The Queen City JazzFest was an amazing treat for attendees this year. Once the announcement was made that Michael McDonald, Gerald Albright,Jonathan Butler, and Such would be performing, the stage was set. This year’s festival was hosted by Al B. Sure who serenaded the crowd with snippets of his hit songs. Such opened the show with a few of her songs and her single “Before Dark.” When Gerald and Jonathan hit the stage together, fans knew they were in for a special treat. The pair fueled the crowd with song after song, taking turns individually and together. The soulful, funky, uplifting performance left fans on their feet dancing and singing. At that point, everyone was ready for the highlight of the evening; Michael McDonald stepped on stage to a roaring crowd. As expected, Mr.McDonald did not disappoint. He sat at the piano accompanied by his incredible band and sang his heart out. Fans were taken on a journey through his expansive musical career; they sang along and swayed while holding onto his every word. It was such an amazing moment to witness a true legend sharing his gift. June 15, 2019 was a memorable night that attendees will be talking about for a while.
The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival held on September 1st -2nd began with the Coltrane Youth Jazz Workshop. Every year they are always the festival openers. Following them were the 2018 Coltrane Jazz All Stars spearheaded by the director of Jazz Ensemble at North Carolina A&T State University Mondre Moffett. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band from New Orleans had the crowd on their feet with their funky big band grooves. Grammy nominated Jazzmeia Horn blew onlookers away with her incredible jazz vocals. The rain made its way in and even caused a brief break in the performances, but in the end it didn’t stop the music. Renowned guitarist Lee Ritenhour was everything fans expected. Gregory Porter graced the stage with his fabulous band and flawless vocals to end the evening. It was the perfect finale to a day of incredible music. The last day of the festival included vocalist and guitar player Jackie Venson, Michelle and Ravi Coltrane, Diane Reeves, and Pete Escovedo with Sheila E.
Live music–who doesn’t love it? There is nothing quite like it, and on June 16th, live music is exactly what the city of Charlotte received. On that hot afternoon, fans packed the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre with much anticipation. No one was disappointed as artist after artist took to the stage, giving the crowd their all. Opening the show was a local talent, Darnell Showcase Taylor. If fans didn’t know him then, they definitely know him now. He was followed by Kindred the family soul who sang as the crowd swooned with them. The Rippingtons with their legendary jazz style and masterful musicianship, gave fans exactly what they came to see. When Will Downing graced the stage, everyone was beyond ready to hear him sing the songs they know all the words to. He is always a crowd favorite. And under the stars, Norman Brown closed the night with everyone in the palm of his hand. His performance was stellar, as always and spiritually moving. When it was all said and done, Norman Brown had undoubtedly left it all on that stage.
The fifth annual Sunset Jazz Festival was nothing short of spectacular. The evening was hosted by Will Downing and featured guest appearances by Chris Walker and Norman Brown. The line-up included Regina Belle, Boney James, and concluded with a stellar performance by the master himself, Mr. George Benson. The weather was beautiful at Chastain Park in Atlanta, providing music lovers with the perfect atmosphere. Regina Belle serenaded the audience with hit after hit, wooing the crowd as they sang along. Boney James gave fans the show they’ve grown to expect and enjoy. After the sun set, George Benson and his amazing band graced the stage giving fans a night to remember. The legendary Benson played song after song from various era’s of his illustrious career. He was simply phenomenal.
The John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival was once again a phenomenal showcase of the best jazz has to offer. Labor day weekend at Oak Hollow Park in High Point, North Carolina is where fans enjoy two days of music. The line-up consisted of Kenny G, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ramsey Lewis, Eric Gales, Esperanza Spalding, Gregory Porter, and the Latin Jazz All Stars.
As we approach the end of the summer, we are also approaching the last few festivals for the year. I am going to get a couple more in before it all comes to end for 2015. August 15, 2015, Atlanta, GA was once again the host for the Sunset Jazz Festival at Chastain Park. As always, the line-up was incredible and left no stone unturned. Opening the five hour show with his energetic performance was saxophonist, Mike Phillips, joined by the very talented violinist, Karen Briggs. They’ve appeared together all over on various stages. Next up was The Robert Glasper Experiment. Robert had just flown in from London the night before, and he gave the type of performance he is known for: incredible. Alongside a cast of extremely talented musicians, The Robert Glasper Experiment wowed the crowd. Following was R&B singer, Eric Benet. His performance was grown and sexy–as expected. Eric never disappoints his fans with a collection of songs spanning his expansive career. Headlining the festival was none other than the entertaining, keep-you-on-your-feet Brian Culbertson. In true Culbertson style, Brian and his talented ban delivered a performance not to be forgotten. With an expansive catalog of music, Brian was able to give the crowd some of old and new music. The energy he and his band leave on the stage every time he performs is undeniable and created the perfect finale. Without knowledge of the line-up for 2016, I can assure old and new attendees they can safely make plans to attend. Furthermore, they will be happy that they did. I’ll see you there in 2016.
Here are some photos from the Sunset Jazz Festival:
The 3rd annual Sunset Jazz Festival–held in Atlanta, GA–did once again raise the bar. I’ve attended the jazz festival all three years, and I’m always enamored by the line-up and even more so by their performances. Tucked beautifully away and where all the magic happens is Chastain Park. It is by far one of the best outdoor venues I’ve seen. The list of performers this year included chart-topping, Grammy-award-winning artists. Jonathan Butler, who recently released “Living My Dream,” shared the stage with Norman Brown and Alex Bugnon also know as the Summer Love Tour. They were followed by the lady of the evening, Grammy winner Dianne Reeves. She too recently released a new album titled “Beautiful Life.” As the sun faded and night fell over the park, Brian Culbertson lit up the stage with an electrifying performance that had everyone on their feet. Culbertson’s latest album, “Another Long Night Out,” is quite indicative of how an evening at the Sunset Jazz Festival feels–a long night out and certainly a night to remember. Headlining for the evening was the man with a sax that everyone loves: Boney James. Boney delivered everything and more of what his fans love.
The producer of the Sunset Jazz Festival–amongst other titles–Kyle Newport has created an event that is not to be missed. Each year, he exceeds expectations and brings forth a show that is unlike any other. With so many choices for jazz lovers to choose from, no matter where you’re from, the Sunset Jazz Festival is one you don’t want to miss.
The year of 2014 is off to a great start for Eric Essix. He is enjoying a multitude of success from his latest release “Evolution” and planning an event with a purpose. The Eric Essix Jazz Escape will be held in Birmingham, Alabama on August 29-31 this year. This will be the first year of the Escape that Essix plans to have annually–very appropriately named an Escape versus a festival because that is what Eric intends the experience to feel like. The Jazz Escape will be held at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. The line-up for the three day event will include Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, and Essix’s own band just to name a few. All the proceeds from the Jazz Escape will go directly to Eric’s non-profit foundation, The Eric Essix Foundation for the Arts and Education.
Eric talks with me about his vision and plans for Jazz Escape.
The John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival in High Point, NC was a wonderful way to spend part of the Labor Day weekend. The festival was jumpstarted by the Coltrane Youth Workshop, followed by The Coltrane All-Star Band. Next up was acclaimed trumpeter, Christian Scott. His performance displayed just how talented a musician he is. He and his band were fantastic. It was about that time when the skies opened up, followed by a brief storm. Although the storm caused a delay in the performances, it also made the temperature about 15 degrees cooler. It was the perfect formula for a beautiful evening, and as the rain stopped, the crowd once again filled the park. Before the show continued, some very talented winners who attended the Coltrane Institute of Jazz and wrote essays were awarded instruments so that they could continue their musical endeavors.
The rain had ceased, and the park was full again as Music Maker Revue came to the stage and showed us how Blues is done in Louisiana. Afterwards, the stage was set for Summer Horns comprised of Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, and Richard Elliot. They came out to a huge round of applause and an audience that endured a storm to see them perform. They opened with “Serpentine Fire,” grooving in harmony with the crowd on their feet. The four were playful and entertaining during their thrilling performance. They did amazing covers of Sly and The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In The Summertime” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” The foursome ended their performance with a medley of old funky tunes and a standing ovation. Last and most certainly not least, the most anticipated artist of the night, the legendary Al Jarreau, made his way to the stage. Without making a sound, he had the crowd on their feet and clapping for him. With cameras flashing and roaring applause, Al greeted the crowd. He sang songs of old and shared a couple of his new ones. As I sat mesmerized and elated, my body never stopped swaying and moving to the sound of his voice. Al and his band of fine musicians were absolutely incredible. It’s a night that I will always remember and treasure. Afterall, I had been graced with a performance by the legendary Al Jarreau.