Archive for the JazzLives! Category

For Father’s Day – A Great Son of Jazz

Posted in JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on June 18, 2011 by curtjazz

On Father’s Day, Charlotte will be hosting a concert by a son of “America’s First Family of Jazz”.  NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis will appear at the McGlohon Theatre in Spirit Square on Sunday, June 19; at 7:30 p.m.

This will be the internationally acclaimed trombonist/producer/educator’s second appearance in Charlotte this year.  He was last with us in February for a series of educational workshops and concerts. He also took time out for a hot jam session at Sullivan’s in South End, which was documented in this blog

Here’s Delfeayo and his dad Ellis, on “Sultry Serenade”

Marsalis is of course, the son of renowned pianist/educator Ellis Marsalis and the brother of jazzmen Branford, Wynton and Jason Marsalis.  His father and brothers share the NEA Jazz Master Award with Delfeayo.  He’ll be playing selections from his latest critically acclaimed album Sweet Thunder (Duke & Shak) and more.   The JAI All-Star Youth Jazz Ensemble will open this event.

The concert is being presented by the Jazz Arts Initiative, a new non-profit organization made up of educators, cultural arts patrons, musicians and individuals dedicated to the continued development of Charlotte’s arts heritage.

The remaining tickets are on sale for $25. (The $35 VIP seats are sold out.) They are available online through CarolinaTix

I will be there, courtesy of a generous Father’s Day gift from my wife and son. I hope to see you there too.

2011 Atlanta Jazz Fest – Day 2 (5/29/11)

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on June 8, 2011 by curtjazz


Sunday at the Atlanta Jazz Fest started very well and ended not so well. And it had nothing to do with the music.

Sunday morning was a rare R & R day. The family and I got up, went out to breakfast, the came back to the hotel and went for a swim. We then head over to Piedmont Park. Traffic patterns were flowing better than Saturday, so we arrived in time to catch a bit of the last of the opening acts; The North Atlanta High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Adam Brooks. They were well rehearsed and swung nicely; it was a great treat to hear these promising kids as we were entering the park. They also featured a promising young vocalist named Brittany Carr, who performed an accomplished version of “Blue Skies”. Hopefully we’ll hear more from Ms. Carr in the future.

The young folks were an appetizer for the explosive main course that followed, in the person of trumpeter Sean Jones.  Mr. Jones was celebrating his birthday on Sunday and he was doing it in high style.  He kicked off his set with a scorching tune from his just released album No Need for Words, which managed to make it even hotter outside.  His band which included up and coming talent Brian Hogans on alto was every bit the equal of the leader (Mr. Hogans also has a new album out, titled Evidence of Things to Come – check it out!).  Set highlights were a take on Freddie Hubbard’s “Dear John” and two of the new numbers “Obsession” and “Momma”, which Jones dedicated to his mother, who in attendance, seeing him at a festival for the first time.

Next up was pianist Gerald Clayton, who has caused quite a bit of buzz in the jazz world of late.  Young Mr. Clayton is a talented pianist, whose style is a bit introspective and freely stretches boundaries.  He also loves to deconstruct standards, which he did to great effect on “My Shining Hour” and “Con Alma”. I enjoyed his set immensely. I can’t say the same for some of the audience, who seemed a bit confused and put-off by Clayton and his trio. I think the problem may have been that a trio like Clayton’s loses some of the intimacy that it needs, in a sprawling outdoor setting like the Atlanta Jazz Festival.  I noticed that a large part of the audience either left or turned their conversational volume up, which was a shame, because they missed some terrific music.

 My anticipation built after Clayton’s set, as we awaited Ninety Miles, the group featuring Stefon Harris on vibes, David Sánchez on tenor and Christian Scott on trumpet.   I expected this to be the highlight of what had already been a very fine festival.

However, I never got to see them.

While killing time after the Clayton set, my son and I decided to play catch.  While tossing the ball around, either a particle off of the ball or a gnat, flew into my left eye. I rubbed my eye to try to get the particle out. I think I rubbed it too hard. By the time we arrived back where my wife was sitting, her panicked reaction told the story. My eye had become extremely swollen and infected.  My wife and son pleaded with me to go to an urgent care or emergency room.  I finally acquiesced after getting a look at myself in my wife’s mirror.  As we packed up, Ninety Miles took the stage.  What I heard of them was great. Unfortunately, I only heard half of the first song.

Turns out that I had a scratched cornea; the doctor gave me eye drops, which soothed my eye and began the healing. It didn’t quell my disappointment though at having to miss what was likely a terrific festival closing set.

Overall, the 34th Atlanta Jazz Festival provided some great jazz and an awesome chance to relax with and hang with the family.  I can’t ask for much more than that.  We definitely plan on being back next year, but next time, I’ll wear goggles!

Review: 2011 Atlanta Jazz Fest – Day 1 (5/28/11)

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives! on June 4, 2011 by curtjazz

The 34th Atlanta jazz Festival took place Memorial Day Weekend.  This was my first time attending this sprawling event, which is free on the first two days in midtown’s Piedmont Park and concludes with a ticketed event on Memorial Day.


The festival began at 1:00 with performances by a couple of Atlanta area youth jazz groups.  We arrived at around 4:30, in time for the first of the evening performances by vocalist Audrey Shakir.  Ms. Shakir is a veteran of the New York jazz scene as well and she brought strong reinforcements, in her solid backing quintet which included former Wynton Marsalis alto saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson and Atlanta’s own Melvin Jones on trumpet. I had not heard of Mr. Jones before last Saturday afternoon, but he made an immediate impression, with his powerful tone and creative soloing.  (I was tweeting frantically, trying to learn his identity, before he was finally introduced.)  Ms. Shakir is a fine vocalist and a nimble scat singer, who deserves much wider recognition. Unfortunately, the 90 plus degree heat got the better of her and she had to cut her set short. Jones, Anderson and the rhythm section didn’t skip a beat and they finished in high style.

And here’s my son, John, with a kid’s perspective on the first set of the day

Next up was the Warren Wolf Quintet, with the outstanding bassist Christian Mc Bride as guest artist.  I am a great admirer of Mr. McBride’s body of work and I’ve also enjoyed what I’ve heard from Mr. Wolf on vibes; as a member of McBride’s 2009 Inside Straight band and on drummer Willie Jones III’s 2010 release The Next Phase.  So needless to say I looked forward to their set with a great deal of anticipation. Unfortunately, it was my biggest disappointment of the festival.  Their set was decidedly in the contemporary/smooth jazz vein, which was not a problem, as gifted cats such as these have the ability to give “smooth jazz” a good name.  What left me scratching my head is how uninspired their playing was, except for the Latin-tinged opening number and the hard-driving funk of the set closer. They also brought on a young female singer, whose name escapes me; which is for the best.  Her ponderous vocals on four tracks; brought the proceedings to a virtual standstill.

Warren and Christian, I still have much respect and admiration for both of you, but this was not your finest hour.

As night fell, the highlight of the first day came with the appearance of violinist Regina Carter and the eclectically delightful group that appeared with her on her latest album Reverse Thread.  From the moment they hit the stage, playing the opening notes of “Artistiya”, until the last note of their last song was lost in the cheering, they had captivated the large, diverse crowd.  Ms. Carter, kora (West African harp) player Yacouba Sissoko; accordionist Gary Versace; percussionist Alvester Garnett and the rest of the sextet were locked in a polyrhythmic groove that would not let us go.  As I breathlessly tweeted during their set; “If there is a better jazz violinist than Regina Carter alive today, then I haven’t heard him/her yet”. I stand by my every word.  It is not hyperbole. Ms. Carter is a singular artist; Reverse Thread is a singular group and concept. It takes a lot to bring an audience lounging on lawn chairs and blankets to their feet, but damned if they didn’t do it. It was a great way to end the evening and everyone went home happy.

In the next post, we will talk about Day Two of the AJF, which featured trumpeter Sean Jones, pianist Gerald Clayton and the super group Ninety Miles, with Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott.

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Ninety Miles

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2011 by curtjazz

Talk about finishing strong…The Piedmont Park portion of the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival concludes tonight with Ninety Miles: a group composed of trumpeter Christian Scott, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, vibraphonist Stefon Harris and some of Cuba’s finest jazz musicians. Their album, also called Ninety Miles, will be released June 21st, on Concord Picante Records.  Filmmaker Devin DeHaven has produced and directed a documentary film about the project that will be released this summer.

The group and project draw its name, of course, from the geographical distance between the U.S. and Cuba.  Though we are physically very close, politics, as we all know, has kept the countries far apart for over half a century. 

“This record is about the power of music to communicate, and break down some of the barriers that result from language and politics and culture,” says John Burk, Chief Creative Officer of Concord Music Group and producer of the album. He developed the idea for the project after experiencing first-hand the visceral energy exchange between artists and audiences at the Cuban Jazz Festival in 2008. After more than a year of negotiations with representatives of the Cuban music industry – not to mention clearing the various travel-related hurdles with the U.S. State Department and the Cuban government; Harris, Sánchez and Scott were booked  to perform in Havana in May 2010 with many of the same Cuban players he’d seen at the festival a couple of years earlier. Ninety Miles is a snapshot of the rehearsals just prior to the 2010 performance.

That snapshot will be on the Atlanta Jazz Festival stage tonight, at 9:00. If you’re in the area, it is a must-see event.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

For further information about the Ninety Miles Project, visit their website:

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:

For further information about Gerald Clayton, visit his website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Sean Jones

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by curtjazz

Trumpeter/Educator/Composer Sean Jones is one of those cats who doesn’t get the props that some others do, but he just keeps on doing things right.  Kind of like a Kenny Dorham for the 21st century, although Jones’ sound is most often compared to that of Miles Davis.  

Like the two aforementioned greats, Mr. Jones has chops for days and is held in high regard by his fellow musicians.  He was the lead trumpet in Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for over five years, until his 2010 departure. He has also recorded with the big band of the legendary Gerald Wilson; with trombone/shells wizard Steve Turre and with rising saxophone star Tia Fuller, among others. 

Oh yeah, he has also recorded six fine albums as a leader. The most recent, No Need for Words was just released on May 23rdNo Need for Words is an album of love songs composed by Jones, but not all are in the traditional “boy meets girl” ballad vein.  He covers all kinds of love and all of the complex emotions that go along with it. It is a complex and stunning album, full of powerful emotion and first-rate musicianship.  If you haven’t heard Mr. Jones before, this is a good place to start.

I’m sure we’ll hear songs from No Need for Words and much more, when Sean Jones plays at the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, this Sunday, May 29; at 5 p.m.  I’ll be there – I hope you will too.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

For further information about Sean Jones, visit his website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Regina Carter’s “Reverse Thread”

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , on May 25, 2011 by curtjazz

She’s arguably the premier jazz violinist working today and she will headline the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival on Saturday Night. Regina Carter and Reverse Thread, her groundbreaking group (and CD) that infuses jazz with African folk rhythms, will close out Day One of the festival at 9 pm.  It is a performance that should not be missed.

A Detroit native, Ms. Carter first garnered public attention as a member of the all female jazz group Straight Ahead, back in the early ‘90’s. Though that was an ensemble, Regina’s soulful virtuosity set her apart. Her solo career began in 1995 with an eponymous fusion date, which is still remembered for its daring/cool/sexy/controversial cover photo.  She has continued to grow in stature ever since, with albums such as Rhythms of the Heart and Motor City Moments (my personal favorite) to her credit.

Ms. Carter has never been one to stand still musically, and Reverse Thread is her boldest statement to date.  It’s the culmination of a journey that she embarked upon, after receiving a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”.  She added an accordion and a kora; the West African harp traditionally played by village storytellers, to her rhythm section.  The results have been hailed by jazz critics such as All Music Guide’s Thom Jurek, as “stunning” and “undefinable, uncategorizable beauty” – a sentiment that I can’t argue with.

But don’t take our word for it. Come out to see Regina Carter and the Reverse Thread band on Saturday night at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. You’ll be glad you did.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

For further information about Regina Carter, visit her website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Warren Wolf

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on May 23, 2011 by curtjazz

If you’re a jazz fan, you’ve probably heard Warren Wolf’s work, even if you’ve never heard his name.  Though Mr. Wolf has not yet released an album domestically as a leader (his Mack Avenue debut is due out this fall), the multi-instrumentalist has made some very impressive guest appearances with headliners such as Jeremy Pelt, Bobby Watson, Tia Fuller and Christian McBride, as a member of McBride’s group “Inside Straight”.  Christian will return the favor by joining Wolf in his AJF performance.

Though he is also a virtuoso on piano and drums, Mr. Wolf is known mostly for his work on the vibes.  Originally from Baltimore, he was a child prodigy, whose musical education began at three.  Mr. Wolf is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and the prestigious Berklee College of Music.  He has recorded two albums that have been released in Japan: Incredible Jazz Vibes, with Mulgrew Miller on piano, Vicente Archer on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums; and Black Wolf with Miller, Rodney Whitaker and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.

Warren Wolf is sure to bring some powerful and exciting jazz to the Atlanta Jazz Festival this weekend. Wolf, with special guest Christian McBride, will take the stage at 7 pm on Saturday, May 28. We hope to see you there!

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Audrey Shakir

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , on May 22, 2011 by curtjazz

Vocalist Audrey Shakir will be performing at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Saturday, May 28, at 5 pm.  Ms. Shakir is a veteran of the New York jazz scene, who has performed with greats such as Kenny Barron, Duke Pearson and Lionel Hampton.  She was also a regular performer at the late, lamented Village Gate nightclub.

Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, her son Walter Blanding, Jr. is a renowned tenor saxophonist, who was a member of the Tough Young Tenors in the ‘90’s and is now featured with Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.   

She has also released an album, If You Could See Me Now, backed by Barron, Reginald Veal and drummer Justin Varnes. It’s available on CDBaby.

She has been an Atlanta resident since 1989 and has performed at many Atlanta area clubs and festivals, including the AJF.

You can read more about Audrey Shakir in Jason Crane’s 2007 article about her in The Jazz Session.  You can also see her perform as a part of this 2010 video clip about Jazz Appreciation Month in Mobile, AL. 

But better yet, why not catch Audrey Shakir live, at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, next Saturday.  Hope to see you there.

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website:

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Let’s GO!

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by curtjazz

2011 Official AJF Artwork - created by Daniel Murdoch

I’ve lived in the South for over 10 years now. There’s much about my life here that I like, but I’ve always missed the easy access to great straight ahead jazz that New York always provided.  Hell, even “smooth” jazz has become hard to find recently.

I’d recently settled into a certain amount of complacency about hearing jazz live. Basically, if it didn’t fall right into my lap. I admit, I didn’t make a lot of effort to find it. Well, that will change in 2011. There is a good deal of live jazz below the Mason-Dixon line, you just have to seek it, find it and then, here’s the hardest part…get off your “rusty dusty” and go.

Last Saturday night, my Queen and I were sitting around relaxing. Our son was asleep and the house was quiet. She looked up her work schedule for the next two weeks and discovered that she had been blessed with the entire Memorial Day weekend off.  Excitedly, she said to me “Baby, we should do something!” We kicked around a few ideas, and then I remembered that the Atlanta Jazz Fest was traditionally on Memorial Day weekend.

Gerald Clayton

I knew of the AJF, but hadn’t paid much attention in the past, because a) usually one (or both) of us had to work that weekend and b) I had assumed that it was another package of slick instrumentalists and R & B vocalists, passing itself off as a “jazz” festival. Don’t get me wrong, I dig some of these artists. Many are quite gifted; it’s just not what I look for when I want to hear jazz. Well, you know what happens when you assume.

I looked at the lineup and saw Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Sean Jones, Gerald Clayton, Christian Scott and more…Okay, NOW I was excited! These are my people. This is a place that the fan and the writer in me wants to be.

Regina Carter

My wife, asked cautiously “Okay, how much are the tickets?” I looked down at computer screen and then looked up with what, judging from my wife’s reaction, must have been a look of maniacal joy and I slowly uttered “It’s…Free” (5/28 & 5/29). She repeated my words, I nodded and she said “Let’s GO!”

Sean Jones

Thanks to the miracle of online shopping, within 30 minutes we had reserved our hotel room, reserved a rental car and bought three new lawn chairs. I had to tell somebody about this, even if it was midnight, so I dropped a note on Twitter to share the news with our extended jazz family. 

My excitement has been growing by the day since then.  Great jazz is on my Southern doorstep again; and this time, I’m going to answer.

We will post something on the blog every day, from now until the Atlanta Jazz Festival; about the festival itself, the artists or our preparation. For more on the AJF 2011, visit their website