Shell Sponsors Jazzfest

This year’s Jazz & Heritage Festival will go on as usual in post-Katrina New Orleans this spring with its first-ever presenting sponsor: the Shell oil company.

The event’s official name will be New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The company has reportedly signed on for two years, with extensions possible.

Jazzfest’s Louis Edwards said that if Shell and other sponsors hadn’t stepped up, the event could not have been staged on the scale festival-goers are accustomed to.

“[Louisiana has] a grand culture that deserves a grand event like Jazzfest,” Edwards told Pollstar. “And to do that – especially in a post-Katrina New Orleans – it takes all the resources we can pull together.”

Edwards declined to say how much Shell is paying for the sponsorship. In the past, Jazzfest officials have said that a “presenting sponsor” would require a commitment well past $1 million, according to The Times-Picayune.

Ten other corporate sponsors are lending a hand, including American Express and Tenet Choices Inc.

The two-weekend Jazzfest will take place April 28-30 and May 5-7 at its traditional home, the Fair Grounds Race Course. Organizers scaled back one day by dropping the traditional second Thursday from the schedule. Tickets are already on sale.

“Our major sponsors and (venue owner) Churchill Downs are the legs holding up the table,” Jazzfest producer Quint Davis told the paper. “Without them, it wouldn’t have happened at all.” AEG Live again partners with Jazzfest Productions to stage the 2006 edition.

“After Hurricane Katrina, Jazzfest took an even greater meaning and urgency as a symbol of the rebirth of the great city of New Orleans,” AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips said. “We are thrilled to again be part of music and cultural history in the making.”

This year’s organizers are facing the challenge of attracting big-name acts, as well as rounding up local musicians who have scattered around the nation after their homes – and local venues – were by damaged by Katrina.

New Orleans native Fats Domino, whose home in the Lower Ninth Ward was flooded by Katrina, will be among the featured acts. The musician is also the subject of this year’s Jazzfest poster.

An official lineup is expected to be announced this month. Davis told The Times-Picayune that fans should expect a higher percentage of Louisiana acts and fewer national stars than at recent festivals.

– Mitchell Peters