Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015: Final Thoughts

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2015 by curtjazz
Diane Schuur takes the stage (Photo by John Davenport)

Diane Schuur takes the stage (Photo by John Davenport)

Some final thoughts on this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival…

Some very strong performances this year and I love the infusion of more of the younger generation of jazz artists. Continuing this pattern bodes well for the AJF’s future.

The frustrating part is (and always will be) the fact that it is impossible to catch all of the great groups on the three stages. This year I stuck mostly to the Main Stage to keep from fighting the huge crowds. I managed to catch a few terrific sets at the International Stage but I know that I missed so much more…

Top Performances that I saw:

  1. Four Women (Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Terry Harper and the show stealing Rhonda Thomas) a tribute to Nina Simone – Wow…Oh Wow!!! These ladies and the support provided by their musical director Russell Gunn were simply amazing. And the fact that Ms. Simone’s sister was in the audience made it even better.
  2. Otis Brown III – Brother Brown mixed the sacred and the secular into an all-encompassing groove. Big up for the horns – Marquis Hill on trumpet and John Ellis on tenor!
  3. Banda Magda – The charismatic vocalist/multi-instrumentalist  Magda Giannikou and company had the International Stage audience captivated. Hope to catch them again soon.
  4. Diane Schuur – The lady is still as marvelous and classy as ever. And it she was joined by first-class talents including Ben Wolfe on  bass and Don Braden on the saxes.
  5. Nettwork Trio – Charnett Moffett on bass, Stanley Jordan on guitar and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums…no fanfare, no glitz, just three of the best in the business, showing us how it’s done.

The performances that I most regret missing:

  1. Dida Pelled – Curse you ATL Memorial Day weekend traffic!!! I arrived at the park just after she finished.
  2. Arturo O’Farrill – The crowd had grown so big that it was almost impossible to move to The International Stage by Sunday evening. I should have tried anyway!
  3. Mad Satta – Just because I knew from jump that I was going to miss this great young neo-soul group doesn’t make me feel any better about it.
  4. Tony Hightower – This vocalist has a bright future, I’m just sorry that I couldn’t get to the Locals Stage to catch a piece of it.

Big thumbs up for:

  • Karen Hatchett; the AJF’s Awesome PR Director and the wonderful team of volunteers at the Media Tent. Y’all always make John and I feel welcome. Because of all of you, AJF is (and always will be) a first class jazz festival.
  • The beautiful people of Atlanta who come to the AJF every year. I stood at the top of the meadow at one point and looked out over the crowd that was about 85% African-American and I just saw people, enjoying the music and each other. All of the nasty narratives that some nameless cable news outlets peddle about us was nowhere in sight. Sorry that y’all couldn’t find room for the AJF on your “Factor”.
  • The lady in one of the tents with the great looking Red Velvet cake. Ma’am, that cake looked so good, that I almost lied and said that I was part of your family, so could get a slice!
  • Working side by side with my son. Watching as he comes into his own is one of the greatest experiences ever.

BlueSatch, I’m sorry that I couldn’t find you, bro. Next year for sure!

That’s all for 2015. We’ll see you all in the same place next Memorial Day Weekend…

Until then, the jazz continues…

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015: Through the eyes of “Jazzy John”

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by curtjazz

Johns Press PassThe 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival has come and gone leaving many great sounds and sights, for those of us who were there, to cherish. This year my teenage son John, known usually in these posts as “Jazzy John”, joined me on photographer’s row for the first time. I gave him a few lessons on etiquette and respect in dealing with the older, seasoned, ladies and gentlemen who were also in front of the stage and then I let him do his thing, while I shot some video footage.John the photographer

As I looked at some of his results, I was impressed with his natural eye and very proud of the work he did as he shot alongside of those three and even four times his age.

Diane Schuur1

Diane Schuur

I will finish my edits and post my full report on AJF38 in a few days but in the meantime, please indulge a doting father as I present John Davenport’s perspective on some of the memorable moments from the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Stanley Jordan and Charnett Moffett

Stanley Jordan and Charnett Moffett


Jeff “Tain” Watts

Four Women and Simone

The Fabulous Divas of the “Four Women” Tribute with Nina Simone’s sister (R)

Derrick Hodge

Derrick Hodge

Don Braden and Ben Wolfe

Don Braden and Ben Wolfe

Kathleen Bertrand and Russell Gunn

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015: Curt’s Guide to Maximum Jazz

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags on May 23, 2015 by curtjazz
"Jazzman" by John Ryan

“Jazzman” by John Ryan

The 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival started this evening in Piedmont Park. For those who were there tonight, the choice was easy. One stage, two bands and so you went.  For most of the Festival, starting Saturday, there will be three stages operating simultaneously. For the folks who come for the party and pitch their canopy or tent along the perimeter of the Main Stage, all is well. They will chill out in that space as long as they want. Believe me, I ain’t mad at them, because they’re getting what they came for.

But there are others among us who will be sitting on a dilemma. With great artists playing at the Main Stage, the International Stage and the Locals Stage, how do we get to catch the most jazz that we can and not miss the most worthwhile acts?

Well, I’ve studied the weekend schedule long and hard and I’ve devised what I call the “Maximum Jazz Plan” for the serious jazzhead. Or, how I intend to check out the best performers that the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Fest has to offer. You won’t catch everyone but you won’t be disappointed.

First, you have to travel light – a small lawn chair for sitting and no more than a small canvas cooler of beverages for hydration’s sake. Second, you have to know the best routes to move between stages. The International and Local Stages are relatively close to each other. The Main Stage is a bit of a hike, especially in the middle of the day. Dress cool and comfortable is also key. It’s ATL, it’s almost June and it will be as hot as, well you know…


  1. Start at the Main Stage at 1 PM – Catch violinist Daniel D  – shouldn’t be too crowded yet, so moving on when time comes should be easy
  2. Be at Locals Stage by 2:30 to hear Jessie Davis and the Nebraska Jones Experiment. Cut out at about 2:15
  3. Be at International Stage by 3:30 for Israeli guitarist Dida Pelled, who will be delightful
  4. Be back at Main Stage by 5 PM for the start of the REVIVE/Blue Note segment and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life
  5. Big Dilemma! You can either leave after Twi-Life to catch Alfredo Rodriguez at the International Stage at 7:30 or stay put as I will for Otis Brown III on the Main Stage at 7. It all depends on your preference. Either way, you wont be disappointed.
  6. Close out the day at 9 PM at the Main Stage with Derrick Hodge

Total number of bands heard: 6; Total number of stages visited: 3


If you didn’t hang at the Jam Session on Saturday night, you’ve got a shot at this ambitious Sunday schedule, otherwise you’re screwed, just pick up wherever you can, after coffee and breakfast!

  1. Start at the Locals Stage with the Joe Grandsen Big Band at 12:30
  2. Head over to the International Stage to see Fernanda Noronha at 1:30 PM
  3. If you feel inspired, catch a bit of Mastery at the Locals Stage at 2:30 PM, as you’re heading to the Main Stage
  4. Be at the Main Stage at 3 PM for Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone
  5. Stay put at the Main Stage for The Nettwork Trio (Moffett; Jordan; Watts) at 5 PM
  6. If you want, catch a bit of Diane Schuur at the Main Stage at 7; but be at the International Stage at 7:30 for Arturo O’Farrill. It should be the best Big Band set of the weekend
  7. Close out with Pharaoh Sanders back at the Main Stage at 9 PM
  8. Go to the hotel and get some frickin’ sleep

Total number of bands heard: 6 – 8; Total number of stages visited: 3 

So this is my plan as I arrive in ATL Saturday morning, and I’m (hopefully) stickin’ to it.

I hope to see y’all out there.

Shoutout to @MrChrisHodges; @bluesatch and the indefatigable @jazzevangelist . I’ll holler at y’all when I get to Piedmont. Hope to see y’all sometime this weekend.

I’ll be dropping live tweets, photos and vid clips from AJF38 all weekend. Followed by a full review next week. Hope y’all dig it!

For more information about the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday on the Main Stage – “The Center Holds”

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2015 by curtjazz
Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders

Over the last few years the Atlanta Jazz Festival has developed a pattern in its Main Stage lineup scheduling – on Saturday, the younger, less traditional artists are given the spotlight, with a chance to build an audience for their (and by extension, jazz’s) future. But Sundays remain for the more familiar names. The respected veterans who represent the jazz mainstream, the “Center” if you will. In 2014, pianist Ahmad Jamal and vocalist Freddy Cole were the Sunday headliners. This year, it’s two veterans of similar stature, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and vocalist Diane Schuur, who are the big draws. But before they take the stage on Sunday night, we will hear from two intriguing groups – a super group trio of jazz heavyweights and a quartet of ATL’s finest jazz divas in a promising tribute to one of the all time greats.


1:00 PM – Navy Band Southeast V.I.P. Protocol Combo

Early arrivals on this final day will be treated to a quartet of swinging Navy men who will play a variety of standards and instrumentals, to get the day started in a classy way.

3:00 PM – Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone Featuring Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper

“Four Women” is the title of one the great Nina Simone’s most compelling and enduring compositions; a celebration of all shades, shapes, sizes, pains and ultimately, the unquenchable spirit of Black womanhood. Over the last few years, many great female vocalists have taken on the song as a centerpiece of a tribute to the incomparable “High Priestess of Soul”.  This year, AJF38 has its own Four Women, who happen to be about the best jazz vocalists that the city can offer – Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper.

Ms. Bertrand is a AJF veteran and one of the stars of Atlanta area jazz, having appeared as a headliner during the 2012 Festival and with Roy Ayers that same year. She has released a number of recommended albums, including Katharsis, which features the AJF’s unofficial anthem “Jazz in Piedmont Park”. The British born Julie Dexter has been an Atlanta resident since 1999. She has a broad and devoted fan base around the globe and moves easily between the jazz and R&B worlds. Ms. Dexter is also a past AJF artist. My family still talks of her impressive Main Stage set with Russell Gunn in 2012. Though I missed the 2013 AJF, I’ve heard that Ms. Dexter’s set that year was also a highlight.

New York native Rhonda Thomas was a new name to me, until she was announced as part of this group. My research led me to her duet album with guitarist Michael Coppola Guess Who I Saw Today.  Her range, and vocal versatility made me an instant fan. Anyone who can perform the under-appreciated modern classic “Miss Celie’s Blues” the way Ms. Thomas does, is alright with me. Terry Harper is also new to me but her family certainly isn’t. The vocalist is married to trumpeter/educator Danny Harper, whose younger brothers Phillip and Winard, formed The Harper Brothers, one of the best of the “Young Lion” groups of the 90’s.  Terry, Danny and the rest of their family are also the hosts of The Harper Family Jam Session, each Thursday night at Atlanta’s Best Jazz Spot, Churchill Grounds.

These four ladies are proven talents. I’m expecting that somewhere, Ms. Simone will be smiling.

5:00 PM – Nettwork Trio: Charnett Moffett, Stanley Jordan, and Jeff “Tain” Watts

Stanley Jordan on guitar; Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums; Charnett Moffett on bass. For cats like me, who cut their teeth on jazz during the 80’s/90’s renaissance, each of those cats is an icon, by himself. Now the three of them have come together to form a trio called Nettwork. The potential is mind-blowing.

Jordan, you may recall, was one of the first artists signed to the newly revived Blue Note records in the ’80s. He set the jazz (and rock) world on fire with his amazing “touch” technique that allowed him to sound like multiple guitarists playing at once. Even thirty years later, his creativity is still astounding. Moffett, the son of drummer Charles Moffett was another wunderkind who hit the scene around the same time, also with astounding ability that garnered him legions of fans and work on over 200 recordings. And Watts, known to many as the drummer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, first came to fame for his work with Wynton and Branford Marsalis on their early work and he remains one of the best drummers alive on the planet.  Why these cats had never thought of coming together before now, is a mystery. And with their various commitments, I get the feeling that their time working together now, will likely be brief. I glad that I’ll have the chance to catch them live.

7:00 PM – Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur first came to prominence around the same time as Moffett, Jordan and Watts. Discovered by Stan Getz, Ms. Schuur is one of those vocalists whose style is so singular that you know it’s her within the first few words of a song. Her career has now spanned over three decades, with two Grammy wins and many more nominations. She’s wailed in front of the Basie Band, sang the blues with B.B. King and on a recent album The Gathering, she displays some impressive Country chops. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Schuur’s since her first album Deedles in 1984 and it has been wonderful watch her grow from a young woman with impressive, if undisciplined pipes, into the mature and affecting song stylist that she is today.

At AJF38 you can expect to hear Ms. Schuur sing selections from her catalog of over 20 albums, including her latest, I Remember You (With Love To Stan and Frank). The album is a heartfelt tribute to two of Schuur’s most important mentors, Getz and Frank Sinatra. We’ll also likely hear tunes that were made famous by Ms. Schuur’s biggest vocal influence, Dinah Washington. Regardless of the set list, it’s a great chance to hear one of jazz’s best living vocalists, practice her craft.

9:00 PM – Pharoah Sanders Quartet featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel

Pharoah Sanders is one of jazz’s handful of living iconic figures, a man who learned his craft literally beside John Coltrane, as the second tenor sax in Trane’s last groups. He also created one of the most unforgettable “free jazz” records of the of the late 60’s in “The Creator Has a Master Plan” (from his album Karma). In more recent times, he worked with rock oriented producers such as Bill Laswell, who have added another dimension to his sound and introduced Mr. Sanders to a new audience. Sanders sound has also mellowed a bit recently as he has begun to embrace the ballads and the melodic playing of his mentor Coltrane’s earlier years; yet Sanders has managed to maintain the some of the gritty intensity that has always been his trademark.

Joining Pharoah Sanders will be Kurt Rosenwinkel, a fine guitarist with a fluid, yet edgy style that should provide a great compliment to Sanders’ big toned tenor. Together, I expect that they will create music that will push a few boundaries in order to keep things interesting. They may play ballads at times but they won’t be gentle. It should be an engaging set that will end AJF38 on a high note.

You can hear the music of these and many other AJF38 Artists from 5 PM – 7 PM daily on our Curt’s Cafe Noir, our streaming 24/7 jazz radio station. Click HERE to listen now.

For more information on the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival visit their website at 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Saturday on the Main Stage – It’s a Blue Note REVIVE-al

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2015 by curtjazz
Derrrick Hodge (photo by John Rogers)

Derrrick Hodge
(photo by John Rogers)

As regular visitors to this space know, I’ve long been of the opinion that if jazz is going to be relevant in the future, many traditionalists must make peace with the hip-hop and R&B influences that many of today’s most gifted young musicians come from. Most of these young cats respect the “tradition” but they didn’t grow up with Tin Pan Alley in their ears. What they bring to the table is often fresh and quite creative.

We will see a lot of that on display on Saturday, May 23 at the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage. It will open at 1 PM with Daniel D., a popular contemporary jazz violinist who plays a lot of Hip Hop and R&B chart hits. He will be followed at 3PM by The Rad Trads ,an energetic horn powered group based out of NYC. They specialize in an up-tempo mix of R&B, New Orleans Jazz and funk. Their fun stage shows have garnered them a ton of recent buzz.

But the big draw for me will begin at 5 PM, as REVIVE – an online music hub and concert promotion team, which specializes in the fusion of classic styles, such as jazz, with today’s ideas and genres – joins forces with Blue Note Records, that most venerable of jazz labels, to present an evening of true modern jazz. Featured will be three of the new generation of Blue Note artists, who will bring us jazz, from their perspective of “the mainstream”.

5 PM – Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

Marcus Strickland has collaborated and recorded with an impressive list of musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. But one of Strickland’s longest musical collaborations is his most impressive one, as Mr. Strickland  was asked while still in college, to join legendary drummer Roy Haynes’ Fountain of Youth band. He played tenor sax with Haynes for five fruitful years.  He has also garnered some major awards from the jazz press, having won the Rising Star on Soprano Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2012 Critic’s Poll; Rising Star on Tenor Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2010 Critic’s Poll; Rising Star on Soprano Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2008 Critic’s Poll and Best New Artist in JazzTimes 2006 Reader’s Poll. His 2011 double CD set Triumph of the Heavy – Vol. 1 & 2, was one of our selections for Best Jazz Album of 2011.

In addition to his acclaimed acoustic jazz work, Marcus Strickland has also been heavily involved with Twi-Life, an electric band with its inception rooted in the soul music Strickland grew up listening to. Mr. Strickland has said that he tries to keep the personnel in Twi-Life fluid, so that the ideas and creativity will remain fresh.  The current members of the group have worked have worked individually with artists like Kanye West, & Bilal. They include keyboardist Yuki Hirano; bassist Mark Kelley who is also a member of The Roots; drummer Charles Haynes; and on vocals Jean Baylor, who some of us will remember from the 90s R&B duo, Zhané (“Hey Mr. D.J.”; “Groove Thang”). Expect great things Saturday as Strickland and Twi-Life, bring together the improvisation of acoustic jazz and instrumentation with the rhythms that have made much of today’s music so popular.

7 PM – Otis Brown III

Otis Brown III is one of the busiest young drummers in jazz today. The son of musicians and music educators, Brown grew up to the sounds of jazz, gospel, funk and rhythm and blues. His father, a jazz band instructor, played with James Brown and Al Green. His mother, an educator who also served as principal at Newark’s Arts High School (alma mater to jazz greats Sarah Vaughan and Wayne Shorter), was also a choir director and classically trained pianist.  After playing saxophone and drums in school and church, Mr. Brown attended Delaware State University as music major, where he met the great trumpeter Donald Byrd who advised young Otis to go to NYC and dive headlong into the jazz scene. Brown did and he soon caught the attention of Joe Lovano. After initially subbing for Lewis Nash and the late Idris Muhammad in Lovano’s band, Brown became a member of Lovano’s Us Five quintet, where he developed  a strong musical kinship with the group’s bassist, Esperanza Spalding, who then asked Brown to join her band as well. Brown has also worked with Terence Blanchard, Oliver Lake and the vocalist, Somi, among others.

Last year, Otis Brown III released his first album as a leader, The Thought of You, on Revive/Blue Note Records. With support from such kindred musical spirits as Robert Glasper, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, bassist Ben Williams  and vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Bilal and production by Derrick Hodge, the album is a shining example of some of the best work that the new breed of new jazz artists has to offer. It featured edgy improvisations, tunes that were unafraid to stretch boundaries and rhythms that were refreshingly contemporary. It stayed on regular rotation in my iPod from its release throughout the rest of 2014. It was also one of my Best Jazz Albums of last year. We’re looking forward to hearing Mr. Brown deliver the goods, with tracks from The Thought of You and more.

9 PM – Derrick Hodge

Closing out the second night of AJF38 will be Derrick Hodge. Another of Blue Note’s group of “New Jack Jazz” artists, Hodge has appeared previously on the Atlanta Jazz Festival stage in 2012 in one of his other roles, as bassist in the Robert Glasper Experiment. As usual with jazz musicians of his age and talents, Mr. Hodge has played with a diverse array of artists including Terence Blanchard, Jill Scott, Maxwell and the late Mulgrew Miller. He has also released a well received Blue Note album of his own, 2013’s Live Today, (a Best Jazz Albums of 2013 selection) which featured appearances by Glasper, hip hop superstar Common, Marcus Strickland, pianist Aaron Parks and turntable artist Jahi Sundance.  Like the recent work of Mr. Glasper, Mr. Brown and Marcus Strickland, Hodge is clearly looking to all of his various influences on Live Today and he’s also taking advantage of many of the possibilities that our digital age affords him. One of the album’s tracks, “Table Jawn”, includes sounds recorded on Hodge’s wife’s iPhone as Hodge, Glasper and drummer Chris Dave, were sitting at Hodge’s kitchen table. One person grabbed a spoon, another a cup and then they began to beat out a rhythm which Mrs. Hodge recorded and it was then used as the basis of the tune.

While we don’t expect any cutlery or place setting items to be directly used in the making of music on Saturday night, there’s likely to be a similar dose of creativity.  The type of music that I’ve often called “the future of jazz” will be on display in full glory all throughout the day on the AJF38 Main Stage, thanks to REVIVE and Blue Note Records. So, to quote the late actor, Ted Ross as he closed out an old Heath Brothers live album “May the rest of the populace be sophisticated enough to dig it”.

Tracks from all of these and other AJF 38 artists will be playing daily from 5 PM – 7 PM (ET) on our 24/7 streaming jazz station Curt’s Café Noir, until May 31. Click HERE to access the station.

For more information on the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website



Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Friday (5/22) on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , on May 15, 2015 by curtjazz
Mad Satta

Mad Satta

The 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival will kick off again this year with a Friday evening Main Stage performance. Unlike last year, where the Friday lineup consisted of two mainstream jazz stars in Roberta Gambarini and Roy Hargrove, 2015 will start with artists that are associated more with the neo-soul and indie R&B scenes than they are with the straight ahead jazz world. It’s a risky move but one that perhaps will pay off in a needed expansion of the AJF audience.

7 PM – Mad Satta

Like many of this year’s AJF groups, Mad Satta is based in New York City. They are an eight member, self-described “future soul” group with a retro-groove guitar/organ/horns vibe that I find absolutely intoxicating. On top of that, there’s lead singer Joanna Teters; a coolly charismatic young woman who is the vocal love child of Al Green and Macy Gray. When the group hits its’ stride – as they often do on their debut album, Comfort with ethereal keyboards punctuated by soulful horn lines and Ms. Teters’ dusky vocals, you realize that they are something special. Mad Satta’s star is on the rise. I’m not the only one who has noticed, as Mad Satta has played in major jazz venues such as The Blue Note in NYC and Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA. They also have a monthly residency at Daryl’s House, the hip music club/restaurant in Pawling, NY, owned and operated by ’80’s pop music icon Daryl Hall.

For me, there’s good news and bad about this group. The bad news – I won’t be hitting ATL until the morning of May 23, so I will miss Mad Satta’s AJF performance on Friday night. The good news – they are making a stop in here in Charlotte on their way down to Atlanta, on Thursday, May 21, at a club called The Tavern. Trust and believe, I will be there.

9 PM – Thundercat

Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) comes from a very musical family. His father, Ronald Bruner Sr. is a soul / R&B drummer who has played artists from  Diana Ross to The Temptations. His brother, Ronald Bruner, Jr. is also drummer. He has played with Kenny Garrett, Marcus Miller and Wayne Shorter, among many other jazz artists. As for Thundercat, he joined his brother on a Japanese tour with Stanley Clarke while still in high school and he has been going ever since.

Thundercat has used his jazz roots and experimental nature to create unique sounds in a variety of situations, as he has worked on projects by a wide range of artists, from Mr. Clarke to Erykah Badu (he has been called Ms. Badu’s Billy Preston) to Wiz Khalifa. But it was Thundercat’s touring and subsequent collaboration with producer/musician/rapper Flying Lotus, that led to Thundercat’s 2011 solo debut The Golden Age of Apocalypse, which was co-produced by Flying Lotus.

In 2013, Thundercat teamed with Lotus again, to create his second album, Apocalypse, which has received extremely positive reviews. It also caused other a list artists to seek out Thundercat’s services. He worked closely with Kendrick Lamar on the rap star’s latest hit album, To Pimp a Butterfly. Rolling Stone called Thundercat “The Jazz Fusion Genius Behind [Butterfly]”. Mr. Bruner has also collaborated with tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington on the saxman’s new and aptly titled three CD set, The Epic, which is also drawing stellar reviews.


As you see in the accompanying clips, Thundercat is also a highly entertaining performer. He is sure to bring a spark to the AJF Main Stage, that will kick the Festival off right.

Next stop – a look at the Saturday’s Mainstage artists.

For more information about the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:



Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday on the International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by curtjazz
Arturo O'Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill

On Sunday, May 24th, the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival’s International Stage will close in a big way, with the latest winners of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album: Arturo O’Farrill and his Latin Jazz Orchestra. The group won the honor for their latest release, The Offense of the Drum (Motema), which is a stunning tour through a melange of Latin styles; with great guest stars such as Vijay Iyer and Donald Harrison adding to the fun. It was the second time they won the award, the first was in 2009 for Song for Chico.

A pianist, composer and bandleader, Mr. O’Farrill is the son of one of the legendary founders of the Afro-Cuban jazz genre, Chico O’Farrill. Born in Mexico, Arturo moved to NYC with his family at the age of 5. Soon began a musical odyssey, which would initially find Arturo decidedly moving away from the music of his father toward straight-ahead jazz. As he learned to play piano, one of his original idols was Chick Corea. Discovered as a teen, playing piano in an upstate New York bar, by Carla Bley. O’Farrill then joined Ms. Bley onstage at Carnegie Hall a few weeks later. He then spent three fruitful and educational years in Ms. Bley’s band before moving on to a stint as musical director for Harry Belafonte.

After later working with (and getting history lessons from) Andy and Jerry Gonzalez and their renowned Ft. Apache Band, Arturo made his way back to his roots, joining his father’s band in 1995, as Chico O’Farrill was experiencing a late career renaissance. With his father now being ill, Arturo became the band’s pianist, musical director and contractor, spearheading the group as they began a 15 year Sunday night residency at NYC’s famed Birdland, in 1997. After his father’s death in 2001, Arturo became the titular leader of the band, as they rose to new heights with a mixture of the traditional Afro-Cuban sound favored by Chico O’Farrill with the blend of Latin rhythms from all over the Western Hemisphere, that have become the younger O’Farrill’s trademark.

But before Mr. O’Farrill gets to close things out on Sunday evening, the International Stage will feature a Turkish percussionist, a Brazilian vocalist and a Haitian guitar based group with a remarkable back story. Sitting still throughout the day will be very difficult indeed.

1:30 PM – Fernanda Noronha

Ferananda Noronha is a Brazilian native who now calls Atlanta home. Her eponymous first CD, recorded in 2005, was produced by the master jazz drummer/producer Norman Connors, who also guided the careers of Jean Carne and the late Phyllis Hyman, among others. The disc was not released in the U.S. until last year, but it has received a lot of attention in the ATL area. A vocalist since the age of 13, Ms. Noronha counts Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder and Joao Gilberto among her influences, which is not surprising, since her infectious sound includes elements of all three of those legendary performers.

3:30 PM – Strings

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 1959, guitarist Jacky Ambroise was introduced to music at a very early age when his father Jean-Jacques D. Ambroise played the classical flute at family gatherings and his mom sang folk songs. Tragically, he lost both of his parents at the age of 6, due to Haiti’s political turmoil. Fascinated by Spanish music as well as the rhythms of his homeland, Jacky Ambroise taught himself to play the guitar at age 8 and a few years later, he was one of the most popular artists in his homeland. The group Strings, which Ambroise formed with another guitar playing friend, Philippe Augustin, plays a style they call “Tropical Flamenco”, which successfully blends their musical influences. Having now fully recovered from major brain surgery in 2009, Mr. Ambroise will join Mr. Augustin and the other members of Strings as they fill the AJF International Stage with pure musical joy.

5:30 PM – Emrah Kotan

Atlanta resident Emrah Kotan is a classically trained percussionist who came to the United States from his native Turkey and received a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from Georgia State University. His debut album, The New Anatolian Experience, is a collection of original compositions and arrangements that fuse world music and jazz, creating stylistically sophisticated vibes and a genuine model of personal artistic expression. Aside from performing, Emrah is an enthusiastic music educator who has conducted master classes and has taught many students over the years, some of which who have been awarded music scholarships by the colleges of their choice. Emrah teaches students of all ages privately and is the Director of the Jazz and World Percussion Ensembles at Agnes Scott College.

7:30 PM – Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

We’ve told much of Arturo O’Farrill’s musical story above. So now, we’ll let the two-time Grammy winner speak for himself.

Music by these artists and many other AJF38 performers can be heard on our 24/7 Live365 streaming jazz radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from 5PM – 7PM, daily between now and May 31.

For more information about the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:


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