Thursday, May 23, 2013

Atlanta Jazz Festival spotlights the next generation

Posted By on Thu, May 23, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Peruse the lineup for this year's Atlanta Jazz Festival and you'll notice a number of artists listed who - much to the chagrin of a few hardcore traditionalists - don't neatly fit into the standard "jazz" categories. Of course the festival, which takes place May 25-27 (with free shows at Piedmont Park and ticketed performances at several other venues), has been in the business of showcasing genre-jumping musicians over its 36-year history. However, for 2013, there's a larger than usual cadre of talent that's dedicated to pushing the melodic envelope, and their presence on the bill isn't just a coincidence.

Alexandra jackson
  • Ana Ochoa
  • Alexandra Jackson
"We looked high and low to find artists who represent the next generation of jazz greats," said Camille Russell Love, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs which organizes the festival. "We're trying to nurture new audiences for jazz music, so we thought we'd just embrace this next generation as an artistic direction."

That said, with such an expansive list of next generation artists, some of whom aren't exactly household names yet - even for serious jazz heads - here are five must-see musical acts on this year's Jazz Fest roster.

Alexandra Jackson: The daughter of Atlanta's first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson, singer/pianist Alexandra Jackson (as heard on here recently released debut EP, From the Start) is quickly gaining a rep for presenting jazz standards with a fresh "veneer." When she takes the festival stage, keep your ears peeled for refreshed versions of classics like "I've Got the World on a String" and "Midnight Sun," among others.

Julie Dexter: A native of Birmingham (England, that is), singer Julie Dexter is no stranger to the Atlanta music scene - with a catalog of locally produced music that stretches back to 1999. She's known as the "Queen of U.K. Soul," but she's a fixture at jazz spots worldwide and belts out tunes that are flavored with reggae, bossa nova, broken beat, and more.

José James
  • Janette Beckman
  • José James
José James: Since dropping his debut album in 2008, singer/songwriter José James has been steadily amassing an army of fans clamoring to hear more of his jazz-meets-soul/hip-hop/gospel/funk sound. His latest project, No Beginning No End, brings together the talents of folks like Robert Glasper, Emily King, and more. ... So you never know who may join him on stage, dig?

Dionne Farris and the Russell Gunn Quartet: In case you missed their lauded October 2012 two-night stint at Churchill Grounds - when trumpeter Russell Gunn and his band joined forces with vocalist Dionne Farris to present jazz-tinged reinterpretations of some of her best songs - be sure to catch them on stage this weekend. Farris, Gunn and Co. will be the featured artists at the festival's Late Night Jazz Concert at Loews Atlanta Hotel.

Meshell Ndegeocello: Meshell Ndegeocello is clearly one artist who needs no introduction. An uncompromising bassist/vocalist, her sound covers the gamut, from soul to rock to funk to jazz and beyond. Don't count on hearing older hits, like "If That's Your Boyfriend (It Wasn't Last Night)," but be prepared for a far-out, wide-ranging, and worthwhile musical journey.

For more information about this year's lineup check out Atlanta Jazz Festival.

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