This "canceled" article was originally written on December 13, 2008, when the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival was originally called off. In February of 2009, news began to surface which suggested that the festival might occur after all. Immediately below you'll find my recent status updates about the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival and farther down you'll see my original article. Just to be clear, the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival is NOT canceled anymore and it will occur at Grant Park during Memorial Day weekend.
UPDATE - 2/7/09: The Jazzlanta blog recently reported that the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival might not be canceled after all. There aren't any solid details yet, but as the author states, it is a sign of good things to come. Of special interest is the Save the 32nd Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival press release. You'll notice that in addition to naming Grant Park as the primary venue, the press release also states that "The Atlanta Jazz Festival will feature local and national jazz greats, a Neighborhood Jazz Series, Youth Jazz Band Competition, a Kids Zone, 31 Days of Jazz and many other family friendly events and activities." That sounds a lot like the Atlanta Jazz Festival we've come to know and love! I'll definitely keep an eye out for more info.
UPDATE - 2/21/09: Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs website confirms that the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival will take place at Grant Park this year.
UPDATE - 3/12/09: Not only is the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival definitely going to happen, but today I saw that they took out a full page add in the April 2009 edition of "Jazz Times" magazine. Still no mention of performers yet.
UPDATE - 4/5/09: Today I noticed that the official site for the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival has changed the dates to show just "two days of live jazz" at Grant Park (May 23-24) instead of the normal three days for the festival.
SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2009
- 3pm - Rialto All Stars (middle school big band)
- 4pm - Madoca
- 5:30pm - Dionne Farris
- 7pm - Russell Gunn & Elektrik Butterfly
- 8:30pm - Freddy Cole
SUNDAY, MAY 24, 2009
- 3pm - J.C. Young Middle School Jazz Ensemble
- 4pm - VINX
- 5:30pm - Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective
- 7pm - The Cindy Blackman Quartet
- 8:30pm - Hiroshima
MY ARTICLE FROM DECEMBER 2008
Following is the original article that I wrote on December 13, 2008...
Due to a budget shortfall, the Atlanta mayor's office recently announced the cancellation of the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival. The announcement came in the form of a bullet point that reads: "Eliminate various arts programming, including Jazz Fest"
The cancellation of the Atlanta Jazz Festival is definitely a disappointment to those of us who care about the Atlanta jazz scene, but I doubt many of us are all that surprised. After all, this year's scaled-back 2008 Atlanta Jazz Festival, which occurred at a much smaller venue than normal and without big-name touring musicians, had already raised concerns about the festival's future. And in this dismal economy, it seems like everything is getting worse before it gets better.
The Atlanta Jazz Festival isn't the only jazz festival facing hard times in 2009. A few months ago, the Portland Jazz Festival faced extinction when its largest sponsor backed out. Luckily for them, another sponsor stepped in and the festival will continue as planned. Unlike the free Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Portland Jazz Festival does charge an admission fee for the various concerts. I'm sure it's a lot easier to resurrect a festival when it has its own revenue stream.
As tempting as it might be to complain about the loss of the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and as compelled as I feel to argue for the importance of jazz music and the arts in general, I know people have more pressing issues on their minds right now. With unemployment rates higher than they've been in 15 years, and our mightiest enterprises struggling to survive, I'm sure most people see this cancellation as a tiny drop in a sea of bad news. I just hope that as the economy recovers, Atlanta will renew its support of the arts and revive the Atlanta Jazz Festival.
I think the most troublesome part of the Atlanta Jazz Festival's cancellation is the fact that we don't know what's in store for the future. Will there be an Atlanta Jazz Festival in 2010, or is it canceled indefinitely? And if the festival does return, will it return to its former glory at Piedmont Park or will it be another scaled-back festival like we had in 2008? At this point, all we can do is speculate and hope for the best.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT THE LOCAL ATLANTA JAZZ SCENE?
Ideally, events like the Atlanta Jazz Festival would raise awareness about the local Atlanta jazz scene, and the tens of thousands of people who attend the jazz festival would begin to attend more local jazz concerts. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen.
The jazz festival and other big-name concerts are primarily patronized by "special occasion" jazz fans. You can count on these people to attend two or three big-name jazz events each year, but they aren't interested enough in jazz and/or the local Atlanta jazz scene to attend the concerts featuring local musicians. I guess this is both good and bad. While it's a shame that there isn't more of a correlation between the attendance at big-name concerts and local Atlanta concerts, it's good to know that the local Atlanta jazz scene will continue to chug along with or without the jazz festival.
If you happen to be one of those big-name audience patrons and you stumbled upon this article while looking for information about the 2009 Atlanta Jazz Festival, I encourage you to check out some of the local Atlanta jazz musicians. Local musicians such as Mace Hibbard, Joe Gransden, Tyrone Jackson, Kevin Bales, Gary Motley Clarence Johnson, David Ellington, and Melvin Jones (to name a few) are every bit as good as most of those big-name touring acts and you can see them perform throughout the year at venues like Churchill Grounds and Twain's.
Wherever you live, support live jazz!
Atlanta journalist, Jon Ross, interviewed some of the participants from the 2008 Atlanta Jazz Festival for their reaction to the cancellation. You can read about it here, at his Jazzlanta blog.