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Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Roberta Gambarini / Roy Hargrove

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2014 by curtjazz

roberta gambariniNow this is what I call an impressive start!roy hargrove

In a change from the recent past, the Atlanta Jazz Festival will kickoff Memorial Day Weekend on Friday evening,
instead of Saturday afternoon. And just to make sure that they have your attention, the headliners will be two of jazz’s biggest stars, vocalist Roberta Gambarini and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. With these two luminaries taking the stage, I expect temperatures on Piedmont Park’s Mainstage to be a few degrees hotter that what the thermometer reading will tell you.

In addition to their impressive individual work in recent years, Ms. Gambarini and Mr. Hargrove have worked together quite a bit, each guesting on  the other’s recent albums and live performances. We can only hope that this trend will continue in Atlanta this weekend as, from what I’ve heard, they seem to bring out the best in each other.

The full AJF Schedule for Friday, May 22

All Friday performances will take place on The Main Stage. The International and Local Stages will start on Saturday.

5:00 pmNorth Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the Atlanta metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. Three winners are selected to receive a financial contribution to their music program and a guaranteed spot to perform on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage. The North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band took first place this year and they are sure to start the 2014 AJF in fine fashion.

7:00 pm – Roberta Gambarini Quartet – Ask the world’s greatest jazz musicians who their favorite living vocalist is and many of them will say without hesitation, that it is Roberta Gambarini.  This Italian born beauty first set foot on American soil in 1998 and two weeks later took third place in the prestigious Thelonious Monk vocal competition. The late great pianist Hank Jones, a man who knew a thing or two about singers, declared Ms. Gambarini to be “The best singer to emerge in the last 60 years”. Legendary saxophonist Benny Carter essentially shared the same opinion.  Mr. Jones showed his appreciation by recording a marvelous album of duets with Gambarini, 2008’s You Are There. Ms. Gambarini’s debut album, Easy to Love (my personal favorite) and her most recent U.S. release, 2009’s So In Love, were both Grammy nominated. My only complaint is that as of now, her latest release The Shadow of Your Smile, is only available as an expensive Japanese import. Come on U.S. distributors, do something about this!

What is it about Roberta Gambarini that everyone loves? Well, we can start with her voice, a clear soprano with a multiple octave range which  can bring you to shouts of joy on minute and to compassionate tears the next. Musicians love her because she also is possessed with an innate sense of musical timing and she can swing her head off. In other words,  Gambarini is not just a singer vocalizing out in front of the band, she is a musician who happens to sing extremely well. She has taken the lessons of the masters of  her craft; Sarah, Ella, Billie, Betty and Anita and melded them into a style that is singularly hers. I have no doubt that we will be in for a major treat come Friday night.

9:00 pm – Roy Hargrove Quintet – It was 1990 when Novus Records dropped on us Diamond in the Rough; a new album from a fresh-faced 19-year-old trumpeter, who possessed incredible technique and a developing style that set him apart from the glut of others like him that the major labels were pushing on us at that time. Others could play the instrument but this young cat had The X-Factor, that Milesian duende that only the greats possessed.

That fresh-faced kid is now 44 and a well-respected veteran who has amassed an impressive list of recorded credits including a foray into “hip hop meets jazz” (Rh Factor), which was considered by many to be groundbreaking.  But through it all, be it bop, Latin, modal, soul jazz, big band, strings and all the stops in between, each time he puts that trumpet to his lips, Roy Hargrove still has that sound that makes you stop dead in your tracks and listen to what he has to say.

The fact that he is bringing a Quintet to Atlanta leads me to believe he will be playing a set of the type of straight-ahead jazz that has been his forte going back to those albums of the early ’90’s. For those of you unfamiliar with Hargrove’s work, check out With the Tenors of Our Time, the pinnacle of his early work; Crisol Habana a hard charging Afro-Cuban album with the great Chucho Valdes and others; Emergence a strong  modern big band CD with guest spots by Ms. Gambarini; or Earfood, a  recent quintet date on which Hargrove proves that he still has the goods. Whatever album you choose you won’t be disappointed, as I expect that collectively, we will not be disappointed on Friday.

For more information about the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at http://atlantafestivals.com/

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 – The Lineup

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by curtjazz
Russell Gunn

Russell Gunn

As you may recall, I reluctantly chose to miss last year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival. As much as I wanted to be there, I took the advice of family, friends and doctors to stay close to home a little while longer as I recuperated from cancer surgery. Well, a year has gone by and thank God, I’m feeling GREAT. So the fam and I will be back in Piedmont Park this Memorial Day weekend, attending the best free jazz festival in the country and maybe the world.

A few things will be different this year than in the recent past. The organizers have scrapped the performances on Memorial Day Monday. Instead they are kicking things off in a big way on Friday night with Roberta Gambarini and Roy Hargrove on The Main Stage. Saturday will bring Russell Gunn’s latest group and Christian Scott. On Sunday the wonderful Freddy Cole and the exciting young chanteuse Cyrille Aimee will be performing simultaneously on two different stages (tough choice!) but all will be back at the Main Stage later that evening as the legendary Ahmad Jamal closes out the festival.

Also new this year will be The Locals Stage, which will feature some of the best jazz artists that are working in the ATL. Thankfully, one of my favorite locales, The International Stage, will be going strong on Saturday and Sunday.

All in all, the lineup is strong as usual, with a true international flair. As someone who prefers to check out new and unfamiliar artists in addition to the recognizable, the 2014 AJF has a lot to offer for me and I plan to sample as much as possible.

As we get closer to May, we’ll start with our usual preview reports and video clips. We’ll also drop some “live” videos from the festival and maybe some interviews with the artists. Hopefully we’ll see some of y’all in Piedmont Park Memorial Day Weekend as we make our triumphant return!

Visit the AJF 2014 Website for more info: http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 – The Lineup

Friday, May 23

MAIN STAGE

  • 5:00PM: NORTH ATLANTA CENTER FOR THE ARTS JAZZ BAND
  • 7:00PM: ROBERTA GAMBARINI QUARTET
  • 9:00PM: ROY HARGROVE QUINTET

 

Saturday, May 24

MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00PM: TRI-CITIES HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ BAND
  • 3:00PM: RIALTO YOUTH JAZZ ORCHESTRA
  • 5:00PM: ESTER RADA
  • 7:00PM: RUSSELL GUNN’S KRUNK JAZZ ORKESTRA
  • 9:00PM: CHRISTIAN SCOTT

INTERNATIONAL STAGE

  • 1:30PM: EDMAR CASTAÑEDA TRIO
  • 3:30PM: SOMI
  • 5:30PM: ELDAR TRIO

LOCALS STAGE

  • 12:30PM: J.C. YOUNG MIDDLE SCHOOL JAZZ ORCHESTRA
  • 2:30PM: WILLIE ZIAVINO AND THE C.O.T. BAND
  • 4:30PM: BRIAN HOGANS QUARTET

 

Sunday, May 25

MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00PM: MILTON HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ ENSEMBLE
  • 3:00PM: AIRMEN OF NOTE
  • 5:00PM: FREDDY COLE QUARTET
  • 7:00PM: BILL FRISELL’S GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE FEATURING GREG LEISZ, TONY SCHERR AND RUDY ROYSTON
  • 9:00PM: AHMAD JAMAL

INTERNATIONAL STAGE

  • 1:30PM: ALI AMR
  • 3:30PM: DIEGO FIGUEIREDO TRIO
  • 5:30PM: CYRILLE AIMÉE

LOCALS STAGE

  • 12:30PM: RIALTO JAZZ FOR KIDS
  • 2:30PM: DARREN ENGLISH QUINTET
  • 4:30PM: KEMBA COFIELD QUARTET

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Gerald Clayton Trio

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , on May 27, 2011 by curtjazz

Gerald Clayton is one of the most talked about young pianists working today. Clayton is the 27-year-old son of jazz bassist/bandleader/producer John Clayton. In just a few short years on the jazz scene Gerald Clayton has drawn raves from all segments of the jazz world and has attracted an audience that includes hip-hoppers; be-boppers; avant-garde lovers and every hyphenate in between.

Clayton began his piano studies at age seven. His teachers have included famed pianists Kenny Barron and Billy Childs.  In 2006, he finished second  in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition. He made his bones in the groups fronted by his dad and uncle – The Clayton Brothers and the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He has also backed a number of well-known singers; including Diana Krall, Michael Buble and Roberta Gambarini.  He has  also written arrangements and played piano on the most  recent albums by trumpet master Roy Hargrove (Emergence) and rising trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire (When the Heart Emerges Glistening).

In 2009, Gerald Clayton made his debut recording as a leader; Two-Shade. It earned a Grammy for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” for his version of Cole Porter’s “All of You”.  Earlier this month, he released his second album, another trio date: Bond – The Paris Sessions. More Grammy noms may follow for this disc, as it includes many dynamite originals plus interesting reworkings of jazz and popular standards.

The Gerald Clayton Trio will appear at the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, this Sunday May 29th, at 7 p.m. I’ll be checking them out. I hope you will too.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: http://atlantafestivals.com/

For further information about Gerald Clayton, visit his website: http://www.geraldclayton.com/

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