The 2013 festival of the Arts was off to a rousing start last night with the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band bringing people to their feet in the amphitheater at Mizner Park. No weepy strings here, no highbrow crook-your-pinkie symphonia—nope, this was the real deal and we loved it.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable music venue in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. The band has traveled worldwide spreading its mission to nurture and perpetuate the art form of New Orleans Jazz. Last night it rocked the park with some jazz favorites, including the New Orleans signature, “St. James Infirmary Blues” and its anthem, “When The Saints Go Marching In” as well as a nostalgic rendition of Satchmo’s “Hello Dolly.” The performers were slick and soulful and were joined by a bluesy Nicole Henry who brought down the house with a jazzy rendition of gospel fave, “I’ll Fly Away.”

This was a slight departure from the perception this Festival has garnered for a roster of more classical performers and we think it’s a step in the right direction. It was the best opening night so far and we are psyched about all the other surprises in store this week. Tickets are still available for most performers and we say run--do not walk--to any or all of them—there is nothing like great art in your own backyard.

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Coming up this weekend:


Kodo, 7:30 p.m.

Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art form.


Amadeus Leopold, 7:30 p.m.

In the two short years following his groundbreaking Carnegie Hall debut, the avant-pop classical violinist Amadeus Leopold, formerly known as Hahn-Bin, has become a revolutionary force in music with his “dazzling, genuinely provocative takes on classical music as performance art” (The New York Times)


Patricia Engel, 4 p.m.

Author Patricia Engel’s debut, Vida, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award, New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and Paterson Fiction Award, winner of the International Latino Book Award, Florida Book Award, and Independent Publisher Book Award, and longlisted for The Story Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize.


The Peking Acrobats, 7:00 p.m.

The Peking Acrobats® will perform daring maneuvers atop a precarious pagoda of chairs; they are experts at trick-cycling, precision tumbling, somersaulting, and gymnastics. They push the envelope of human possibility with astonishing juggling dexterity and incredible balancing feats, showcasing tremendous skill and ability.