It's not exactly a secret that the Atlanta Jazz festival is gearing up for its annual explosion of music this weekend.
The bulk of the massive event (which is in its 35th year) is taking place in Piedmont Park May 26-28, and tons of big-name talent is slated to take the stage; keep your eyes and ears peeled for folks like Tito Puente Jr., Cyrus Chestnut, Kathleen Bertrand, Russell Gunn, Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective, the Robert Glasper Experiment, Roy Ayers and many, many more. (Honestly, one of the most-impressive AJF lineups in years.)
In addition to all the sounds going down at the park, AJF organizers have also concocted two other must-attend events for the weekend - and both are at Loews Atlanta Hotel (1065 Peachtree St, NE).
The first one - the Kickoff Cabaret - kicks off Friday, May 25 and features performances by vocalist Jennifer Freeman (an Atlanta native who's shared the stage with artists like Phyllis Hyman and Patti Labelle and starred in theatrical productions such as Porgy & Bess) and pianist Johnny O'Neal (who played Art Tatum in the acclaimed film Ray and has worked with legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson and more). $35. Doors open at 7 p.m. Mercer Ballroom. Purchase tickets at: www.ticketalternative.com.
Then on Sunday, May 27, local jazz/funk pioneer Jason Orr will host the Late Night Jazz Jam. Orr, whose documentary Diary of a Decade has been making the film festival rounds in recent months, is slated to corral this jam session - featuring appearances by the ATL's own Lil John Roberts and the previously mentioned Robert Glasper, among tons of other festival artists. $35. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Ellington Ballroom. Purchase tickets at: www.ticketalternative.com.
For more information about the Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit www.atlantafestivals.com.
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