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Atlanta Jazz Festival 35 Years and Counting



“We are reaching an important milestone as the Atlanta Jazz Festival celebrates 35 years,” states Camille Russell Love, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs.  “We take our stewardship of the festival seriously and salute the leaders whose vision and hard work created this preeminent cultural event, featuring well-known jazz legends and exciting new artists.  For the entire month of May, through the performances in Piedmont Park over Memorial Day weekend, we’ll continue the rich tradition of presenting world class jazz, combined with southern hospitality.   Whether you like your jazz traditional or contemporary, smooth or eclectic, with big band swing or a Latin beat, we’ll have something to excite your senses and soothe your soul. We invite jazz enthusiasts of all ages to join us for an unforgettable experience.”

Here are some pictures from the media party kicking off the new year by Tom Dausner:

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This year’s performance schedule includes jazz greats Roy Ayers, Cyrus Chestnut, Kathleen Bertrand, Ojeda Penn and Johnny O’Neal.   Newcomers to the festival include the rhythmic Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra, soulful singer and saxophonist Grace Kelly, and the R&B and hip-hop influenced Robert Glasper Experiment.   


Here’s an overview of the 35th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival:


Youth Jazz Band Competition

The first Atlanta Jazz Festival Youth Jazz Band Competition was held in 2001.  The competition was created to showcase young jazz talent throughout the metro Atlanta area.  It’s a wonderful vehicle for young jazz musicians to broaden their knowledge and understanding of jazz music.  Competition is open to all Georgia Department of Education accredited High Schools (grades 9-12) and Middle Schools (grades 6-8) in all 28 metro Atlanta counties.  The City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs and Georgia State University School of Music are presenting this year’s competition, which will be held on Saturday, April 28 at Georgia State University.  The competition will give the three winning bands a chance to shine on the main stage at the Atlanta Jazz Festival in front of thousands of concert attendees!  They will perform as the opening act of the festival at 1 pm each day in Piedmont Park – May 26-May 28.


“31 Days of Jazz”

Every day throughout the month of May there will be jazz performances in parks, restaurants, clubs and venues around Atlanta as part of this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival.   Activities will include live jazz in Underground Atlanta, Martinis & IMAX at Fernbank Museum, Jazz Under the Stars at Clark Atlanta University, Friday Jazz at the High Museum and Fiesta Atlanta in Centennial Olympic Park.   The entire “31 Days of Jazz” schedule will be available online at  You can also pick up a brochure with the schedule at participating partners and enter the Passport Program contest to win prizes and a special VIP Festival Experience.

AJF Weekend Evening Concerts

This year there will be three concerts at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, located at 1065 Peachtree Street, in the heart of Midtown.


  • Ojeda Penn will perform on Thursday, May 24 from 8-10 pm in Bar Eleven.  Admission is free.
  • Johnny O’Neal will perform in the AJF35 Kickoff Cabaret on Friday, May 25 in the Mercer Ballroom.  Opening performance by Jennifer Freeman.  Doors open at 7 pm for an 8 pm performance.  Tickets prices are $35 per person or $200 for a reserved table for 4.  Tickets are available at
  • AJF Late Night Jazz Jam with Friends will be hosted by Jason Orr on Sunday, May 27 from 10 pm-2 am in the Ellington Ballroom.  Tickets are $35 per person and are available at


AJF35 @ Piedmont Park


The festival is back in beautiful Piedmont Park this year with three days of music over Memorial Day Weekend from Saturday, May 26 through Monday, May 28.


  • Piedmont Park will be open each day during the festival from 11 am – 11 pm.  The event is open to the public and it is FREE.
  • Two stages will feature live music all three days from 1 pm – 11 pm.
  • Two KidZone areas will offer family-friendly fun from Noon – 6pm each day. Activities will include sports like soccer and basketball, a cooling tent where popular cartoons will be screened each day, face painters, inflatables and the ever popular hula hoops!  The KidZones are sponsored by Cartoon Network and Publix Super Markets.
  • Go Green Jazz Eco Village will further environmental education.  The Atlanta Jazz Festival is partnering with the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability and additional organizations whose missions relate to eight areas of sustainability concern: Air quality, Land use, Transportation, Energy, Water conservation, Sustainability planning, Human health & community vitality and Waste. Their goal is not only to reduce the festival’s environmental impact during the festival, but to encourage sustainability planning beyond the festival weekend. Partners like Zipcar, Boxcar Grocer and the Department of Watershed Management will present information and demonstrations to help festival-goers learn ways to positively impact their lives, their communities, and the environment.
  • A wide variety of food vendors will tempt your taste buds with BBQ, gyros, burgers, Caribbean foods and more!  Browse among the booths for unique items including art, clothing and jewelry.

The Schedule is as follows:


Thursday, May 24

8:00 – 10:00 pm                  Live @ Loews with Ojeda Penn

Bar Eleven | Loews Atlanta Hotel

1065 Peachtree Street NE | Atlanta, GA 30309

Free admission



Friday, May 25

7:00 – 11:00 pm AJF35 Kickoff Cabaret featuring the legendary Johnny O’Neal

Opening performance by Jennifer Freeman

Mercer Ballroom | Loews Atlanta Hotel

1065 Peachtree Street NE | Atlanta, GA 30309

Tickets $35 per person or $200 for Reserved table of 4



Saturday, May 26      PIEDMONT PARK

11:00 am – 10:59 pm       Festival Hours in Piedmont Park

11:00 am – 1:00 pm          Jazz Education Workshop

Noon – 6:00 pm                                AJF KidZones & Go Green Jazz Eco Village


Main Stage

1:00 pm                                Youth Jazz Band 3rd Place Winner

3:00 pm                                Dwight Andrews

5:00 pm                                Cyrus Chestnut Trio

7:00 pm                                Kathleen Bertrand

9:00 pm                                Roy Ayers




International Jazz Stage

2:00 pm                                Tropical Breeze

3:30 pm                                Andre Reivers

5:00 pm                                EC Coleman

6:30 pm                                Edy Martinez & His Jazz Orchestra


Sunday, May 27         PIEDMONT PARK

11:00 am – 10:59 pm       Festival Hours in Piedmont Park

11:00 am – 1:00 pm          Jazz Education Workshop

Noon – 6:00 pm                 AJF KidZones & Go Green Jazz Eco Village


Main Stage

1:00 pm                                Youth Jazz Band 2nd Place Winner

3:00 pm                                Mushy Widmaier Quintet

5:00 pm                                Gregoire Maret

7:00 pm                                Lionel Loueke Trio

9:00 pm                                Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra


International Jazz Stage

2:00 pm                                Mace Hibbard Quartet

3:30 pm                               Laura Coyle Quintet

5:00 pm                                Son Jazzy Orchestra (Nelson Ramos)

6:30 pm                                Nadav Remez/Omer Avital Quintet


10:00 pm – 2:00 am          Late Night Jazz Jam @ Loews

Hosted by Jason Orr

Ellington Ballroom | Loews Atlanta Hotel

1065 Peachtree Street NE | Atlanta, GA 30309

Tickets $35 per person



Monday, May 28       PIEDMONT PARK

11:00 am – 10:59 pm       Festival Hours in Piedmont Park

11:00 am – 1:00 pm          Jazz Education Workshop

Noon – 6:00 pm                  AJF KidZones & Go Green Jazz Eco Village


Main Stage

1:00 pm                                Youth Jazz Band 1st Place Winner

3:00 pm                                Yolanda Rabun

5:00 pm                                Russell Gunn & Elektrik Butterfly

7:00 pm                                Grace Kelly Quintet

9:00 pm                                Robert Glasper Experiment


International Jazz Stage

2:00 pm                                Saunders Sermons

3:30 pm                                Marea Alta

5:00 pm                                Melvin Jones

6:30 pm                                Mausiki Scales & The Common Ground Collective

Sponsors for this year’s festival are The Coca-Cola Company, Publix Super Markets, Clear, Cartoon Network, Chick-Fil-A, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Loews Atlanta Hotel, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Cayrum, Central Atlanta Progress, Federal Home Loan Bank, PNC Bank, MARTA, Southern Pianos, Lanier Parking, Atlanta Inquirer, Atlanta Tribune, INsite Atlanta’s Entertainment Monthly, The Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Uptown Magazine, Atlanta Daybook,, V103, 1380 WAOK, WCLK Jazz 91.9 and 89.3FM WRFG.

Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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Holiday Fun

Kingsized Holiday Fun! Big Mike is Back at the Variety Playhouse!



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Big Mike Geier and his Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra, along with the Dames Aflame Dancers, Lil’ Santa and other special guests, bring tidings of comfort and joy with their signature glitz and glamour in what has become a tinsel-time tradition at the Variety Playhouse. The all-ages 90-minute show features your Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

Photo: Emily Butler

We caught up with Big Mike to ask a few questions.

TBB: Big Mike! It’s been a couple years since we had the pleasure of seeing you perform live. We are so excited to be back in Atlanta and we are ready for this show. What can you tell us about this years event?

Big Mike: Welcome back to Atlanta, Ange! We’re also excited to be in town for another wild and wonderful Holiday Jubilee. We like to honor the tradition that the Jubilee has become and don’t mess too much with the format. You can expect the always magnificent sounds of the 12-piece Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll orchestra performing your favorite holiday classics and the dazzling Dames Aflame dancers providing the glamour. The show is all about holiday nostalgia, whatever that means to you: Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Donnie Hathaway, The Grinch, Rankin Bass, Peanuts, the Dreidel Song? It’s all in there.

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Music Gallery

Turkuaz at Aisle 5



Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz played at Aisle Five in Atlanta last week and here are some shots from the show!

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