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December 18, 2008 


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FEATURE NEWS


Wynton Marsalis (AP)
Jazz Fest Lineup Revealed
Posted: December 16, 2008
NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2009 with performances by Aretha Franklin, Dave Matthews Band, James Taylor and dozens of other acts, the event's organizers announced Tuesday.

"We've got a great party," Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis said as tickets for the 2009 festival went on sale. "We want the world to come."

The outdoor musical event spans seven days over two weekends: April 24 to 26 and April 30 to May 3.

The list of performers scheduled to perform next year also includes Wynton Marsalis, Sugarland, Joe Cocker, Ben Harper, Tony Bennett, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Neville Brothers.

Jazz Fest founder and executive producer George Wein joked that the crowd for Tuesday's news conference surpassed attendance at the first festival in 1970 as about 300 people witnessed performances by jazz pianist Duke Ellington and gospel singer Mahlia Jackson.

While the crowds and ticket prices have grown exponentially since, Wein said some of the festival's popular draws food, a gospel tent and even a handful of performers have remained constant.

This year, the festival returned to its seven-day format over two weekends. It had been scaled to back to six days after Hurricane Katrina flooded much of New Orleans in 2005.

The Neville Brothers, the traditional closing act of Jazz Fest for more than a decade, performed at the festival this year for the first time since Katrina scattered the brothers around the country. They're scheduled to perform again in 2009.

Attendance this year was between 375,000 and 400,000 people. About 400,000 people attended Jazz Fest in the spring of 2005, a few months before Katrina struck.

For the 2009 event, prices for general admission tickets are frozen at $40 if purchased in advance and $50 at the gate. But Davis said a package of discounted tickets will be available for the first time, an idea developed before the country's economic meltdown.

Jazz Fest has been a boon for the city's recovery since Katrina, boosting the hotel industry and fueling two of the biggest weekends of the year for restaurants.

J. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he expects Jazz Fest and other New Orleans attractions to endure the recession better than cities' other tourist draws.

"This is the year that our culture may actually save us economically," he said. "Travel is going to become softer across the U.S., but people are looking for one thing: They're looking for something that's real. They're looking for something that's authentic."

The festival features food, crafts and acts by hundreds of Louisiana musicians, including singer Irma Thomas, clarinetist Pete Fountain and singer Marcia Ball.

"Forty years is a long time," Mayor Ray Nagin said.

For the 2009 line up click here: nojazzfest.com

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