From Samara Joy to Wynton Marsalis, this year's Atlanta Jazz Festival lineup has come to play
For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer; and this year's 46th annual Atlanta Jazz Festival marks it in bold letters and exclamation points.
Renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra headline the first night of the festival's free performances May 27 through May 29 at Piedmont Park. Right there's enough to send this audience home swooning, swinging — pick your appropriately laudatory adjective.
That's just opening night. On Saturday, it's bassist Stanley Clarke's turn to close the stage. He's another esteemed artist, mind you, who dared to take on the classic Michael Jackson ballad "The Lady In My Life" and make it a must-hear in his own setlist. (Perhaps it's among the many reasons Rolling Stone magazine named him its first Jazzman of the Year.)
And for Sunday's finale, it's Ledisi, a joyous, Grammy Award-winning vocalist whose delivery rivals her ability in buoyance.
Keep in mind, those are the headliners. Shows start at 1 p.m. Wander to the Midtown park early and experience local vocal favorites Tony Hightower (Saturday) and Brenda Nicole Moorer (Monday). Acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni is joining in on the fun, as part of saxophonist Javon Jackson's set (Saturday).
Then there's THE artist of the moment — the Grammy Awards' recent pick for Best New Artist, in fact — Samara Joy, who at 19 won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. (She'd just started singing jazz the year before). And now, like a lot of 23-year-olds, she told NPR's Ari Shapiro that she's "trying to get on TikTok and be more active on social media because that's where my generation is."
Unlike many of her peers, though, she has a debut album (Linger Awhile) to promote.
“Whether you like sultry vocalists, contemporary, traditional, swing, fusion or Latin Jazz, we have something for every jazz lover," said Camille Russell Love, who's executive director of the City of Atlanta-Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, about the lineup announcement.
That description may be the only thing understated about this bill.