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Critic's Notebook: Top 5 picks for Atlanta Jazz Fest

Stay in town for the best vacation ever

It's a bit of a drag being broke around Memorial Day as everyone splits town for some place fun and beachy, but we're not letting it get us down this year. The weather is incredibly gorgeous right here at home, and there's an incredible line-up of free music in the park, so really, there's no better destination than ATL as summer begins.

The line-up for Atlanta Jazz Festival looks fantastic, and there are no less than three stages so it's hard to go wrong just showing up at the park with a cooler, but we thought we'd also offer some critic's picks for our thoughts on the best of the fest:


5) Banda Magda, International Stage, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. 
Founded by Greek-born singer Magda Giannikou, Banda Magda was designed to take on everything from samba to French chanson, from Greek folk tunes to Colombian cumbia and Afro-Peruvian lando. Think Françoise Hardy on a whirlwind trip around the world and you'll start to get the idea.

4)  Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone Featuring Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas, and Terry Harper, Main Stage, Sun., 3 p.m.
Mention Nina Simone, and we're there. Total bonus is that the line-up for this tribute features four incredibly talented and amazing women. Not to be missed.


3) Emrah Kotan, International Stage, Sun., 5:30 p.m.
A native of Turkey, Emrah Kotan regularly plays some of the most prestigious jazz gigs in the world such as the Istanbul Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Java Jazz Festival and The Blue Note in New York, but he's actually a hometown guy, a Georgia State grad, Atlanta resident, and a respected music teacher in the area. Check out his beats as he takes the international stage on Sunday evening.


2) Diane Schuur, Main Stage, Sun., at 7 p.m.
The legendary singer takes the main stage Sunday evening. Expect her to pull from her vast catalog of music from her three decade career, but we'll probably also be lucky enough to hear some songs from her recently recorded album which drops June 10, an homage to two of her mentors, Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz.


1) Pharoah Sanders Quartet Featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel, Main Stage, Sun., 9 p.m.
If you're not feeling that cool summer vibe yet, it's a sure bet you will be on Sunday, at 9 p.m. as Pharoah Sanders Quartet takes the main stage to close out the weekend of performances. Sanders was a disciple of the great John Coltrane so the concert is a chance to be in the presence of jazz history.