The full flavor of any given New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival can’t fully be appreciated without the “cubes,” the hour-by-hour, stage-by-stage schedule.

This week’s rollout of the 2019 Jazz Fest’s cubes revealed much about the personality of the 50th anniversary edition of New Orleans’ premiere music and cultural event. Some observations:

With as many as 13 stages going simultaneously, festgoers must inevitably make some tough choices. Will it be Van Morrison or Al Green? Chris Stapleton or Gary Clark Jr.? Leon Bridges, Katy Perry or Logic? The Revivalists or Santana?

The final slot on the final Sunday is especially overloaded: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Aaron Neville and other members of the Neville family are on at the same time as John Fogerty, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Herbie Hancock, Buddy Guy and the Mavericks, among others.

The longest performance time this year is two hours. Four acts were allotted a full 120 minutes: the Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Santana, and Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefer Band. All of them are closing acts on the Acura Stage except Buffett, who precedes Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on the final Sunday.

[UPDATE: Rolling Stones won't play 2019 Jazz Fest after tour postpones due to Mick Jagger health issues]

The Blues Tent will host several artists that could have appeared on the larger Fais Do-Do or even Gentilly stages, including John Prine, Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Boz Scaggs and Los Lobos.

The Jazz Tent will overflow for Hancock and the first Sunday’s Ellis Marsalis Family Tribute featuring his sons Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason.

This year’s Jazz Fest poster is essentially a “greatest hits” family portrait of prominent musicians who have appeared on past posters. Similarly, this year’s world music bookings are a greatest-hits sampling from Benin, Haiti, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Canada, South Africa, Martinique and elsewhere. Of note is the return of Martinique’s Chouval Bwa Traditionnel carousel, which will spin outside the Cultural Exchange Pavilion throughout the festival, and the Crocodile Gumboot Dancers of South Africa.

The interviews at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage inside the Grandstand are often undiscovered gems. Many artists perform a few unplugged songs while talking about how and why they do what they do.

The pairing of the right interviewer with the right act can make for an especially engaging session. Promising interviews on tap this year include Melissa “DJ Soul Sister” Weber chatting with Eddie Levert and Walter Williams, of the O’Jays, on April 28, journalist Alison Fensterstock talking to the Indigo Girls that same afternoon, and author Tom Piazza squaring off with fellow wordsmith John Prine on the final Sunday.

One Music Heritage Stage session on opening Thursday is of special note: Quint Davis, Jazz Fest’s longtime producer, will interview his mentor, 93-year-old George Wein, the legendary festival impresario who founded Jazz Fest (and hired Davis). Davis has been interviewed countless times; it’ll be interesting to see him on the other side of the equation, reminiscing about the festival’s early years.

Element sure to generate the snarkiest comments? AARP’s sponsorship of the “RhythmPourium,” a new stage inside the fest’s old record tent. Jokes aside, the small stage inside the tent will host intimate sets most days of the fest by acts that are not all eligible for AARP membership.

The progressions on the first Sunday’s three main stages clearly illustrate Jazz Fest’s then-and-now dichotomy. The Acura and Congo Square stages conclude with decidedly old-school rosters: Irma Thomas, Bonnie Raitt and Van Morrison on Acura, and the O’Jays and Al Green on Congo Square. Gentilly, meanwhile, serves up four forward-thinking south Louisiana acts — Naughty Professor, Flow Tribe, GIVERS and Royal Teeth — topped off by contemporary hitmakers Bleachers and J Balvin.

Bleachers and J Balvin should do fine at Gentilly. But how will avant-jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington go over at Gentilly on the second Friday, slotted in between the guitar heroics of Leo Nocentelli, the North Mississippi Allstars and Gary Clark Jr.?

Lauren Daigle 2 for Red

Christian music singer-songwriter Lauren Daigle, a native of Lafayette.

The festival hasn't featured much contemporary Christian music. But Lauren Daigle, the Lafayette native who has taken the Christian music world by storm — and has the Grammys and chart-topping sales to prove it — will be on the Gentilly Stage at 2:50 p.m. Saturday, April 27, between local R&B belter Erica Falls and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. 

Quint Davis likes to schedule like-minded local acts ahead of the big headliners, in order to maximize exposure for the locals.

Putting Americana/folk ensemble Hurray for the Riff Raff just before pop star Katy Perry on the first Saturday seems like a stretch.

Placing local “rap cabaret” singer Boyfriend ahead of Alanis Morissette at the Gentilly Stage on “Locals Thursday” is also daring but somehow makes more sense. So, too, slotting bounce queen Big Freedia ahead of Pitbull on Congo Square.


Big Freedia joins Boyfriend on the Gentilly Stage during the 2018 Jazz and Heritage Festival on the Gentilly Stage in New Orleans, La. Saturday, May 5, 2018.

A quartet of especially strong local acts — John “Papa” Gros, the Soul Rebels, Tank & the Bangas and Galactic — precedes the Dave Matthews Band on Acura on Saturday, May 4.

But the local act with the absolute best lead-in of the entire festival is Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.

Dumpstaphunk is booked for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the Acura Stage on Thursday, May 2 — right before the Rolling Stones.


Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk performs at the Acura Stage during the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Saturday, May 5, 2018.

Every other stage will shut down by 4 p.m. that afternoon, so Dumpstaphunk will be, for the final 30 minutes of the set, the only act playing on the entire Fair Grounds. And they’ll be playing to the tens of thousands of Stones fans who have camped out all day at Acura.

Neville, the 59-year-old son of Aaron Neville, didn't get that coveted slot by accident. He has a long association with the Rolling Stones.

He contributed keyboards, bass and/or backing vocals to the Stones’ 1986 album “Dirty Work” and the band’s 1994 release “Voodoo Lounge.” He was also a member of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ solo band, the X-Pensive Winos.

Asked recently whether he would sit in with the Stones at Jazz Fest, Neville laughed and said, “I won’t say no if I’m invited. I’ll be around.

"I’m just excited to be out there the same day. I’m absolutely looking forward to that. Dumpstaphunk has got to put together a killer set that day. Believe me, we’ve got to come hard.”

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.