Women headline opening day of Jazz Fest

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, April 24, 2008

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — For the first time in New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival history, women are headlining the event’s main stage on opening day _ something producer Quint Davis and others say they’ve been anticipating for months.

“I’m very excited,” Davis said of Friday’s lineup, which includes singers Sheryl Crow and Alison Krauss.

Davis said he considers Krauss “one of the greatest fiddle players of all time.” He said once it was confirmed that she would be performing opening day, there was nobody else he wanted to precede her on stage but Theresa Andersson.

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“I’m blushing right now,” said Andersson, the Swedish-born singer and violinist who moved to New Orleans in 1990 when she was 18. She said she is an admirer of Krauss’s work. “I’m such a huge fan, so it’s very flattering.”

Opening the festival’s biggest stage on Friday is New Orleans guitarist and singer-songwriter Susan Cowsill, who will be followed throughout the day by singers Kim Carson, Andersson, Krauss and Crow.

“What a tremendous lineup,” Andersson said. “I’m very grateful to be a part of it.”

Davis said he couldn’t see having the festival’s opening day any other way.

“Their styles and genres just blended together beautifully,” he said. “They’re all great and great in different ways, but they really complement each other.”

Andersson said she’s particularly excited about Krauss and Crow playing the festival because artists of their caliber will bring much-needed attention to the Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Since Katrina struck in August 2005, Andersson has been working with young girls in the area to promote music as a way to express themselves and heal from the effects of Katrina on their neighborhoods and schools.

“Young girls, they don’t always have a positive way to express themselves, especially in their teen years,” Andersson said. “They watch me, see me play all these instruments, even get on the drums, and it’s cool to see their eyes light up.

“They say, ‘wow, if she can do that, what can I do?”

Andersson will follow Carson on stage Friday. Carson is no stranger to the festival. The Texas native country singer has performed at Jazz Fest close to a dozen times and frequents other southern U.S. festivals, including the French Quarter Festival, Louisiana Crawfish Festival and the Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala.

Cowsill is a native of Ohio who started her career in the 1960s with the band The Cowsills. She moved to New Orleans in 1993, and in 2004, wrote and recorded “Crescent City Snow” after a rare Christmas day snowfall in New Orleans.

The song became an anthem of sorts for the city’s residents following the storm.

Slated to headline other stages Friday are gospel singer Rosalie “Lady Tambourine” Washington; Texas-native blues singer Barbara Lynn; the Georgia-born jazz vocalist Lizz Wright and swinging jazz vocalist Banu Gibson.

“Everywhere you look on every stage, we have an overall theme,” Davis said. “We have such great people here that go along with all the other guests.”

Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis will precede Wright in the jazz tent Friday; The Zydepunks and Bruce Daigrepont Cajun Band will perform on the fais do-do stage; and Barbara Lynn, Tab Benoit and Buckwheat Zydeco will perform in the blues tent.