Inside the Arts: Jazz is an Atlanta tradition

Atlanta Jazz Festival at Piedmont Park. (File)

Forged in the crucible of Jim Crow America, jazz is an amalgam of African, African American, and European culture. Considered by many to be the nation’s only pure, original art form, jazz was created by the descendants of formerly enslaved Blacks and is inextricably linked to the culture they created in the face of segregation and racial oppression.

From its humble, if unlikely, beginnings, American jazz has become the taproot of a genre that continues to influence music and culture around the world. Whether in films mired in racist stereotypes of Blacks (The Jazz Singer, 1927), or social movements to secure civil rights for the same, or in a world seemingly hypnotized by hip-hop, jazz is never behind or ahead of the times – it is always of the times. So, too, the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

From its inception, the Atlanta Jazz Festival has been one of the South’s preeminent jazz festivals. It is well known for attracting veteran artists and introducing new artists. Now, as the city emerges from one of the worst global health crises in over a century, Atlantans are ready to get outside. Gather some friends, grab a blanket, pack a picnic basket, and join us in Piedmont Park for good tunes, good vibes, and great fun – in the Atlanta Jazz Festival tradition.

Rescheduled from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, planning for the 43rd annual Atlanta Jazz Festival during Labor Day weekend is in full swing (pun intended). Organized by the City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the festival lineup features 18 artists, educational workshops and masterclasses, a kid’s zone, an artist’s village, and a Low Country lounge. Among this year’s artists are Archie Shepp, Patti Austin, Miguel Zenon, Yuko Mabuchi, Mike Phillips, and Brenda Nicole Moorer. 

In addition, this year’s festival is proceeded by a new virtual series, In the Tradition. For the 18 weeks leading up to the festival, jazz aficionados in Atlanta and around the world can, from the comfort of their home, learn about each of this year’s artists – their backgrounds, what inspires them, what brought each to the field, and how they place their work within the rich tradition of jazz. The series streams on Tuesday evenings at 7:30 p.m. on the Atlanta Jazz Festival website at atlantafestivals.com.

 


Camille Russell Love has been executive director of the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs for more than two decades.