Atlanta Jazz Fest's rising stars
7 must-see acts to watch this year
Take a look at the lineup for the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and even casual jazz fans recognize legends such as singer Diane Schuur and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. But artists appearing at the annual Atlanta music mainstay that haven't yet achieved such iconic status shouldn't be slept-on. Here's a short list highlighting seven of this year's largely unsung, but ultra-talented acts.
Mad Satta: Since dropping its debut album, Comfort, this past October, the New York-based eight-member ensemble has built a rep for crafting bass-heavy, Dilla-esque, future soul tunes. Expect a set filled with lush-yet-funky originals and reworked covers, powered by the deep, smoky vocals of frontwoman Joanna Teters. Fri., May 22. 7 p.m. Main Stage.
Thundercat: Bassist/vocalist Thundercat is known both for his solo work on albums such as The Golden Age of Apocalypse and for his sideman duties on projects by Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu, and Kendrick Lamar. And similar to the artists he's played with, Thundercat's sound is a seamless blend of jazz, soul, and electronica — flavored with his own brand of off-kilter whimsy. Fri., May 22. 9 p.m. Main Stage.
An Evening with Blue Note: The Blue Note record label and the Revive Music group join forces to serve up a night starring a cadre of artists they represent: the Marcus Strickland Twi-Life quartet, drummer Otis Brown III, and bassist Derrick Hodge. And although each possesses a unique sound, all these young lions share a dedication to making straight-ahead sounds that defy standard jazz tropes and stereotypes. Sat., May 23. 5, 7, and 9 p.m. Main Stage.
Banda Magda: Magda Giannikou, the Greek-born vocalist who usually sings in French, fronts this New York-dwelling but truly international band. Just consider the fact that the assembled group of musicians plays everything from samba to French chanson, Greek folk tunes, Colombian cumbia and Afro-Peruvian lando — all while presenting the music in a fun, grooving context. Sat., May 23. 5:30 p.m. International Stage.
Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone featuring Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas, and Terry Harper: As this performance's title suggests, a group of Atlanta's most celebrated — and stylistically divergent — jazz singers join forces to pay homage to one of the genre's most beloved artists. Sun., May 24. 3 p.m. Main Stage.
Fernanda Noronha: Salvador, Bahia, native and Atlanta resident Fernanda Noronha takes the stage to perform original samba, bossa nova, jazz, and R&B from her three-album catalog, including her recently released self-titled EP, as well as select Brazilian classics in the infectious, high-energy style she's known for turning out. Sun., May 24. 1:30 p.m. International Stage.
Lil John Roberts: Celebrated drummer and bandleader Lil John Roberts assembles an all-star band for one of the festival's late-night jam sessions. Roberts has played with everyone from Robert Glasper to Snarky Puppy, so you never know who will join him on stage. (Note: Unlike the events at Piedmont Park, the late-night jam sessions are ticketed events. Cost: $35-$40.) Sat., May 23. 11 p.m. Piedmont Room at Park Tavern.