40th Atlanta Jazz Festival Tunes Up

During May, Atlanta is all about that jazz.
  • Atlanta throws one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country.
    Atlanta throws one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country.

Is it us, or has Atlanta felt a little bit jazzy lately? To celebrate the festival’s 40th anniversary, the festival has been offering 40 Days of Jazz with jazz-related events daily throughout the month of May. Jazz rings out at venues ranging from MARTA stations to galleries, museums, restaurants and neighborhood parks, culminating in a great big jazz blowout over Memorial Day weekend.

Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Nina Simone are just a few of the hundreds of jazz greats who have performed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. What makes it even more impressive is that these icons played for free. The Atlanta Jazz Festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary, is one of the country’s largest and most prestigious free jazz festivals.

The mission of the Atlanta Jazz Festival is to expose and entertain a diverse audience of jazz aficionados, young jazz enthusiasts and aspiring musicians to the rich heritage and variety of jazz as an authentic form of American music.

The festival is set to entertain again May 26 - 28 at Piedmont Park. The concert kicks off on May 26 at 7 p.m. with the Pedrito Martinez Group followed by a 9 p.m. performance by the Robert Glasper Experiment. On both Saturday and Sunday, artists will perform on three stages: Legends, presented by Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Wetumpka; Contemporary Stage; and the Next Gen Stage.

Highlighting the Legends Stage on May 27 will be the Allan Harris Band; Regina Carter; Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet; Rene Marie and Experiment in Truth; and Charles Lloyd Sky Trio. The Contemporary Stage will feature Moonchild; Nik West; Nicholas Payton Afro-Caribbean Mixtape; and Macy Gray. The Next Gen Stage will showcase Little Tybee; Harriet Tubman: The Band; Deva Mahal; and the Marquis Hill Blacktet.

A Late Night Jazz Jam will take place at Park Tavern, with the Miles Davis Electric Band Tribute.

Taking the Legends Stage on May 28 will be 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; and Freddy Cole.

The Contemporary Stage will rock on May 28 starting at 1:30 p.m. with Frank Houston followed by Kemba Cofield; Darren English; Cleveland P. Jones; Julie Dexter and Jacob Deaton Duo featuring Rasheeda Ali; Mamaniji Azanyah & Mastery; Russell Gunn & African Drums Meets Keebi Williams’ Wolf Pack; and Mausiki Scales & Common Ground Featuring Giwayen Mata.

The Next Gen stars will take the stage at 12:30 p.m. with Rialto Jazz for Kids; Danii Roundtree; Brenda Nicole Moorer; and Tivon Pennicott Quartet.

For the rest of May, the city of Atlanta becomes Jazz-lanta. Complete your weekend plans at our Memorial Day weekend events page.

Journalist Mary Welch writes business and lifestyle stories for local and national publications.

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