Atlanta Jazz Festival
May 25-26, 2019
Last year the festival operated under the threat of rain all weekend. This year's 42nd edition saw record-tying high temperatures: 93 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit (ten degrees above the historical averages). No doubt it is a coincidence that the programming was cooler than last year's: lots of contemporary/smooth jazz and pop, and very little progressive jazz or Latin. Not that this had any apparent effect on the size (or enthusiasm) of the audiences. It should also be noted that several of the acts have current or past associations with Blue Note Records, giving the festival a bit of contemporary Blue Note flavor overall.
Slim Gambill & The Ludlow St. Project
Nashville guitarist/composer Slim Gambill has a high-profile main gig, as guitarist with the backing band for the hit country trio Lady Antebellum. He titled his solo album Fake Jazz & Theme Songs (Ludlow St. Records, 2019), but there was plenty of real jazz on offer. The opening tune featured a head in octaves (Wes Montgomery or George Benson style), which morphed into an over-driven rock guitar solo—Gambill is a killer guitarist in both styles. The second tune had a fast bebop head, with walking bass. The band was introduced as first-call Nashville players, and they certainly demonstrated that: this piece included bebop piano & guitar solos, followed by solos from drums and electric bass. "54321" included a quote from Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary," then moved on to big guitar and organ solos.
Gambill thanked the audience, noting that "I'm usually in a country band, so thanks." He introduced a tune titled "Meet The Family," saying that it was a working title ("for no particular reason") which stuck, because "I'm bad at titles." They then performed a "name that tune" mashup, which turned out to be legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery's "Four On Six" combined with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" from Songs In The Key Of Life (Tamla, 1976). "Lyla Marie" is titled for his young daughter. But "it's not a sensitive ballad, because she's a firecracker: she's a little rocker." Dynamic vocalist Candice Devine joined the band for "Over Getting Over You" and "Treat Me Like A Lady." The set ended with the instrumental "Last Time Thing" (which opened the album, but also worked very well as a closer).