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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/

 

 

 

 

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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 – 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: http://atlantafestivals.com/

For further information about the Ninety Miles Project, visit their website: http://www.ninetymilesproject.com/

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 http://atlantafestivals.com/