 2018 alone. His weekly Jet Life series at the House of Blues is an always-packed party. Bring a gas mask if you are allergic to weed.
Leon Bridges made waves with an overly-affected, classic soul-inspired 2016 album "Coming Home," followed by last year's pop-oriented "Good Thing," an easy fit for a sunny late afternoon set.
Alynda Segarra's Hurray for the Riff Raff gets top-line billing for that day; the band's latest acclaimed ATO Records LPs (2014's "Small Town Heroes" and 2017's "The Navigator") received glowing press and thrust the band into an international spotlight. The band will head to this year's Jazz Fest after an appearance at Coachella.
Sunday, April 28
Among the rising stars of the pseudo-psychedelic Tuareg rock world, guitarist Mdou Moctar of Niger is the star of new cult classic "Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai," which translates to "Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red In It," a gorgeous, desert-set homage to "Purple Rain." He followed that 2015 film with 2017's dreamy "Sousoume Tamachek."
Van Morrison is back — his wonderfully weird, low-key jazz combo performance on the Gentilly Stage in 2016 was among that year's best.
The O'Jays and soul singer Al Green also are on the bill, along with Bonnie Raitt, who will join Irma Thomas, Davell Crawford, Jon Cleary and Al “Lil Fats” Jackson for a tribute to Fats Domino and New Orleans R&B maestro Dave Bartholomew, who just turned 100.
Tickets for the 2019 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival go on sale Friday, Jan. 18, with a different pricing structure than in previous …
Thursday, May 2
This is the weird day. The lineup is noticeably shorter to make way for The Rolling Stones, who are set to perform after 5 p.m., when all other stages have been warned to stop playing.
If you can grab one before they sell out (there's a cap on this day), the $185 ticket price also gets you Tom Jones, Ziggy Marley and Mavis Staples, who released the acclaimed Jeff Tweedy-produced album "If I Was Black" in 2017. The title track's music video features footage of the stumps of former Jim Crow monuments in New Orleans.
Dumpstaphunk and Big Sam's Funky Nation also perform that day, along with singer-guitarists Anders Osborne, Alex McMurray, Eric Lindell and Samantha Fish.
Friday, May 3
Los Angeles jazz saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington will finally make his Jazz Fest debut. Washington has held down several late-night residencies at One Eyed Jacks during previous Jazz Fests, holding down extremely after-hours sets with his far-out visions. His acclaimed (appropriately titled) 2015 album "The Epic" arrived the same year as Kendrick Lamar's "To Pimp A Butterfly," on which Washington and his L.A. collective performed. Washington released another masterful mind-opener, "Heaven and Earth," in 2018.
Austin, Texas blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. is set to release "THIS LAND" later this year; he recently debuted the bluesy title track, an indictment of American racism, on Rolling Stone.
Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla was just about to give birth to twins when she performed a packed-house set on the Lagniappe Stage in 2018. She returns to Jazz Fest in 2019 on the heels of her latest album, January's powerful "Capitalist Blues" — read about it in this week's Gambit.
Saturday, May 4
Tank and the Bangas has emerged as one of the most reliably entertaining and engaging bands on Jazz Fest stages — they return with top billing this year with Dave Matthews Band, Aaron Neville, Galactic and Pitbull. Tank and the Bangas are set to release their full-length debut for Verve Forecast, teased by 2018 singles "Smoke.Netflix.Chill" and "Spaceships."
Among some of the returning international highlights on this year's lineup are Haiti's Boukman Eksperyans and Jupiter & Okwess of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Sunday, May 5
Quint Davis' BFF Jimmy Buffett will close out the festival for a bulk of the vented fishing shirt Dads and Miller Lite-trashed Parrotheads, while Maze feat. Frankie Beverly will return for another joyous, blissed-out tradition of closing out the Congo Square stage.
Chaka Khan, who shows no signs of slowing down after the release of addictive 2018 single "Sugar," also performs on the final day. The single glimpses her 2019 album "Hello Happiness," helmed by Major Lazer producer Switch.
Closing out the Acura Stage will be Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, as per recent ritual, after the Neville Brothers handed the closing baton to the band several Fests ago. But the Nevilles will return to the stage to join Shorty this year, a sort of symbolic closing of the festival's first 50 years before whatever comes next.