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Young Innovators and Legendary Performers Slated For Atlanta Jazz Festival

Weekend Concerts Return To Piedmont Park May 23-25

Atlanta, GA — “The 37th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival will offer something for every jazz lover,” says Camille Russell Love, Director of the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “From the traditional jazz stylings of Freddy Cole, the exotic melodies of Ester Rada, to the contemporary offerings of Russell Gunn’s Krunk Orkestra, we have an incredible menu of jazz to choose from this year. Make plans to spend Memorial Day Weekend in Piedmont Park from May 23 through May 25 and savor the sounds. Admission is FREE. The only thing better than jazz is jazz in the park!” 

Here are some of the artists who will be performing at this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival:

Freddy Cole will perform in Piedmont Park on Sunday, May 25 at 7 pm. 

Freddy Cole started on his musical path early. “I started playing piano at six,” Cole remembers. “Music was all around me.” In the Chicago home of his youth, visitors included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Eckstine and Lionel Hampton. After a possible career with the NFL was shelved due to a hand injury, he began playing and singing in Chicago clubs as a teenager. Although he was ready to hit the road at 18, his mother intervened and he continued his musical education at the Roosevelt Institute in Chicago.

Cole moved to New York in 1951, where he studied at the Juilliard School of Music and found himself profoundly influenced by John Lewis and Oscar Peterson. A resident of Atlanta since 1972, he currently leads a group with guitarist Randy Napoleon, drummer Curtis Boyd and bassist Elias Bailey that regularly tours the globe.

Cole doesn’t apologize for sounding like his brother, Nat “King” Cole. There are certain unmistakable similarities. He plays piano and sings and performs live with guitar and upright bass, just like Nat. Yet his voice is raspier, smokier, jazzier even.  In truth, his phrasing is far closer to that of Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday. His vocals – suave, elegant, formidable, and articulate – are among the most respected in jazz. 

“Freddy has an impeccable sense of swing… he is, overall, the most maturely expressive male jazz singer of his generation, if not the best alive.”  The New York Times

Ester Rada will perform in Piedmont Park on Saturday, May 24 at 5 pm.

The new soul of the Middle East, Ester Rada’s cross-cultural sound is a reflection of the Israeli born Ethiopian’s heritage. Growing up in a highly religious Jewish family in modest conditions in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Israel gave Rada the motivation to change her life and fulfill her dream of creating music.

With strong influences from early 20th century soul power women such as Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald, a vocal range like Aretha Franklin; as well as a great appreciation for contemporary black divas like Eryka Badu and Jill Scott; Rada has a unique voice. Her sound has been described as gracefully combining Ethio-Jazz, funk, soul and R&B. 

Ester is currently working on her debut album, following up on her acclaimed 2013 solo EPLife Happens,” produced by Israeli producers Kuti (Kutiman/Thru-You) and Sabbo (Soulico).

Bill Frisell’s Guitar In The Space Age – featuring Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr and Rudy Royston – will perform in Piedmont Park on Sunday, May 25 at 7 pm.

One of the most sought-after guitar players in contemporary music, the breadth of Bill Frisell’s performing and recording is a testament not only to his singular guitar style, but his musical versatility. 

Frisell has worked with numerous collaborators including Paul Motian, John Zorn, Elvis Costello, Ginger Baker, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Suzanne Vega, Loudon Wainwright III, Van Dyke Parks, Vic Chesnutt, Rickie Lee Jones, Vinicius Cantuaria, Marc Johnson (in “Bass Desires”), Ronald Shannon Jackson and Melvin Gibbs (in “Power Tools”), Marianne Faithful, John Scofield, Jan Garbarek, Lyle Mays, Vernon Reid, Julius Hemphill, Paul Bley, Robin Holcomb, The Frankfurt Ballet, film director Gus Van Sant, David Sanborn and Petra Haden. He worked with Bono, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois on the soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ film Million Dollar Hotel. He was featured on the T-Bone Burnett soundtrack for Walk the Line, the biographical motion picture about Johnny Cash.

“It’s hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell. Mixing rock and country with jazz and blues, he’s found what connects them: improvisation and a sense of play.”  The New York Times

Cyrille Aimée will perform in Piedmont Park on Sunday, May 25 at 5:30 pm.

Cyrille Aimée was born in Fontainebleau, France, to a French father and Dominican mother. Her introduction to jazz was the result of the fortuitous location of her upbringing, the village Samois-sur-Seine, the same place where legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt once lived. For decades gypsies from throughout Europe have descended upon Samois each June for the annual Django Reinhardt Festival. Years ago, a young Cyrille wandered into the encampments and fell in love with the gypsies’ music. She would climb out her bedroom window at night and spend evenings in their quarters, learned their language and sang by the fire with Django’s descendants, before returning home prior to sunrise and school. “I was hypnotized by this music which made me want to tap my feet,” said Cyrille.

As a teenager, Cyrille performed in Parisian cafés and clubs. When her family moved to Singapore, she remained in Paris to attend the American School of Modern Music. In order to learn from other jazz musicians, she attended SUNY Purchase given its proximity to New York City.

In 2007, Cyrille won the Montreux International Voice Competition and a prize which included the financing of a CD. And in 2008, Cyrille and friends returned to Switzerland to record her first CD, “Cyrille Aimée & The Surreal Band.”

Cyrille won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2012, the same year she released her 5th self-produced CD, “Live at Birdland.” Her first major label release, “It’s a Good Day,” will be out in 2014. 

Russell Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orkestra will perform in Piedmont Park on Saturday, May 24 at 7 pm.

Trumpeter/fluegelhornist/composer Russell Gunn is a certified member of the hip-hop generation whose early aspirations in the world of rap music took precedence over the trumpet that he began playing in fourth grade. When he reached sixteen, his dedication to the art of jazz took shape. Rather than abandoning the music he loved, he simply applied its energy, spirit and fiercely proud intellectual rage to the jazz idiom, creating a synthesis that is truly contemporary. 

Gunn attended Mississippi’s Jackson State University on a full music scholarship, then moved back to St. Louis. While performing at Cicero’s in St. Louis in 1993 the great saxophonist/composer and co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, Oliver Lake heard Gunn and invited him to come to New York for a performance at the Brooklyn Museum.

At a jam session at New York’s famed Blue Note, Gunn was heard by an assistant to Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center, who recommended him for the third trumpet chair in Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields. Receiving rave notices for his work with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Gunn began to earn recognition as one of the most exciting musicians of his generation. Gunn began leading his own groups and in 1994 and issued his first recording on the Muse label, “Young Gunn.”

Gunn’s eclectic musical approach has brought him together with artists like Cee-Lo, Maxwell, D’Angelo, Ne-Yo and Branford Marsalis. With a style that incorporates the influences of masters like Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, and the underrated Booker Little, Gunn has continued to gain recognition for his own music through touring and well-received albums, including the Grammy-nominated “Ethnomusicology, Vol. 1” and “Ethnomusicology Vol. 2.”

Somi will perform in Piedmont Park on Saturday, May 24 at 3:30 pm.

Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, African and jazz legacies are crucial to Somi’s sound.  Her singing has been compared to Miriam Makeba, Sarah Vaughn and Cassandra Wilson. 

When Somi was growing up, her mother told her that rain could be as much a blessing as a challenge. That notion stayed with the singer/songwriter and now provides a metaphorical focus for her third album, “If The Rains Come First.” (ObliqSound). The album is a stunning collection of self-penned songs, and a meditation on opening ourselves up to life’s blessings and challenges, much in the way we accept the rain. Singing in English and three East African languages, Somi’s vocal delivery is subtle yet powerful. Her new album also features the legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela, a longtime fan and mentor.  

As her career has taken off, Somi has had the opportunity for collaborations and performances alongside John Legend, Cassandra Wilson, Mos Def and Paul Simon. Most recently, internationally renowned Israeli artist Idan Raichel featured Somi on his latest platinum-selling album “Within My Walls” (Cumbancha), on the track “Maisha,” which Somi co-wrote.   

JazzTimes describes Somi’s live performance as “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves.”


Sponsors for this year’s festival include Bank of America, Publix Charities, Coca-Cola, W Atlanta – Midtown, MARTA, XFINITY, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Georgia Lottery. If you are interested in being a sponsor and promoting your product or service at the festival, contact Alex Davis at ADDavis@AtlantaGa.Gov.

The 37th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival is presented by the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. The mission of the Atlanta Jazz Festival is to educate and entertain a diverse audience of jazz fans and to nurture the next generation of jazz musicians. The festival is partially supported by Atlanta Jazz Festival Inc, a 501©(3) cultural, non-profit.  Like us on Facebook at AtlantaJazzFestival and visit the official web site at for performance schedules, news and information.

MEDIA: Here’s a photo link to go with this release: Right click on photos to download and they have photo IDs. For hi-res photos, to set interviews, or for more info please contact Karen Hatchett at or 770-433-1137.