Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – Saturday (5/23) on the Locals Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by curtjazz
Jessie Davis

Jessie Davis

In spite of my best intentions, I have almost always found myself in a breathless rush to the finish to complete my annual Atlanta Jazz Festival preview posts. I’ve sometimes finished a preview literally minutes before the music begins. This year it will be different! Because we are starting a month before AJF38 begins, we should have plenty of time to do each stage justice and at the same time provide you with the info you’ll need to decide where to be if you plan to be in Piedmont Park this Memorial Day Weekend.

The Locals Stage was a new idea to last year’s Festival, giving those artists who spend most of the year playing in the ATL area a chance to gain a bit more exposure than they regularly receive. It will continue this year with a rather eclectic but talented group of performers. Here’s a look at what Saturday, May 23rd, on the Locals Stage will look like:

 

12:30 PM –  Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band

The Bank of America Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the ATL metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. The second place winners this year and recipients of a $750 contribution to their music program, was the Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band. These fine young musicians will get a chance to show their stuff as they kick things off on The Locals Stage.

2:30 PM – Jessie Davis and the Nebraska Jones Experiment

 How this Brooklyn-based vocalist and her group got to be considered for the AJF’s Locals Stage, is a geographical mystery. But, Ms. Davis is a cool and interesting vocalist and their sound is fresh and hip, so damn the map and dig their music. Ms. Davis has described her sound as “Future Soul”.  She started the “The Nebraska Jones Experiment” as a one woman show on a subway platform. The “NJE” is now a collective of musicians from all over the world.   Their jazz includes, soul, hip-hop, pop and even a little turntable. They will definitely be bringing a little slice of Brooklyn cool to the ATL.

4:30 PM – Kenosha Kid

How does a cat from Athens, GA come to be known as “Kenosha Kid”? Good question. I’ll let his AJF38 page tell the story: “In Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravitys Rainbow, the Kenosha Kid is a maddeningly ambiguous figure: it might be a cowboy, or a dance, or a Sodium Amytal-induced hallucination (or all of the above). Guitarist/composer Dan Nettles (who, by the way, has never been to Kenosha, WI) conceived his namesake band with similarly uncategorizable intentions. This Kenosha Kid might be an indie rock band, could be a modernist jazz ensemble, can probably be considered a jam band, and most definitely is all of the above”

There you have it. Kenosha Kid also has a new album out, called Inside Voices. Check out the album and Dan Nettles at 4:30 PM.

6:30 PM – Wolfpack ATL 

I can promise you this: When these Atlanta legends hit the Locals Stage, everybody in Piedmont Park will know it. Wolfpack ATL is loud, it is funky and it is probably like nothing else you’ve heard before. Think Sun Ra, meets Dirty South Hip Hop, meets Clark ATL Marching Band. Wolfpack ATL is the brainchild of Grammy award-winning saxophonist Kebbi Williams. They have performed all over the Atlanta area, winning hearts and moving butts. If you want to find them, get to the park at 6:30 and just listen for the funky tubas.

Our next AJF38 post will feature the artists who will play the Locals Stage on Sunday May 24, the final day of the Festival.

For more on the Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, visit their website http://atlantafestivals.com/

 

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – All That Jazz and it’s FREE

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2015 by curtjazz

Atlanta Jazz Festival - red logoThey’ve been doing it for almost 40 years with no sign of slowing down…It’s friends, family, food, fun and most important (for me, at least) JAZZ.  The biggest and best free jazz festival in the Southeast, The 38th Atlanta jazz Festival will take over Piedmont Park once again this Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22 – Sunday, May 24. The full lineup was announced yesterday.  I am impressed that once again, in a world that readily slaps the name “jazz festival” on virtually any multi-day musical event that features adult oriented black artists, the producers of AJF38 have booked a lineup that is varied but true to the music’s origins.

This year we will hear from a classic jazz legend, in Pharoah Sanders; a contemporary legend in the form of vocalist Diane Schuur, plus, in a not to be missed Saturday night lineup, sponsored by Blue Note Records, we will hear from three of that venerable label’s young keepers of the flame: Marcus Strickland, Otis Brown III and Derrick Hodge. There will also be a couple of supergroups; one a quartet of Atlanta finest female jazz vocalists (Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper), in tribute to Nina Simone; the other a trio of cats who are all leaders in their own right and who will surely be nothing short of combustible together: Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Stanley Jordan on guitar and Charnett Moffett on bass.

The International Stage will as always, be the hippest spot at the AJF; as the sounds of jazz will be mixed with the rhythms of Cuba, Brazil, Greece, Israel and other cool spots from around the globe. Headliners will be the pianist and Quincy Jones protegé Alfredo Rodriguez and the multiple Grammy winning son of Afro-Cuban music royalty, Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra .

Back again in 2015 will be one of AJF 2014’s best ideas – The Locals Stage. Featuring the artists who work in and around the Atlanta area most of the year, getting a chance to show a wider audience what they can do. Wolfpack ATL, Tony Hightower and Jeff Sparks will be among the hometown favorites hitting that stage.

Of course as we get closer to May 23, we’ll start with our usual preview reports and video clips. You’ll also hear the music of many of the artists in special AJF38 segments on Curt’s Cafe Noir.

I’ve got a lot a musical dilemmas to settle between now and then, because as much as I’ve tried to do it, I’ve determined that I can’t be in two (or three) places at one. Hope to see you there come Memorial Day Weekend.

Visit the AJF 2015 Website for more info: http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – The Complete Schedule

Friday, May 22

Main Stage:

7:00 pm                                Mad Satta

9:00 pm                                Thundercat

Saturday, May 23

Local Stage:

12:30 pm                              Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band

2:30 pm                                Jessie Davis & the Nebraska Jones Experiment

4:30 pm                                Kenosha Kid

6:30 pm                                Wolfpack ATL

International Stage:

1:30 pm                                North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band

3:30 pm                                Dida

5:30 pm                                Banda Magda

7:30 pm                                Alfredo Rodriguez Trio

Main Stage:

1:00 pm                                Contemporary Violinist Daniel D.

3:00 pm                                The Rad Trads

5:00 pm                                Marcus Strickland Twi-Life

7:00 pm                                Otis Brown III

9:00 pm                                Derrick Hodge

 

Sunday, May 24

Local Stage:

12:30 pm                              Joe Gransden and his Big Band

2:30 pm                                Mastery

4:30 pm                                Jeff Sparks

6:30 pm                                Tony Hightower

International Stage:

1:30 pm                                Fernanda Noronha

3:30 pm                                Strings from Haiti

5:30 pm                                Emrah Kotan

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

Main Stage:

1:00 pm                                Navy Band Southeast: VIP Protocol Combo

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

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

7:00 pm                                Diane Schuur

9:00 pm                                Pharoah Sanders Quartet featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel

Tributes to a King – Max Roach – Billy Taylor – Duke Ellington

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on April 4, 2015 by curtjazz

martin luther kingAs most of you know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 47 years ago today in Memphis. Much has been written over the years about that tragic day in American history, including a previous post in this blog. So today, I choose to honor Dr. King with musical tributes from three of jazz’s all-time greats; Max Roach, Dr. Billy Taylor  and Duke Ellington.

Hope you enjoy them…

Max Roach plays a duet with excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 

If You Are Concerned Then Show It – from Dr. Billy Taylor’s Peaceful Warrior Suite – Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King

“Martin Luther King” was the 3rd Movement of Duke Ellington’s Three Black Kings suite; one of the last symphonic works completed by Mr. Ellington. As he lay dying in his hospital room, Ellington dictated instructions for the performance  and orchestration of this piece to his son, Mercer. It was not publicly performed until after Duke’s death.

An added bonus! Here is a fourth clip that I just stumbled upon, describing a meeting between Dr. King and Duke Ellington – both, understandably, were in awe of each other…

Maureen Budway – I Wish I Had Known…

Posted in In Memoriam, Under The Radar, Unsung Women of Jazz, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2015 by curtjazz

maureen budwayAs I opened the most recent issue of Downbeat magazine, looking, as is my wont when a fresh copy arrives, for new and interesting projects from artists who are unfamiliar to me, I came across an ad for Sweet Candor, the debut album from a vocalist named Maureen Budway. I grabbed a few tracks from an online resource and began to listen. I was immediately impressed by her easy swing, her tone and the pure soulfulness of her voice. And she totally won me over with a vocal version of “Del Sasser”, the Sam Jones tune made famous by Cannonball Adderley. I thought “I like this lady” and put her in my mental category of hidden gem vocalists who deserve wider recognition. My next thought was “I can’t wait to hear more from Maureen Budway”.

Sadly, there will be no further recordings by Ms. Budway, who as I found out when I read the glowing review of Sweet Candor later in the issue, passed away on January 12, 2015, at age 51, after a 20 year battle with breast cancer. She recorded the album last fall and had gotten to hear the finished product around Christmastime, a scant few weeks before her death.

I knew nothing of Maureen Budway until a few days ago, so any attempt by me to eulogize her would be fairly absurd. I will state a few of the facts that I’ve learned from my reading: She was a longtime part of the Pittsburgh area jazz scene and a respected and beloved vocal teacher at her alma mater, Duquesne University. Her brother David, is a fairly well-known jazz pianist (who performs on her album). She began singing professionally at age 18 and continued to do so, despite her illness, until just a few months before her death. And she has left us with one impressive album in Sweet Candor, which features guest appearances by trumpeter Sean Jones and flute legend Hubert Laws, among others.

In my younger days, I spent quite a bit of time in Pittsburgh, having a jazz musician close friend who lived there for a number of years. During those trips to the Steel City I dropped in to a number of its jazz spots so it’s possible that I crossed paths with Maureen Budway. If so, I wish I had known then what I know now; that Maureen Budway was a rare and beautiful jazz vocalist. She deserved to have a recorded catalog that was deep and wide. Nevertheless, we are grateful to MCG Records for ensuring that she can never be forgotten.

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #4 – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

A category that in the past was dominated by the traditional big bands, now features an interesting mix. It’s a tossup with much more than classic swing on the plate.

The L.A. Treasures Project – The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Capri)

No video clip available

Life In The Bubble – Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (Concord)

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project – Rufus Reid (Motema)

Live: I Hear The Sound – Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra (Archie Ball)

OverTime: Music of Bob Brookmeyer – The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (Planet Arts)

Should Win: Rufus Reid

Will Win: Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

In our third preview, we look at the nominees for the award that many consider the be the big prize in the jazz categories: Best Instrumental Jazz Album. As usual, the category is stocked with strong contenders but it is likely to come down to a race between two big names:

Landmarks – Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band (Blue Note)

Drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band has recorded four albums in sixteen years. Each one of them has been outstanding. The deeply personal Landmarks, recorded mostly in Mr. Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, LA, is no exception. It’s stark in spots richly orchestral in others and very compelling. I wouldn’t mind to see them take home the award but I don’t think that it’s going to happen due, ironically to another project that features Mr. Blade.

Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade came together on this 3 CD live recording from their world tour. The program includes jazz standards (Monk’s “Work”), classic Corea compositions (“Spain”) and even their take on Russian classical music (Scriabin’s Op. 11, No. 9). The trio is in outstanding  form and the musical performances are universally first-rate. I know that I complain a lot in this space about the awards consistently going to the legendary names but I can’t fight it on this one. Chick is most likely to win. The only thing standing in his way could be a super group with a number of big names in it. Their work isn’t as good but their names are almost as big.

Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch is one of the finest pianists of our time and Floating is more recorded evidence of that fact. This album found Mr. Hersch, bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson back in the studio after a few live discs. It’s as intelligent as any release of 2014 and the trio operates as a single, living breathing musical organism. It was on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2014 and it’s my pick for this award. But as we know, I don’t have a vote so the likely winner will be one of the two albums that flank it on this list.

Enjoy The View – Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart (Blue Note)

Bobby Hutcherson in his return to the label where he made some legendary recordings, accompanied by contemporary masters David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart. I so badly wanted this album to be great when I first heard that it was coming out. Alas, it was only good. It has numerous high point but almost as many moments of mediocrity. Still, here it is, up for a Grammy today. Will it win? Very possibly, if the voters don’t do their usual rush to Corea, who is this case, is the better pick. Or maybe they will split the vote and leave an opening for Blade or Hersch…We will see…

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller  – Jason Moran (Blue Note)

This is another album that I loved conceptually; that I wanted so much for it to be stellar and it turned out to be just “good”. Moran is a true student of the great Fats Waller and I love what he has been doing in trying to bring Waller’s music to a contemporary audience. Perhaps he was trying to do a bit too much for this record and something got lost in the translation. Oh well… Again, I would love to see Moran recognized for his musical contributions but giving him a Grammy for this album would be like when they gave Al Pacino an Oscar for The Scent of a Woman.

As for our unscientific and slightly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Fred Hersch

Will Win: Chick Corea

Up Next: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

2015 Jazz Grammy Preview #2 – Best Jazz Vocal Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

Here we are, racing to the finish to get our Jazz Grammy predictions out before the awards are presented this afternoon!

In the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, we have a couple of extremely deserving first time nominees, a perennial nominee who unfortunately is always overlooked and a couple of fairly good albums that are the favorites to take home the prize.

Map to the Treasure: Re-imagining Laura Nyro  – Billy Childs & Various Artists (Sony Masterworks)

Billy Childs is a terrific if overlooked, jazz pianist and arranger. The idea for this album was a very good one, taking the music of the great pop songwriter, Laura Nyro and re-imagining them with some of today’s strongest vocalists and instrumentalists. The result is an outstanding pop album. Sorry, folks but for my money, despite the presence of Mr. Childs, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter and Dianne Reeves, who all perform impressively in their segments, Map to the Treasure, while award worthy, doesn’t belong in this category. The irony is, because of all of the pop names and the handful of jazz names involved, it stands a decent chance of winning. If it does, I will be happy for Mr. Childs, who defintely deserves wider recognition but my opinion still stands.

I Wanna Be Evil  – René Marie (Motema)

For my money, this first-time nominee is your winner. This late 2013 release by Ms. Marie was one of the best of her impressive career. Her performances on this tribute to the late, great Eartha Kitt, are at turns funny, seductive, unnerving and thought-provoking; just like the immortal performer who inspired them. (Read my full review for Jazz Inside Magazine HERE) Why Ms. Marie will probably not win? The album was released over a year ago, just missing the cutoff for last year’s awards but putting it in the position of having slipped from the consciousness of man voters. Also, Ms. Marie as great as she is, is not well-known by much of the voting crowd and some only know her for a few minor controversies from seven years ago. And, there’s also the presence of a very well-known name, with  a very accessible album, which is an odds-on favorite to take the prize. If I’m wrong I will be thrilled but I don’t think so.

Live in NYC  – Gretchen Parlato (ObliqSound)

Like Rene Marie, Gretchen Parlato is a first-time nominee. Also like Ms. Marie, Ms. Parlato’s album was released in 2013, just after the eligibility cutoff for the 2014 Grammys. And also like Ms. Marie, Ms. Parlato is a longshot to win today. Keeping it 100, I adore Ms. Parlato’s work but this album, which consists mostly of live takes of selections from her previous releases, while good, is inferior to most of her previous work. Because she is so terrific overall, it would be cool to see her recognized but I think the next lady is going to stand in her way.

Beautiful Life – Dianne Reeves (Concord)

Beautiful Life was the great Dianne Reeves first new release in about half a decade. It is loaded with big name guest stars (Glasper, Esperanza, Lalah Hathaway, George Duke, etc). It is laden with accessible, pop and adult r&b radio friendly material. And Dianne Reeves is by far the most recognizable name in this category. The album is okay; not Ms. Reeves best work, but it won’t matter. She will pick up her fifth Grammy today.

Paris Sessions- Tierney Sutton (Varese Sarabande)

In Grammy previews of years past, I have referred to Tierney Sutton as the “Glenn Close” of this category. Sad to say, that appellation will apply again today. Ms. Sutton is a terrific vocalist; a perennial Best Jazz Vocal Album nominee, who has never won the award. Because in spite of the quality of her work, she is still undeservedly obscure in a category that habitually awards name recognition. Paris Sessions is another gorgeous album partnering Ms. Sutton with Serge Merlaud and Kevin Axt, two outstanding guitarists. The album is worth adding to your library but alas, Ms. Sutton will leave once again, without the Grammy.

Our unscientific and mildly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Rene Marie

Will Win: Dianne Reeves

Up next, Best Jazz Instrumental Album

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