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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

 

 

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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: http://atlantafestivals.com

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Saturday on the International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , on May 11, 2015 by curtjazz
Dida Pelled

Dida Pelled

The International Stage has always been one of my favorite spots at the AJF. The smaller stage provides an intimate feeling, yet you are still outdoors. The artists come from areas all over the globe, often bringing a fresh and exciting perspective to jazz. I’ve discovered artists there who have now become some of my favorites. Last year, the International Stage gave me my first exposure to the magnificent vocalists Somi and Cyrille Aimee. In 2012 I heard trumpeter Melvin Jones for the first time and immediately became a fan. And in 2013, the lady considered by many to be the brightest young vocal star in jazz, Cecile McLorin Salvant, performed there. This year the International Stage features two well-known artists as headliners on each of its two nights, plus the usual array global talent who will give us all an opportunity for stimulating discovery.

Looking first at Saturday, May 23:

1:30 PM – North Atlanta School for the Arts Jazz Band

The Bank of America Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the Atlanta metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. The competition focuses on artistic and technical merits and features an outstanding judging panel.  The North Atlanta School for the Arts Jazz Band finished in third place this year, which earned them a $500 scholarship and an opportunity to perform on the International Stage at AJF38.

3:30 PM – Dida Pelled

This young Israeli guitarist/vocalist is a talent to keep an eye on. She plays full-toned guitar lines with a sound reminiscent of a young Kenny Burrell. And she sings in an inviting, winsome voice with just a hint of Blossom Dearie. A recent graduate of the jazz program at The New School in New York, Ms. Pelled has clearly caught the ear of others as she was joined on her debut album Dida Plays and Sings, by Roy Hargrove on trumpet and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. Watch out for her new album, with Sam Yahel on organ, due out this month. This is a set that I will not miss.

5:30 PM – Banda Magda

Banda Magda is an eclectic group of very gifted musicians led by the Athens, Greece born singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/film scorer, Magda Giannikou. Their energetic, musically diverse and downright fun, stage performances have won them fans around the world, including The Kronos Quartet and comedian Louis CK, who performed a duet with Magda on his TV show. Banda Magda’s current album Yerakina, is climbing the World Music charts now, while they are in the studio working on their third album, Technicolor Tigre.

7:30 PM – Alfredo Rodríguez Trio

If the legendary Quincy Jones agrees to mentor an artist, it means that he or she must be bringing killer chops to the table.  “Q” is not only Alfredo Rodriguez’s mentor but he is the co-producer of his Grammy nominated latest release, The Invasion Parade. Since coming to the U.S. in 2009, the Cuban born pianist has turned the Latin and Afro-Cuban music scenes on it collective ear with his dynamite original compositions, and his inventive takes on the Cuban classics that he grew up with. Being able to catch Mr. Rodriguez in a setting like this is a rare treat that should not be missed.

You can hear tracks from these and many other 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival performers on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz station, from 5 pm – 7 pm (ET) daily, through the end of May.

For more information about the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website at http://AtlantaFestivals.com 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday (5/24) on the Locals Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on April 29, 2015 by curtjazz
Tony Hightower

Tony Hightower

On the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival stage devoted to ATL area artists, the festival’s final day, Sunday May 24th, will feature more of a traditional jazz schedule than Saturday. You’ll have your pick of a big band, a smooth jazz saxophonist, a classic jazz quintet and an up and coming vocalist. All are first-rate representatives of the best the ATL jazz scene has to offer.

 

 

12:30 PM Joe Gransden and His Big Band

Joe Gransden is a veteran trumpeter/vocalist who has often been compared to another trumpet master who also sang a little, Chet Baker. A New York native, Mr. Gransden has 14 albums to his credit, including his latest Songs of Sinatra and Friends. Atlanta residents know Gransden from his appearances on  the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at Cafe 290, with his big band. That same band will get AJF38’s Sunday off to a great start, with swinging charts, hot trumpet solos and cool vocals.

2:30 PM Mastery

An all-star group composed of some of Atlanta’s top jazz veterans, Mastery features the original compositions of bassist and leader, Mamaniji Azanyah.  If straight ahead jazz in the style of Bird, Miles, Trane, Mingus and Monk is what you seek, then Mastery is where you will find it. When these cats hit the stage, expect no gimmicks and nothing cute, just hard-driving, swinging, classic jazz – Straight, No Chaser.

4:30 PM Jeff Sparks

In the tradition of Grover Washington, Najee and Gospel Jazz groups such as Allen and Allen, Jeff Sparks work on the soprano and alto saxophones combines R&B, smooth and classic jazz into a joyous mixture that has been pleasing Atlanta crowds for over 20 years. Listeners of all ages are uplifted by Mr. Sparks sound and leave his performances feeling better than when they came in. You can take some of that good feeling home with you on Sparks’ album Love.Life.Soul

6:30 PM Tony Hightower 

Tony Hightower is known to many in the Atlanta area for his performances in many of Tyler Perry’s stage productions. As an R&B singer, Mr. Hightower worked with Lionel Richie, Outkast and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, among others. But it has always been Hightower’s dream to be a jazz vocalist in the style of the great Nat King Cole. So, when Mr. Hightower decided to record his first jazz album, The New Standard, he went right to the source, accepting advice and tutelage from Atlanta resident, Cole sibling and a great jazz vocalist in his own right, Freddy Cole. Tony Hightower shows a great deal of promise on the album, with several compelling tracks. I’m sure he will bring those gifts to the stage in his live performance.

Tracks from many of the artists performing at AJF38 may be heard daily from 5 PM – 7 PM on our streaming jazz radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from now through May 31.

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

 

 

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

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/