Atlanta is full of jazz this February.
Maybe this is due to a convergence between Black History Month and this historically African American art form, or perhaps it's just a random coincidence that a slew of great performances are slated for this month; either way, I'm all set to reap the benefits of having a number of worldclass artists in the neighborhood and throughout the metro area.
Many of Atlanta's college performance venues have brought or will bring major names in the world of jazz to the city.
Trumpeter Jon Faddis stopped by the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech Saturday night for a big-band celebration of Duke Ellington, and 85-year-old drummer Roy Haynes will perform with his Fountain of Youth Band at Georgia State University on the 26th.
The jazz fever even extends beyond institutional venues; local trumpeter Joe Gransden is playing the Fox Theatre on Monday with his 16-piece big band, and Wynton Marsalis brings his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra to Symphony Hall on the 22nd.
All this jazz in the city is exciting, but the main event each February is the Jazz Festival, which kicks off at the school's on Friday.
Trumpeter Nicolas Payton performs on opening night with a trio led by pianist Gary Motley, who heads Emory's jazz program. Tickets are $15.
Saturday is a free evening of big band music courtesy of university students. The band will play standards from some of the departed titans of jazz, ending with a reading of Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High." An ensemble of faculty musicians featuring drummer Justin Chesarek, guitarist Dave Frackenpohl and saxophonist Randy Hunter also is on the bill.
Of course, a university-sponsored festival has to have an educational-angle of some sort.
For neighbors looking to learn about jazz from one of the best trumpeters out there, Payton is holding a class on jazz improvisation from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday at the concert hall. The trio, along with Payton, will also hold an open rehearsal at the same place on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.