All That Jazz 

National Black Arts Festival brings jazz Vocalist Abbey Lincoln to the Rialto

It's probably the former (way former) trumpeter in me insisting that Abbey Lincoln's all-time greatest contribution to the many arts and causes to which she has turned her attention is her cameo as Lillian Gilliam in Spike Lee's 1990 split-lip trumpeter tragedy Mo' Better Blues. Denzel Washington played the trumpet, and I played the trumpet. Denzel's a talented, Academy Award-winning hunk, ergo I am a talented ... well, you get the idea.

But, of course, most film buffs would probably argue in favor of her lead role in the Jim Crow-era love story and tragedy Nothing But a Man, or perhaps the lighter, romantic racial-dynamics romp For Love of Ivy, in which she acted opposite Sidney Poitier, the other black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Coincidence? I think not.

Are you getting that Lincoln trends a little political? You might have guessed it from her stage name. Yes, she was deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement, did benefits for CORE and the NAACP, and partnered with (not to mention married) Max Roach on We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite.

OK, OK, I hear the jazz men and women tapping out their angry letters in syncopated rhythms. Because, of course, it's neither film nor politics for which we know Lincoln best. As both a vocalist and composer, Lincoln has given her best to jazz. (Rewind a paragraph now so I can say that one of the best of her best was "Triptych," her duet with Roach on We Insist!. Pause there a moment more so I can say that, after her youthful supper club days, Lincoln's music has often been political, a tendency that seems to have hindered her early success in America, but that later endeared her to France's Verve, the record company created around Ella Fitzgerald in 1955. Why do the French seem to get our jazz better than we do?)

Lincoln, whose performances in Atlanta have been well received in recent years, returns July 21 for the National Black Arts Festival, which is offering a jazz-heavy lineup of musical acts this year.

Creeping up on her 75th birthday, Lincoln remains remarkably prolific, a more long-lived Lady Ella and less self-destructive Billie Holiday. As might be expected, her music has softened some: a little less of the screaming to be found on We Insist!, a little more melancholy, last-call reflection. Still singing the tough truths, but tempered, perhaps, by the perspective of years.

But if she ever needs a trumpeter ... aw, who am I kidding? Better call Denzel.

Thomas.bell@creativeloafing.com

And All That Other Music (Some of It Also Jazz) at the National Black Arts Festival

Atlanta's own avant-garde jazz jam, the Dennis Springer Quartet, performs at the Abernathy Arts Center July 15. Free. 7 p.m. 254 Johnson Ferry Road. 404-303-6172.

Can you name all four of the Neville Brothers? Then you already know their particular blend of soul, R&B, and a groovy dash of everything else. See them July 15 at the Woodruff Center's Alliance Theatre. $36-$46. 8 p.m. 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-5000.

Jazz trumpeter Marcus Printup, currently of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra but originally of our own Virgin-spotting Conyers, will be the featured musician at a special extended version of the High Museum's "Friday Night Jazz" July 15, jamming out till midnight. $10-$15. 5 p.m. 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4400.

Jazz and grass: perfect together. So July 17, Spelman College presents "Jazz on the Lawn," featuring Bernard Linette's Interactive Sextet, an Atlanta band that does a blend of trad jazz, Latin and avant-garde. Free. 3 p.m. 350 Spelman Lane. 404-270-5325.

Atlanta jazz percussionist Chris Burroughs heads up a trio with Takana Myomoto and Ede Wright when the Chris Burroughs Trio plays July 22 at the Southwest Fulton Arts Center. Free. 7 p.m. 915 New Hope Road. 404-505-3220.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presents Classics from the Next Generation on July 22, featuring violin virtuoso Mariana Green-Hill and Atlanta piano prodigy Tre Fortenberry. Free. 7 p.m. 4245 Cascade Road. 404-733-4949.

At Jazz at the Renaissance, drummer Jimmy Jackson and Atlanta vet Mose Davis head up a July 22 tribute to soul jazz pioneer Jimmy Smith, who died in February. $15. 10 p.m. Renaissance Hotel, 590 W. Peachtree St. 404-730-7315

Acoustic soul singer/songwriter Tony Rich makes with the R and the B July 22 in the Loft at EarthLink Live. $10. 10 p.m. 1374 W. Peachtree St. 404-885-1356.

Hip-hop band Nappy Roots brings its Kentucky-fried country sound to the Loft at EarthLink Live July 23. $10. 10 p.m. 1374 W. Peachtree St. 404-885-1356.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sings its sweet strings July 24 in Sweet Auburn at Ebenezer Baptist Church's Horizon Sanctuary. Free. 7 p.m. 400 Auburn Ave. 404-730-7315.

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