Producer for the Rolling Stones among a legion of others, and leader of Detroit New Wave act Was (Not Was), Don Was (né Fagenson) also serves as president of storied jazz label Blue Note Records. He’s one of the instigators behind the wildly successful Last Waltz 40 Tour. Marking the four-decade anniversary of the Band’s swan song show, preserved on film by Martin Scorcese, legendary New Orleans shaman Dr. John, guitarist Warren Haynes, country outlaw Jamey Johnson, and multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson, one of two surviving members of the original Band, lead an all-star cast that includes Cyril Neville, the Radiators’ Dave Malone, and Muddy Waters’ guitarist Bob Margolin alongside Was on bass.
The latter explains that the impetus to pay tribute to the godfathers of Americana came about as a way to honor Allen Toussaint, the NOLA composer and producer who passed away in 2015, at last year’s Jazz & Heritage Festival in the Crescent City.
“We were looking for a different way to honor him and it was the 40th anniversary of The Last Waltz, where he did the horn charts,” recalls Was. “It could’ve gelled or it could’ve been a trainwreck, but it gelled beyond our wildest expectations. What we hadn’t counted on was the audience response. We’d start with ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and everybody stood up and sang along to every song.
“At that point, I realized McCartney’s doing the Beatles, and you can still hear the Rolling Stones for three hours, but no one’s playing the Band’s songs, and people still have a deep appreciation for them.”
When informed Austin musicians have a tradition of screening The Last Waltz and then performing the show the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – the concert was originally held on Thanksgiving Day 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco – Was laughs.
“If they need a bass player next year, tell them I know the songs.”– Jim Caligiuri
As a founding member of Béla Fleck & the Flecktones, Victor Wooten provided a formidable bass rhythm that’s helped define their eclectic grooves since 1989. The Tennessee composer/producer’s award-winning solo project best showcases said low-end skills, his current trio featuring heavyweights Dennis Chambers and Bob Franceschini on drums and sax, respectively. The trio’s jazz funk promises a unique evening in the Red River Cultural District.– Doug Freeman
Weaving a tapestry of American roots music, Ruthie Foster threads gospel redemption, painful blues transparency, and vocal soul transfigurations on Joy Comes Back. While earlier output leans toward expressive acousticana, her eighth disc for Austin’s Blue Corn Music gleans the powerhouse grit of Big Mama Thorton freedom empowerment while also exploring undertones of soft prayer and personal incantations. From booming belts to double-stop blues, Foster can do it all.– Alejandra Ramirez
Katchafire began as a humble trio between father and sons before expanding into an eightpiece of sax bursts, sinuous bass rhythms, and guitar shuffles. Beneath a ballast of syncopated rhythms and tropical dancehall flourishes, the New Zealanders incorporate slinky R&B in a decade-spanning catalog from Revival (2003) to Best So Far (2013). Like Katchafire, Hawaii’s Inna Vision engages in a rasta good time.– Alejandra Ramirez
Celebrate the often marginalized but eclectic and diverse voice of LGBT hip-hop. Founder and artist Japan brings 808s and synth stabs with auto-tuned heartbreak, while local femcee Staci Russell and Dallas activist Lady Bsmoove juggle poetics with singsong cadences. DJs including Lady Ja-Roq and Twerksum spin throwback club anthems on the ones and twos. Louisiana’s Guch and Lyrical LC offer blistering double-timed stabs and staccato contemplatives. www.pinkelephanthiphopfestival.com.– Alejandra Ramirez
Anytime New Orleans bounce superstar Big Freedia hits a stage, it’s ass, ass, and “Mo Azz.” The twerk-ologist and now-reality TV star turns out hands on ankles aided by fellow NOLA ambassadors Soul Rebels Brass Band. The horn armada bills as Soul Rebels Sound System when laying out for hip-hop luminaries (Nas, Talib Kweli) and provides big bottom for Freedia’s bawdy rhymes.– Thomas Fawcett