Jazz Eargasms: The Wolf Creek Jazz Festival in Atlanta
Atlanta has become the entertainment capital of the South, and we have our share of entertainment, both film and music. On any given weekend, the city is packed with things to do and places to go. Therefore, the Labor Day Weekend was no exception. Jazz connoisseurs came from across the country to attend the first Wolf Creek Jazz Festival, put on by Jeremy Hill of JD Entertainment, and held at the lovely, 5-Star Wolf Creek Amphitheater in Atlanta, GA. The event featured some of the finest Jazz musicians in the industry. From Grammy-nominated Jazz Saxophonist Najee to Grammy-nominated R&B/Jazz crooner Will Downing to Pieces of a Dream to Gerald Albright, David Benoit, Rachelle Ferrell, Paul Taylor, Jeff Lorber, Cindy Bradley, Boney James, Euge Groove, Alex Bugnon, Kirk Whalum, Norman Brown, Rick Braun, Vincent Ingala, Ragan Whiteside, Josh Vietti, Peter White and several Atlanta-based jazz artists such as Milkshake, Toni Redd, and Sweet Lu.
Throughout the weekend, DJ Daddy Dre mixed sounds, while M.C. Lightfoot and Comedian Griff served as hosts for the weekend. They all did a great job keeping the audiences entertained in between sets. I have to say that I enjoyed every single artist, and the fans seem to have enjoyed the 3-day festival, despite the blazing hot summer heat. Radio personalities Morris Baxter and Ms. Riva Blue from WCLK- FM 91.9, The Jazz of the City came out and enjoyed the event, along with city officials and celebrities.
Friday night’s show was nice and the temperature was well appreciated. It was not too hot, nor too cool. Every once in awhile a cool summer breeze would flow through the park, while the smooth sounds of jazz filled the air. The jazz festival kicked off Friday night with performances by Pieces of a Dream, Boney James, Gerald Albright, and David Benoit. A lil’ summer breeze mixed with Boney James felt like heaven. However, all of the acts were on point and the evening was lovely.
Although it was extremely hot on Saturday and Sunday, the jazzheads still came out and had a great time. Saturday’s show was excellent, too! Imagine Jeff Lorber, Peter White, Euge Groove and Paul Taylor… I was in jazz heaven… Cindy Bradley and her pink trumpet were nice, too. Now, let us talk about Rachelle Ferrell for a minute. Rachelle Ferrell… Wow, I was blown away; she is a wonderful spirit and if you ever get an opportunity to see her perform please go! You can thank me later. I promise you will be beyond happy that you did. She puts on an amazing show that oozes straight from her heart and soul. She definitely left the audience feeling some kind of way. And, I mean that in a good way.
Two-time, Grammy-nominated Sax legend NAJEE is busy celebrating his 30-year anniversary in the music industry, so he took us for a ride with his top hits and music off his latest album, “You, Me and Forever”, which was released in summer 2015. He has been one of my favorite soprano saxophone players since he released his debut album, “Najee’s Theme” in 1986. That album help me get through graduate school.
Fast forward to Sunday…. Josh Vietti, Vincent Ingala, Ragan Whiteside, Alex Bugnon, BWB (Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum, and Norman Brown), and Will Downing mesmerized us the entire evening. Will Downing. What can I say? The brother is still talented and sexy after 28 years in the industry, and he help close out the finale night with his smooth voice. He released his 19th album, “Black Pearls” in July 2016 and shared songs off his new album, along with some of his popular old songs. Of course, his music always puts one in the mood for love and romance. Violinist Josh Vietti and Vincent Ingala are young artists who can hold their own. They are great artists. Vietti played one of 50 cents songs and the crowd went crazy. He also went out into the audience and performed.
Behind the scenes is another story for another time. Let us just say it was a wonderful experience meeting and chatting with the artists and photographing them. I met many of the artists and took pictures with a few of them. In addition to shooting the jazz festival, I had the opportunity to interview Najee and Will Downing, a few days before the event for a couple of entertainment magazines. Thank you, Lisa Gee, publicist for the festival, and JD Entertainment for everything.
By Sunday night, I left feeling as if I had been on a serious musical journey. This was one memorable festival. In fact, it took me a few days to come down off this musical high.
When planning your vacation for next summer, consider the Wolf Creek Jazz Festival. It is definitely a festival you do not want to miss. I had a blast and I will definitely be back next year.
(Article photos by Angela P. Moore Photography)