Tradition takes time and through that time the dream weathers the tests that will one day allow it to stand alone. Tradition is not a task for the faint-hearted but is best relegated to the visionaries who recognize its value and grasp the baton as it is passed.
In Atlanta, the gateway city to the South, the bastion of tradition has long been the Atlanta Jazz Festival, the largest free jazz festival in the country. It is truly the hallmark of legacy heralding the vision of Mayor Maynard Jackson that began in 1974. It took four years of planning before the then Bureau of Cultural Affairs would launch the inaugural festival in 1978. Not without its obstacles, its success established the foundation upon which forty consecutive festivals have presented this music to admiring and adoring fans.
For 40 years, 5 mayors, Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Bill Campbell, Shirley Franklin and Kasim Reed, 4 decades of City Council men and women and 7 directors of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Robert Lomax, Shirley Franklin, Tom Cullen, Shirley Cooks, Harriet Sanford, Barbara Bowser and Camille Russell Love have kept jazz a vibrant invitation and welcome to the city each year. They have given opportunity to more than a 1000 jazz musicians and vocalists to grace the stages of the Atlanta Jazz Festival before millions of spectators.
Without their staunch support and hard work, the ever-evolving festival would not have been able to give visibility to venues around the city during the 31 Days of Jazz that precedes each Memorial Day weekend festivities. Nor would they have been able to have more than a 100 middle and high school bands compete each spring in the Youth Jazz Band Competition to win a coveted performance spot on the main stage to open each day of the festival.
Over the years without the support over the decades with staff like Michael Lomax, Malcolm Johnson, Joe Jennings, Kole Eaton, Ebon Dooley, Mitchell Feldman, Rob Gibson and John Armwood, festival managers Alonzo Craig and Melissa Laurenceau, project supervisor Nnena Nchege who ran logistics & 31 Days or Valarie Benning Barney responsible for sponsorship & marketing, there wouldn’t be current project coordinator Herman Wilson.
7 photographers have been primarily responsible for documenting festival’s growth: Jim Alexander, Sheila Pree Bright, Michael Reese, Sue Ross, Eric Waters, Julie Yarbrough and Ernest Gregory. With the onset of the internet hundreds more amateur and professional photographers have shared their photos and videos across multiple platforms.
The media has played an important part of getting the message to the people and we recognize radio sponsors WVEE 103FM, WCLK 91.9FM, 94Q Jazz Flavours, WRFG 89.3FM, WJZF, WALR/Kiss 104.1, WABE-PBA, WJZZ 107.5, 790 The Zone, as well as radio personalities Ernest Gregory and perennial emcee, John Armwood, Bobby Jackson, Steve Bowser, Phil Clore, Carl Anthony, H. Johnson, Riva Blue, and Jamal Ahmad among numerous others, who have lent their voice and time volunteering. Print media sponsors have been Creative Loafing, Jazziz, Jazz Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jezebel Magazine, Atlanta Magazine, Rolling Out, Abyss Jazz Magazine, Upscale Magazine, Atlanta Tribune The Magazine, Southwest Atlanta Magazine, and television sponsors MediaOne, BET on Jazz, WSB TV, Mundo Hispanico, and Comcast.
Last but never the least, we must never forget to give thanks to the thousands of volunteers, aptly dubbed Jazzteers by Nnena Nchege in 2005, who over forty years have unselfishly given their time to insure the success of the festival. Without their help the behind the scenes production activities that make operations run smoothly would not happen. They have are a vital component to each year’s event.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival is the acknowledged largest continuous free jazz event in North America and contributes greatly to the success of the city’s tourism, hospitality and community. Standing alongside all of the men and women who have been proud to have supported this tradition and are currently a part of this annual endeavor, it has been a privilege and an honor to be numbered among this cast.
This 40th year anniversary celebration lineup includes performers who graced the stage the very first year, those who have performed over the years and those who are first time initiates. They are the Pedrito Martinez Group, the Robert Glasper Experiment, the Allan Harris Band, Regina Carter: Simply Ella, Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet, Reńe Marie and Experiment in Truth, Charles Lloyd Sky Trio, Moonchild, Nik West, Nicholas Payton Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, Macy Gray, Little Tybee, Harriet Tubman: The Band, Deva Mahal, Marquis Hill Blacktet, the Miles Davis Electric Band Tribute All Star Jam with Lil’ John Roberts feat. Russell Gunn and Miles Davis band member Mino Cinelu, Dwight Andrews, Joe Jennings & Howard Nicholson’s Life Force, Celebrating Sarah: Kathleen Bertrand & Friends Honor Sarah Vaughan, the Joe Gransden Big Band with Alexandra Jackson, the Ojeda Penn Experience with Jean Carne, Freddy Cole, Frank Houston, Kemba Cofield, Darren English, Cleveland P. Jones, Julie Dexter and Jacob Deaton Duo featuring Rasheeda Ali, Mamaniji Azanyah & Mastery, Russell Gunn & African Drums meets Kebbi Williams’ Wolf Pack and Mausiki Scales & Common Ground featuring Giwayen Mata.
Sponsors & Partners of the 2017 Atlanta Jazz Festival are Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Wetumpka, Resurgens Atlanta, Bank of America, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, City of Atlanta, Publix Supermarket Charities, Marta, Fontis Mountain Spring Water, Lyft, Loews Atlanta Hotel, and Sprouts Farmers Market.
The Official Print partner is Creative Loafing and the Official Radio Partner is WCLK 91.9FM #AJF40
Last year signaled the mounting of the 39th time that Office of Cultural Affairs, under the current Director Camille Russell Love leadership, that she and her staff brought local favorites, emerging musicians and national performers to Piedmont Park for the 2016 jazz festival weekend that ran from May 27th – 29th.
Thousands turned out to grill, eat and sit on blankets, lawn chairs and under tents before three stages, Legends, International and Local to enjoy as eyewitnesses the talents of Alex Lattimore, Anonymous DaBand, Assaf Kehati, Band Room Nation, Camila Meza, Chandra Currelley, Chargaux, Daby Touré, Eliane Elias, Enoch, Etienne Charles, Eugenie Jones, Gregory Porter, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Jamison Ross, Joe Alterman, JOI, King Ace Beats, KP the Great, Mabu’s Ark Band, Mette Henriette, Navy Bound Southeast V.I.P. Protocol Combo, Next Collective, Rialto Jazz for Kids, Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra, Tatran, The Benny Golson Quartet, The Headhunters, Theo Croker, and Tomeka Reid
Drummer Lil John Roberts and trumpeter Russell Gunn Quartet hosted respective nights of the Late Night Jazz Jam.
Sponsors for this year’s festival were Bank of America, Publix, PNC Bank, Loews Atlanta Hotel, MARTA, Cantoni, The Coca-Cola Company and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. #AJF40
2015 and another year and BADBADNOTGOOD played the Kickoff Party and the festival excitement was upon the city. As folks settled into Piedmont Park Memorial Day Weekend for the annual jazz gathering, it marked the start of another summer of music in Atlanta. The crowd came from near and far as they always do for this traditional free festival.
Once again the staff of the Office of Cultural Affairs put on a fabulous festival with many of Atlanta’s favorites Emrah Kotan, Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone Featuring Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper, Joe Gransden and His Big Band, Tony Hightower and the Wolfpack ATL. Coupled with the above, festival goers had the pleasure to hear some of the best names in jazz including Alfredo Rodríguez Trio, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Banda Magda, Contemporary Violinist Daniel D., Derrick Hodge, Diane Schuur, Dida Pelled, Fernanda Noronha, Jeff Sparks, Jessie Davis and the Nebraska Jones Experiment, Kenosha Kid, Mad Satta, Marcus Strickland Twi-Life, Mastery, Navy Band Southeast V.I.P. Protocol Combo, Nettwork Trio: Charnett Moffett, Stanley Jordan, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, Otis Brown III, Pharoah Sanders Quartet, Strings, The Rad Trads, Thundercat,.
The Youth Jazz Band Competition winners were Westlake High School Jazz Ensemble taking 1st Place, Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band in 2nd Place, North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band brought home 3rd Place.
Lil’ John Roberts and His All Star Jam Band held down the Late Night Jazz Jam. #AJF40
On May 23rd – 25th, the Atlanta Jazz Festival took to the stages in Piedmont Park for another fabulous weekend of jazz, that closed out the month-long educational focus on jazz master-classes. The Jazz Education and Workshop Series were free to anyone who wished to participate..
Performing this year were Ahmad Jamal, Airmen of Note, Ali Amr, Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age, Brian Hogans, Christian Scott, Cyrille Aimée, Darren English, Diego Figueiredo, Edmar Castaneda, Eldar Djangirov Trio, Ester Rada, Freddy Cole, Kemba Cofield, Rialto Jazz for Kids, Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra, Roberta Gambarini, Roy Hargrove, Russell Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orkestra, Somi, Willie Ziavino and the C.O.T. Band.
The Youth Jazz Band Competition winners to open each day of the festival were North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band who took 1st Place, Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band in 2nd Place, and Milton High School Jazz Ensemble captured the 3rd Place performance spot.
Multi-instrumentalist and singer Jon Batiste hosted the Late Night Jazz Jam that closed out the day of music. #AJF40
As Atlanta suffered through one of the worst sports years in the city’s history, the NL East winning Braves lose to the Dodgers, Falcons dreams of the Super Bowl are dashed with a loss to the Jets, the Minnesota Lynx takes the Dream in the WNBA finals and national hopes for the Bulldogs were splattered when they lost to Mizzou. But the shining star of the year was the jazz festival that brought 31 Days of Jazz to neighborhoods venues and greeted passengers at the airport. This was the prelude to the artists that appeared in Piedmont Park, that once again hosted the annual jazz festival from May 25th to the 27th.
Aaron Diehl Quartet, Alexandra Jackson, Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet, Aruán Ortiz, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dominick Farinacci, Ginou, Gretchen Parlato, Jacob Deaton and the Tribulation Band, Julie Dexter, Jose James, Meshell Ndegeocello: A Dedication to Nina Simone, Miguel Zenón Quartet, Rialto Jazz for Kids, Rialto Youth Jazz Orchestra, Rio Negro, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak, Tia Fuller, and the Uri Gurvich Quartet.
Benjamin E. Mays High School Jazz Orchestra came in as the 1st Place winner, North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band took 2nd Place, Stephenson High School Jazz Ensemble was the 3rd Place, Westlake High School Jazz Ensemble was 4th Place, J.C. Young Middle School Jazz Ensemble ranked 5th Place, and Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band had the 6th Place spot in the Youth Jazz Band Competition. The first three opened the main stage performances each day and the final three opened the festivals contemporary stage.
Dionne Farris with the Russell Gunn Quartet held down the Late Night Jazz Jam for the festival goers who didn’t want each day of music to end. #AJF40