KAILUA-KONA — A slice of the Big Easy will serenade paradise this weekend.
The eighth annual Big Island Jazz and Blues Festival always brings a flair of New Orleans with it, but this year’s event is doubling down on the Mardi Gras mecca theme. By commemorating another annual musical tradition — the 50th anniversary for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — this weekend’s Hawaii show will offer the best jazz and blues the South can offer.
“It’s just going to be an amazing celebration,” said Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier, of HawaiiONTV.com Networks, one of the festival sponsors, and spokesman for the event. “It’s just a great celebration of music that everyone should get to experience.” The oceanfront festival at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in North Kohala sells out every year, but as of Thursday, a few tickets remained.
The packed weekend got underway Thursday night with the JazzFEST Dinner at the Red Water Café in Waimea.
This evening, musicians will mix it up at the Copper Bar inside the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel as part of the JazzFEST Extravaganza Dinner from 6-9 p.m. No charge for entrance.
Those are appetizers for the main event, the Jazz and Blues Festival Saturday on the hotel’s luau grounds overlooking the Pacific ocean.
Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and the festival runs from 5-9 p.m., featuring world class chefs preparing tantalizing dishes complemented by Maui‘s own Ocean Vodka and Maui Brewing Co. beer.
But don’t forget about the music. This year’s line up produces the best the Big Easy can offer.
“We flew in 10 musicians from New Orleans,” Martinez Burgmaier said. “We’re gonna bring that blues and jazz tradition to Hawaii.”
The lineup includes:
• The Hawaii debut of Tommy Malone of the Subdudes, known as David Letterman’s favorite band.
• Grammy winner Donald Harrison, nicknamed Big Chief and Sax Legend of Mardi Gras and New Orleans, who recently earned notoriety from the Emmy Award-winning HBO TV series “Treme,” a series that focused on lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
• Grammy winner and blues guitar legend and actor Chris Thomas King, who was featured in the movie “Brother Where Art Thou?” with George Clooney.
Grammy winners Wayne Toups, Jon Smith and funk and Tejano band, The Iguanas, will also be part of the show, as will Grammy winner Gary Washburn and his Honokaa School Jazz Band. Na Hoku winner Benny Uyetake will also perform his blues guitar style.
The weekend wraps up with a brunch at the hotel, with music, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Info: Copper Bar: 882-7222. Saturday’s event: VIP tickets are $100, general admission is $60 and a VIP table costs $1,000. Buy tickets at www.BigIslandjazzandbluesfestival.com Brunch reservations: 882-7222.