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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: