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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 http://atlantafestivals.com 

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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 CurtJazz.com 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 http://atlantafestivals.com

 

 

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: http://atlantafestivals.com

 

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Sunday on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by curtjazz
Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal

While Saturday’s Main Stage lineup at the Atlanta Jazz Festival is designed as a celebration of the artists of the 21st Century, the lineup that Freddy-Cole--This-And-Thatwill closeout the AJF on Sunday is anchored by some of jazz’s living legends. We will hear a big band with roots that stretch back to Glenn Miller;, a vocalist from a legendary jazz family who has become a legend in his own right; a guitarist who is widely considered to be one of the vital and productive artists in America and finally one of the greatest living pianists in jazz, a man who has influenced artists from Miles Davis to Robert Glasper and beyond. The Atlanta Jazz Festival will surely end on a high note.

The full Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage Schedule for Sunday, May 25:

1:00 pmMilton High School Jazz Ensemble – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the 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 Milton High School Jazz Ensemble finished third in the competition and will open the Main Stage performances on Sunday.

3:00 pmAirmen of Note – The Airmen of Note is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force. Created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Major Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band, today the “Note” features 18 of the most talented jazz musicians in the country and is one of the last touring big bands. As a result, it has earned an international reputation as one of the finest and most versatile big bands of its kind in the world.

5:00 pmFreddy Cole Quartet – It is almost impossible to hear Freddy Cole and not think of his older brother, the immortal Nat “King” Cole but as Freddy reminded us in the title of his 2004 album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me, he has steadily and determinedly carved out his own impressive musical niche. While Nat started in the jazz world and moved on to pop super stardom, Freddy Cole has never abandoned his roots, something for which we are all grateful.

Now at the age of 82, Freddy Cole’s always raspy voice has developed an even deeper level of expression as he uses time and space impeccably to tell his story. His recent album releases have included some surprisingly good interpretations of relatively recent pop hits, in addition to the Great American Songbook selections; including a terrific version of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” on Talk to Me and “Everybody’s Talkin’” on This and That. We hope to hear these and much more from this current Atlanta resident during his set.

7:00 pm – Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age – Bill Frisell’s project, Guitar in the Space Age is an homage to the inspirational popular music of his formative years made in the wake of “the birth of the Fender Telecaster guitar” – (1951) that, he recalls, “got me super fired-up” about his instrument of choice.  Frisell and his band mates explore material, recently recorded for release on Okeh/Sony Masterworks, associated with The Beach Boys, Junior Wells, Pete Seeger,  The Kinks, Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, Merle Travis, Johnny Smith and many others, as well as original material by Mr. Frisell himself. Frisell has always injected generous doses of humor in his music and we expect the same from this all-star group which will include guitarist Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr on bass and one of my favorite drummers working today, Rudy Royston.

Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012.  He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, and Meet the Composer, among others. Currently he is the Guest Curator for the Roots of Americana series at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Resident Artistic Director at San Francisco Jazz.

9:00 pm – Ahmad Jamal – One of jazz’s greatest living pianists, a Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame member, a man whose style has influenced so many of the greatest jazz musicians of the last seven decades (including, most famously, Miles) ; will close out the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Sunday night.

As he approaches his 84th birthday, a time at which even most jazz musicians are considering slowing down a bit, Mr. Jamal is, on the contrary, undergoing a career renaissance. His last two albums, Blue Moon and Saturday Morning, have earned Grammy nominations and critical bouquets, the likes of which the Pittsburgh native had not heard in years. Jamal’s sound on these albums, while true to his tradition has; thanks in large part to his new rhythm section of Herlin Riley on drums, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Manolo Badrena; become fresh, hip and born again funky. Ahmad Jamal did not “sell out”; the jazz world came up to meet him. Younger pianists such as Robert Glasper have taken notice and have given Jamal the respect that many critics denied him in his early years.

Mr. Jamal is also known for having a top 40 pop hit in the early sixties, with his recording of “Poinciana” and for now being the last living major participant in the famed 1957 CBS television broadcast The Sound of Jazz (I love how the great Hank Jones is standing right by the piano as Jamal plays, intently studying Ahmad’s work). Opportunities to see someone like Ahmad Jamal are growing rare and a chance to see him for free is virtually unheard of. So if I were you and anywhere near Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday night around 9. I would be there to hear this man play. And if by chance you run into Ahmad Jamal, remember not to call his art “jazz” but his preferred term, “American Classical Music”.

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

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Saturday on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2014 by curtjazz
Christian Scott

Christian Scott

The 2014 Atlanta Jazz Festival kicks off its first full day on the Main Stage with performances by artists from the less
traditional side of the fence. They include a Ethiopian-Israeli jazz funk vocalist; a veteran trumpeter leading a group that will mix jazz and Krunk and finally a young trumpet star who has for the past decade been a leader in the fusion of jazz with 21st Century musical styles. Purists may turn-up their noses but I think that Saturday has the potential to be one of the most musically compelling days on the AJF Main Stage in a long while.

The full Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage Schedule for Saturday, May 24:

1:00 pm The Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the 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 Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band finished second in the competition and will open the Main Stage performances on Saturday.

3:00 pm Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra – The Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra was founded in the June 2011 by its Director, Dr. Gordon Vernick.  The RYJO program consists of 1 large jazz ensemble and 5 jazz combos.  Last year participating high school students came from the following counties: Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Gwinnett, Clayton, and Fayette. The students are selected through auditions.

5:00 pm Ester Rada – Ester Rada is an Israeli born Ethiopian vocalist whose sound  gracefully combin[es] Ethio-Jazz, Urban-funk, Neo-Soul and R&B, with mixed undertones of black grooves”.  Growing up in a highly religious Jewish family in modest conditions in Israel, gave Rada the drive to change her way of life and fulfill her dream of creating music.

And yes, her sound is as unusually cool and hip as you would expect from someone with her pedigree. The buzz around Ms. Rada began with
the release of her self composed/produced EP, Life Happens, last year. The tracks that make up Life Happens also appear on her recently released eponymous full length project.

Ms. Rada names Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill as her major influences and I hear traces of all of those divas in her performances. People may argue about her “jazz cred” but frankly, I don’t give a damn, she is exciting to listen to and watch. Be there!

7:00 pm Russell Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orchestra – Mr.  Gunn is a veteran of many appearances at the AJF and he consistently surprises us every year with a new and interesting twist to his sound. This year Russell Gunn brings us the Krunk Jazz Orchestra, an aggregation that is likely intended as an amalgam of various jazz styles with that beat driven synthesizer heavy style of hip hop, known as “Crunk” (or “Krunk”) that is popular in the South.  Gunn’s 2006 album Krunk Jazz should give you an idea of what to expect when he hits the stage.

I know that I (and many others of a certain age) will need Icy Hot or a similar type of product on Sunday as a precursor to the visits to the chiropractor that we will all need next week from all of the spontaneous and violent head nodding that we will engage in while Gunn drops his groove. It will be well worth it.

9:00 pm Christian Scott – Though Christian Scott is not a known purveyor of “Krunk Jazz”, per se; he definitely works the same side of the street as Mr. Gunn, favoring musical styles that owe as much to jazz traditions as they do the sounds of hip hop and other currently popular musical styles. Mr. Scott, who now also goes by the name Christian aTunde Adjuah (in tribute to his ancestors), set the jazz world on fire in 2006 with the release of Rewind That, his major label debut. Rewind That was exciting because so many things were happening on each track. You heard Scott’s deep New Orleans Jazz roots, his Milesian influence, a bit of Coldplay style rock and an insistent hip hop based underpinning. Each was fighting to be heard and when all elements hit at the same time, something totally fresh and new happened.

Mr. Scott has continued down that stylistic path on most of his subsequent recordings. He has never let go of what he learned from his mentors such as his uncle saxophonist Donald Harrison, but he has also definitively refused to let himself get stuck in a retro-jazz rut. His most recent recorded project, Christian aTunde Adjuah,  is a 2 disc set that has given Scott the space to bring many of his new “stretch music” ideas to the forefront. I’m sure we will hear some of those on Saturday night. And I will make every effort to avoid spontaneous eye infections and catch this set, unlike 2011.

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

 

 

 

 

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/