Archive for russell gunn

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015: Through the eyes of “Jazzy John”

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by curtjazz

Johns Press PassThe 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival has come and gone leaving many great sounds and sights, for those of us who were there, to cherish. This year my teenage son John, known usually in these posts as “Jazzy John”, joined me on photographer’s row for the first time. I gave him a few lessons on etiquette and respect in dealing with the older, seasoned, ladies and gentlemen who were also in front of the stage and then I let him do his thing, while I shot some video footage.John the photographer

As I looked at some of his results, I was impressed with his natural eye and very proud of the work he did as he shot alongside of those three and even four times his age.

Diane Schuur1

Diane Schuur

I will finish my edits and post my full report on AJF38 in a few days but in the meantime, please indulge a doting father as I present John Davenport’s perspective on some of the memorable moments from the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Stanley Jordan and Charnett Moffett

Stanley Jordan and Charnett Moffett

Jeff

Jeff “Tain” Watts

Four Women and Simone

The Fabulous Divas of the “Four Women” Tribute with Nina Simone’s sister (R)

Derrick Hodge

Derrick Hodge

Don Braden and Ben Wolfe

Don Braden and Ben Wolfe

Kathleen Bertrand and Russell Gunn

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

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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/

 

 

 

 

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 Fest 2012 – Day 3 Recap

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2012, JazzLives! with tags , , , , , , , on June 11, 2012 by curtjazz

The third and final day of this year’s Atlanta Jazz Fest was the best overall. The slight cloud cover throughout most of the day cooled the temperatures a bit. We were able to get started early enough to be in place in time to hear all Mainstage performances and best of all, the music was consistently strong.

The Mainstage acts kicked off with vocalist Yolanda Rabun, who was making her AJF debut. Ms. Rabun, an actress and attorney, as well as a singer; came to play; giving her all throughout her set. She is blessed with an oustanding vocal instrument and boundless energy. Her set was drawn for the most part, from her debut CD, So Real – a good idea as the album includes some very good original material, such as “The Good Wife”, “Marry You Again” and the outstanding title track. 

Yolanda Rabun, as she kicked off the final day of the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival

However, Ms. Rabun at times veered dangerously close to allowing her set to become too theatrical; using vocal affectations and tricks that someone with an instrument as good as hers does not need to use, in order to effectively deliver a song.  And her 15 minute plus take on the old Gladys Knight & the Pips tune “Friendship Train”, which included Ms. Rabun leaving the stage to dash among the blankets and chairs shaking hands with the audience; may have been too much of a good thing.

In spite of this minor misstep, Ms. Rabun finished strong with a terrific version of “So Real”. She is a very promising performer, from whom we hope to hear more at future AJFs and around the jazz world, in general.

Next up was trumpeter Russell Gunn, who has taken many musical turns during his almost 20 year career, from hard bop to hip hop to jazz rock. I had wondered aloud on Sunday, which Russell Gunn would we see on Monday.  I got my answer during the sound check before his set as I saw a spate of electronic instruments being arranged on the stage behind Mr. Gunn’s trumpet.  This meant that we were getting Elektrik Butterfly, Mr. Gunn’s more recent aggregation, which celebrates the music of the iconic rock group, Black Sabbath.  I’d heard of, but not actually heard Mr. Gunn in this setting before now, so I didn’t know what to expect. 

Russell Gunn during his opening number at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest

Mr. Gunn and group kicked off with a funk-rock Black Sabbath tune that was reminiscent of the type of music we got from Miles in the early seventies. It was hot, funky, edgy and it divided the audience as if it were politics.  As I looked at the  crowd, about half were bopping their heads and beginning to dig the groove. The other half sat there with furrowed brows, as if to say “what the hell is this?”.

Russell Gunn and Elektrik Butterfly performing at the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Fest on Monday 5/28.

 As on Sunday, I missed the middle portion of Gunn’s set, for I hopped a cart ride over to the International Stage again. This time I caught the Melvin Jones Quintet.  Again, the crowd, though larger than Sunday’s, was still, very attentive and enthusiastic and with good reason. Mr. Jones, an Atlanta-based trumpeter and his group, which featured Mace Hibbard on saxes, were on fire; playing some extremely good straight ahead jazz.  I’ve been impressed with Mr. Jones ever since first hearing him at last year’s AJF. He did nothing to change my opinion in 2012.  This was my first time hearing Mr. Hibbard, who performed with his own group at the International Stage on Sunday. He was equally impressive. Here’s a clip what I saw and heard.

And here’s a little more:

In spite of the great music, we dashed back to the Mainstage to catch the remainder of Russell Gunn’s set and to meet with sax prodigy Grace Kelly, prior to hers. By the time we returned, vocalist Julie Dexter had joined Mr. Gunn on stage. More of the crowd was grooving, but there were some who would remain unconverted. No matter. Russell Gunn had done his job. He delivered a well-played set and he got the crowd buzzing. He had even made converts of two tough critics – my wife and son. My wife’s first words to me as I returned were “He is great! Do you have any of this music from him at home?”

Grace Kelly is interviewed prior to her set at the 2012 AJF

Grace Kelly walked into the press tent looking even younger than her 20 years, in a dress made partially of soda can tabs. She is as gracious and articulate a young woman as I have met in this business, who speaks with a stunning casualness about playing with legends such as Dave Brubeck, Phil Woods and Herbie Hancock. Yet when she took the stage, she played with the poise and artistry of someone at least twice her age. 

She played jazz classics and some of her newer compositions while engaging the audience in easygoing banter. Many had not heard of Ms. Kelly before her appearance, but by the time she was done, she had clearly acquired quite a few new fans – not the least of which was my son, age 11, who shyly asked me near the end of Grace’s set “Dad… Do you think that she’s attractive?”  Another rite of passage – Jazzy John had his first “Jazz Crush”.

Grace Kelly blowin’ hot during her set at the 2012 AJF on Memorial Day

Whereas the closing acts on the first two night of the AJF had been steeped in nostalgia, the final night was decidedly different. As Robert Glasper, one of the hottest performers in jazz today, was the closing artist.  By the time 9 pm rolled around on Memorial Day evening, the crowd, which was slightly smaller than on the previous 2 nights, due in part to the coming work day for many, was also decidedly younger, a by-product of Mr. Glasper’s more youthful fan base.  During his set, I found myself as excited by the music as by the implications of what was happening around me.

Robert Glasper closing the 2012 AJF on Memorial Day

For years the death knell for jazz has been sounded. Much of it by those who complained that  jazz had nothing to offer a younger audience, that could carry it forward into the middle of this century.  But the audience that night was thumbing its collective nose at the naysayers. As the Robert Glasper Experiment played a set of music from his breakthrough new album Black Radio, which has a strong mix of jazz and hip-hop, I saw crowds of twenty somethings dancing and forming pockets of fist-pumping excitement, especially when Glasper and company played “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  They were digging what they heard and they wanted more.  Jazz had offered them something and they were eating it up!  As the night ended, due to curfew restrictions, more than either artist or audience wanting to stop; Jazzy John asked if I could download Black Radio on his iPod…For me that was as good as it got all weekend.  For I know that, at least in my home,  jazz does have a future.

The Robert Glasper Experiment during the 2012 AJF

As we close the books on the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Festival, we do so with a lot of fond memories and great anticipation for the 2013 AJF. We will also make a vow to plan to spend at least one full day at the International Stage. 

The festival is free because the City of Atlanta has heard that this is an important cultural outreach. And they’ve heard it from those of you who are area residents.  If you are an Atlanta resident, please do your part to ensure that there is a 2013 AJF and that it remains free of charge, by contacting your local government representative. That’s the best gift that you could give to jazz today.