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.
As a child growing up, Marcus Anderson would hear his father tell him repeatedly, “protect your hands, that’s going to be your ticket.” Those words kept Marcus from having to do too much heavy work growing up, and they also were instinctively true. Marcus became a skilled saxophone player throughout his younger years and continued growing as a musician, thus inevitably becoming a multi-instrumentalist; not to mention that he is also a producer, songwriter, vocalist, and thrilling entertainer. Anderson works with some of the best artists in music. With too many to name, however, I’ll just name a few: Alex Bugnon, Brian Simpson, Nicholas Cole, and PRINCE. Although he is in a fortunate situation, Marcus embraces the opportunity to learn and grow from the wisdom of his fellow musicians. He will be releasing his fifth album titled “Style Meets Substance” on March 25th–appropriately titled as he shows that he not has “style” but also “substance.” And both style and substance are definitely recognizable on this sexy, smooth, and funky album. Marcus exhibits versatility along with his creative instincts and ability to collaborate with just the right musicians to bring his music to life.
Melvin Miller is a talented trumpet player with the ability to engage and entertain audiences in a style like no other. Having been influenced by legendary musicians such as Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie, Miller has crafted his own sound. Being versatile is one attribute that makes Melvin so appealing. He can play everything from Jazz to R&B to Pop. His career in music is vast and worldwide. Melvin is the composer of the fanfare for The Trumpet Awards, has performed with the UniverSoul Circus, and has served as the musical director for Gloria Gaynor. It is no surprise that he has also shared the stage with dynamic artists such as Alex Bugnon, Eric Essix, James Brown, and Wynton Marsalis just to name a few. Residing in Atlanta has opened the door for Miller to become the fifth man of the group Five Men On A Stool–an experience he shares with fellow talented musicians. In the midst of all that he’s a part of, Melvin still creates great music. To his loving mother, he is the “young man with a horn.” And this title has followed him throughout his life. As a tribute to his mother, he wrote his latest album, “I Hope You Dance.” Each song has a distinct meaning and direct connection to his mother whom he lost a few years ago. Through the pain and with the help of friends and family, he masterfully created a musical gem. The album has an array of songs ranging from up-tempo, funky grooves to smooth heartfelt tunes. I haven’t experienced another album quite like it.
Melvin talks to me about his career and opens up about the making of “I Hope You Dance.”
She’s intelligent, articulate, and a classically trained flute player. Her name is Kim Scott. Scott’s talent and distinctive, polished tone can be heard every time she plays. She’s not just an artist but also an educator that finds joy in sharing her gift and knowledge of music with her students. Her debut CD, “Crossing Over,” climbed the music charts. She’s constantly evolving as an artist and performer, and her growth is undeniable on her sophomore CD “Rite of Passage,” produced by Kelvin Wooten. Kim also shows off her vocal skills on the song “Sweet Obsessions,” which she wrote. Her album is currently rising on the charts, and she continues to tour sharing her gift with the world. Kim’s a mother, a teacher, Chair of the Music Department of The Alabama School of Fine Arts, she plays with the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra, and she’s a rising star in the world of Jazz. She does it all, and she does it with class.
Looking ahead a few months, jump starting the 5th Annual Carolina Jazz Concert Series hosted by the Jazz Diva in Charlotte, NC will be Najee and Alex Bugnon on August 3rd at the Halton Theater. The second concert in the series will be headlined by Take 6 on September 28th at the Halton Theater. The season will end with a “MUST SEE” concert featuring Johnathan Butler on November 2nd at the Halton Theater. Tickets can be purchased for these shows at http://tix.cpcc.edu/events/carolina_jazz_concert_series or by calling 704-330-6534. Tickets go on sale on February 15th.
There are many concerts to attend this year. However, I must admit that I’m so excited to end the year with one very special evening with Spyro Gyra and The Yellowjackets on December 14th at 8:00pm. The show will be held at The Knight Theater in Charlotte, NC. Tickets can be purchased at www.carolinatix.org, or by calling the box office at 704-372-1000. They are 2 of my all time favorite jazz bands that I’ve loved and listened to for many years. It’s like the best Christmas gift I could have received. Thanks to the Jazz Diva Tammy Greene for making this happen. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to see them perform live. I can personally attest to that.