Jazz Fest — or, as the annual Big Easy music gathering now in its 51st year is more formally known, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival — isn’t now and never was just about jazz. As the lively and illuminating documentary “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story” makes clear, it’s a celebration of funk, gospel, blues, rock, Cajun, zydeco, soul, hip-hop and many, many genres in between, including something called rap cabaret. That’s what’s practiced by the singer known as Boyfriend (Suzannah Powell), who appears on camera in her trademark giant hair rollers, waxing rhapsodic about the event, along with a host of other musicians, onstage and off.
Look for soul singer Irma Thomas; Ben Jaffe, musician and creative director of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (and son of Preservation Hall founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe); rapper Pitbull; rocker Bruce Springsteen; and the late Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the musical family that has brought us Wynton, Delfeayo, Jason and Branford Marsalis. Ellis died in 2020 and performed with his sons at Jazz Fest the year before.