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Jazz Fest Artists Spotlight: Local New Orleans Flavor and Funk

New Orleans’ musical and cultural community has a solid bond. The group of musicians on this list are all intertwined, whether through blood line or just by proximity that comes with being a New Orleans artist. The funky METERS, Kermit Ruffins, Dumpstaphunk and Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias are all cornerstones of New Orleans characters and you can see all of them starting this Thursday at New Orleans Jazz Fest!

funky METERS

Funky Meters New Orleans Jazz Fest

The Funky Meters

It could be said that the funky METERS is a child of the band The Meters. The Meters originally formed in the late 60s and, while not extremely successful in the mainstream arena, are considered a major contributor to the funk genre. During their heyday, they played with acts as big as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones. The original group consisted of Art Neville (yes, of the Neville family), George Porter Jr., Joseph Modeliste, and Leo Nocentelli. Though The Meters broke up in the late 70s, Neville and Porter now play with Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste Jr. under the name the funky METERS. All of the band’s members individually enjoy flourishing careers, which makes the sum of their respective creative abilities mind-boggling. According to the band’s official Web site, funky METERS “taps into the roots of The Meters musical heritage while taking the sound well into the future. Their trademark sound blends funk, blues, and dance grooves with a New Orleans vibe.” Get your groove on with these New Orleanians as they funk up Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6!

- Nikki Carter

Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers

Kermit Ruffins performing at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Photo courtesy of nola.com)

Kermit Ruffins puts on quite the show. It’s why both locals and tourists flock to his regular gigs at Vaughn’s and Bullets Sports Bar in droves just to hear him work his magic, and why HBO’s Treme frequently has the musician making special guest appearances as none other than himself. The man’s got soul, charisma and a whole lot of talent.

As far as his resume is concerned, he’s had quite a long road on the local music circuit – including  co-founding Rebirth Brass Band (another NOLA favorite) back when he was still a high school student. Since then, Kermit has grown into one of the city’s most iconic jazz musicians, known just as much for his infectious laugh and joyful approach to life as he is for his skills on the trumpet and his gravelly voice. He brings a new energy to the traditional New Orleans jazz he plays, while still maintaining a sound and an attitude that is definitively Kermit. He is the ultimate ambassador for the City of New Orleans – which is why you’ll feel right at home jamming along with him and his band during their set at the final Sunday of this year’s Jazz Fest.

Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers will appear on the Gentilly Stage at Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6 at 12:30 p.m.

- Hartley Casbon

Dumpstaphunk New Orleans Jazz Fest

See Dumpstaphunk at Jazz Fest on Thursday, May 3!

Dumpstaphunk

Dumpstaphunk is a true creation of Jazz Fest. The band was originally formed in 2003, put together by Ivan Neville to fill in his solo slot at that year’s Fest. Keyboardist Neville (son of Aaron) enlisted his cousin Ian (son of Art) on guitar, as well as Nikki Glaspie on drums. Dumpstaphunk has a unique bass style, with both Nick Daniels and Tony Hall on bass. While Dumpstaphunk was originally a pick-up band, the group has evolved into a regular act around New Orleans, as well as festivals internationally. Dumpstaphunk will tear apart the Gentilly Stage at Jazz Fest on Thursday, May 3, at 3:35 p.m.

- Ed Branley

Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias

Bo Dollis New Orleans Jazz Fest

See Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias at Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6! (Photo courtesy of nojazzfest.com)

While still just a youngster growing up on the mean streets of New Orleans’ Central City, Theodore Emile “Bo” Dollis became drawn to the Mardi Gras Indian tradition. Unbeknownst to his family, he masked with The Golden Arrows for the first time in 1957, at the ripe age of 13.

Since then, Bo’s made a name for himself with the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, for whom he was named Chief in 1964. Known for having “a voice as sweet as Sam Cooke, but rough and streetwise,” he’s led hundreds of Carnival second lines, as well as barroom jam sessions. But he’s also shared that authentic New Orleans music far and wide, having played everywhere from Carnegie Hall in New York City to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, to gigs across the European continent.

Despite battling illness for the last several years, Big Chief Bo Dollis will make his annual appearance along with The Wild Magnolias at Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 6 at 4:25 p.m. on the Jazz & Heritage Stage.

- Liz Genest Smith

This is part of a series covering the artists on the 2012 New Orleans Jazz Festival lineup. Read about all the other awesome Jazz Fest acts we’ve featured.