By Julia del Rivero

New Orleans’ rich history began nearly 300 years ago and the cultural melting pot’s incomparable legacy of music took off shortly thereafter. Logic follows that finding a top notch musical act to perform at your Nola Wedding shouldn’t just be easy – it should be essential. Thankfully, the music mecca offers more great bands than one could ever listen to, along with plenty of opportunities to hear them all live. A perfect example: Jazz Fest.

Boasting over 300 musical performances each year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival not only serves as a fun time for music lovers in the city, but as a good opportunity for engaged couples to scout musical talent for their big day. Granted, while headliners like Stevie Wonder and Usher probably charge fees too hefty to fit in the average budget, many other Jazz Fest acts will perform at your wedding reception without breaking the bank. A few great mentions:

     1. THE CHARMAINE NEVILLE BAND

Charmaine Neville’s stage presence is hypnotic and bound to captivate any out-of-town guests with her magnetic New Orleans charm. Her sultry cadences feel like summer breezes falling upon welcoming ears, punctuated by charismatic dialogue between songs. Her talent is also in good company. She shares the stage with a band that exudes Big-Easy-Cool with all the musical finesse to back it up.  Jesse Boyd, Gerald French, and Detroit Brooks give the songs life on the bass, drums, and guitar, respectively. Their musical acumen feels like a collected saunter, proving the mastery over their instruments has become second nature. Lastly, Amasa Miller is the group’s swiss army man, rotating between piano, keyboards, and accordion, in addition to being the band’s manager. Miller’s longtime love of music is evident in his refined playing skills – skills that are outshined only by the natural on-stage chemistry he and Neville seem to share and have cultivated for the last quarter century. These forces combined are a recipe for a foolproof reception performance that will leave all your wedding guests – even those basking in the Crescent City for the first time – with a fresh reminder that New Orleans is the one true cradle of Jazz; and it never left.

Catch the Charmaine Neville Band at Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 29th.

Contact Amasa Miller with any booking inquiries at http://www.charmainenevilleband.com/

     2. TANK AND THE BANGAS

A notorious Nola band on the rise, Tank and the Bangas are transcending genre, playing by their own rules, and are gunning to redefine all expectations of what it means to be a great wedding reception band. Their style is hard to pinpoint.  Elements of gospel, rock, and folk music come together to form a sound that is greater than the sum of their parts. The group’s frontwoman, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, is a wunderkind of the stage. Her performative skills cover a wide spectrum, ranging from bubbly spoken word quips to deep, soulful croons. Summed up in one word: the band is fresh. They exude the energy and excitement of a band that is new and teeming with potential, and people are taking notice. The group is the most recent winner among thousands of entries to NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. For couples searching for a reception band that is unique: look no further. No other pair will have a band like Tank and the Bangas at their wedding simply because they’ve never heard anything like this before. And yet, despite creating a sound that is totally their own, Tank and the Bangas embodies the bold, fun, brassy feeling of New Orleans.

Tank and the Bangas will be performing at Jazz Fest on Saturday, May 6th.

For more information, visit Tank and the Bangas Official Flash Site

     3. DAVID L. HARRIS

For music lovers that do not mess around when it comes to their jazz, David L. Harris is an act sure to satisfy. His style of jazz is genuine and wholesome; it is the type of sound that feels so pure, it must be a work of heart. While jazz standards have been so done to death that they can feel tedious to listen to, Harris’ music refuses to be glazed over. It presents itself unassumingly, but sneaks its way to that little cavity where people store their deep emotional vestiges: tears, sage smiles, gasps of wonder. He and his plunger mute will enchant all those who listen and leave them a with a sense of bewitching sophistication, the kind that demands to be followed by a Parisian stroll in the rain – or perhaps sharing a dance at the most romantic wedding in ages. So, to all couples that would be just as happy booking a DJ: Harris and his band probably are not the right choice. But, for those whose wedding needs to have music that is a labor of love, the kind that feels poignant and brings about sweet feelings, then David L. Harris is worth giving a listen.

David L. Harris takes the WWOZ Jazz Tent stage at Jazz Fest on Friday, April 28th.

For more information, contact Oren Krinsky at https://www.davidlharrismusic.com/

     4. KAT WALKER

Kat Walker is a double threat unlike most other Jazz Fest performers. Aside from her impressive musical act, singing Jazzy standards and scatting up a storm, she also paints – sometimes at the same time. She is known as the Painting Singer for good reason; the melodies she performs on stage inspire the movements of her paintbrush on the canvas. Her audiences can watch masterpieces come alive with their very own soundtrack to accompany them. The routine seems like a delicate dance – each note sways with the acrylic that glides along the canvas, just as each dab from the brush is completed by staccato scats. Her paintings, fittingly, reflect her style of music: bold and fun, yet sweet and composed. Many people are fortunate enough to have an amazing musical act perform at their wedding reception and have those memories to cherish for the rest of their lives, but not many people get a physical souvenir from that performance as well, especially one as lovely as an artisan painting.

Chat Kat Walker up after her Jazz Fest performance on the Kids Tent on Friday, May 5th.

For booking information, visit http://www.katwalker.com/

Julia del Rivero is a New Orleans-based writer and a lover of candy, catnaps, and all things Crescent City.