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4th Annual Atlanta Smooth Music Festival 09/2011

 

Atlanta, GA       September 17,  2011       Photos by: Dee Freeman
 
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4th Annual 2011 Atlanta Smooth Music Festival featuring....
 
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By: Vanessa Turner
 
 
The Fourth Annual 2011 Atlanta Smooth Music Festival was held at the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre in Mableton GA on September 18, 2011.  This 8 hour concert featured the international headliner band Fattburger, Guitarist” Nick Colionne, “Saxophonist”  Jackiem Joyner, Guitarist” Steve Oliver,  and “Atlanta’s Local Saxophonist” Jeff Sparks.  The tickets started a $30 and was worth the entire day of exhilarating good times.  
 
 
The Mable House Barnes Amphitheater pleasantly surprise me by no cost parking, which fit my wallet quite well.  And as a stanch environmental advocate, I was more than thrilled find the Amphitheatre nestled among trees enclosing a well manicured green space.  The state of the art sound system filled the air with smooth crisp sounds that rocked the ground and filled bodies with smooth feeling vibrations. I enjoyed watching folks from all over metropolitan Atlanta stroll in with folding tables, bottles of wine, variety of food, and blankets letting the organizers know they were prepared for a full day of entertainment.  The young and mature audience of all races arrived in steady streams dressed in hats, sophisticated causal attire that showed respect for the guest artist.
 
 
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I cannot brag enough about the internationally acclaimed and award-winning headlining band, Fattburger, they worked the stage with style and left everyone chilled. All of the artists embraced the essence of smooth jazz and the respect for each fellow musician’s love for music. The band’s signature style is the infectious rhythms of the percussionist featuring Cuban, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban beats in brilliant balance with the hard-slamming drum groove, rolling bass line, harmonic sounds of the synthesizer, and sexy notes of the sax. Their sound is a perfect blend of pop, rock, and blues, with a Latin spice tempo otherwise known as the true “sound of San Diego.” Their performance clearly showed the band’s spirit and synergy, which is a tribute to their 10 best-selling CDs.
 
 
Although they’ve been together since 1984, you can still feel the soul of the remaining members Hollis Gentry, Mark Hunter, Steve Laury, and Kevin Koch after the passing of the band founder Carl Evans, Jr.,  The band’s music is considered adult contemporary jazz—not straight jazz.  It is a perfect mix of today’s hits, 80’s music, and influences of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, Fusion Orchestra, the Yellowjackets, Wes Montgomery, Barry White, Stevie Wonder, and Luis Migue.
 
 
I enjoyed listening to these jazz legends. The favorites for the night included “Evil Ways” (when the drummer and percussionist played a fiery duet), “Love Is Like a River,” “Who Put the Meat on My Bed,” and the all-time hit “Oya Como Va.”  Each instrumental selection perfectly balanced the fusion of modern sound with traditional instruments. The band’s performance had a passionate, fiery, and hot-blooded emotional effect on the audience, who clearly had a good time.
 
 
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Renowned jazz guitarist Nick Colionne, who has major swagger.  He came out of the wings decked in his trademark suit, hat, and shoes with metal tip. I could not take my eyes off of him. His shoes matched his guitar.  In the jazz world, he is considered the best-dressed jazz musician on the stage.  He did not disappoint.
 
 
Nick is undeniably an audience favorite. He has no limits and does not stick with any particular music genre.  He has produced 6 successful CDs and is recognized for his lively performances.  Nick has been an entertainer since he was 9 years old.  His biggest influences are West Montgomery, Kenny Durrell, and George Benson.  While growing up he listened to rock, R&B, and Jimmie Hendrix, and he loves jamming with cats such as Rick Brown and Bony James. His favorite venues to perform are the large crowd festivals and the small, intimate settings such as Chi town’s club called the Back Room.
 
 
Considered funky, down-home raw music with a crisp style Nick's deep voice is bluesy, funky, and energetic with an interesting blend of jazz fusion.  No doubt his showmanship works the crowd, and they love him— particularly the women.  At one time, I saw a lady nudge another lady out of the way just to get closer to Nick.  Both women laughed and continued to sway to his funky sounds as Nick instantly mesmerizes the audience with each pluck of his strings.  I was amazed at how many times the audience sung and stood up dancing while he played songs such as “When Doves Cry” by Prince, and “On Broadway” by George Benson.  His texture and gritty style of guitar playing and singing makes you want him coming back from the wings and keep performing.
 
 
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His self-titled album “Jackiem Joyner” fuses the alto, soprano, and tenor sax into sensitive, funky, and all old school style of playing.  To my delight, he played Michael Jackson’s song “Off the Wall,” which is a cover he features on his album.  Jackiem selected this song to honor Michael and it was the best fit for Jackiem’s style of music. “Off the Wall” was the right choice, and the audience loved it has he also had a good time playing and joking on stage with the audience, which was evident in this festival’s performance.
 
 
Jackiem is an amazing saxophonist with an easy-to-understand sound that is earthy and sentimental.  His music is rooted in life experiences; it flows with a sensitivity of notes that is comforting.  Perhaps Jackiem’s his missionary work in Kenya and experience as a minister of music where he was responsible for creating an atmosphere for peaceful prayer and spiritual growth influenced his style of playing.  His compassion for people plays an important part of his arrangement of music.
 
 
By understanding Jackiem’s experiences, influences, and his style of playing I completely understand why Jackiem encourages music lovers to buy CDs; they tell a story that downloading does not.  I understand his philosophy and why telling a story is important, you get to understand the musician’s thoughts behind the music.  His music makes you feel good; he is positive and sexy.  If you have never heard Jackiem’s sound, you are missing out on an experience.
 
 
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Steve Oliver, whose contemporary jazz sound is a lively fresh mix of universal rhythms.  I was not familiar with Steve Oliver and did not know what to expect when he stepped on stage with his funny-looking guitar.  As I was transfixed on his guitar, I thought, “How did I miss the development of this newly designed instrument and where did it come from?” I later learned Carvin Guitar Company and Steve designed the classical nylon guitar that mimics the function of a keyboard to trigger up a variety of instruments such as the piano, sitar, and drums sounds.

 

The audience clearly understood his fascination for sounds and embraced his style of writing, composing, and delivery.  Steve’s music was influenced by Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, and progressive rock group Yes; it is genuinely universal. By exploring properties of sound pitch, dynamics, tone color, and duration with no boundaries, this multi-level musician dives into technology to create a blend of contemporary sounds.  He is a musician who is a visionary with simple lyrics packed with a lot of meaning.  

 

His composing is futuristic; distinctive sounds include a complex array of vocal distortion.  The rendition of “Barcelo” fused chords influence Latin America. Other song arrangements, “I Am” and “High Noon,” used melody and orchestra sounds to connect with the audience.  His music is a fascinating, uplifting, and energetic blend of world music and newly developed technical sounds that transcend new contemporary music.
 

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Atlanta’s own Jeff Sparks—created a hybrid sound that crosses over generations of music and smooth sound lovers.  His sound incorporates traditional jazz inspired by his training as a classical jazz musician from BerkleeCollege of Music in Boston.  Jeff passionately gave the audiences a timeless mix of gospel, funk, soul, rhythm, and blues sounds with seamless continuity.

 

An audience favorite was “We Be Blessed,” where Jeff led everyone in call and response, while teasing them for being so laid back. The audience responded by singing back to him with rhythm and pure love for his music.  

 

As Jeff adeptly worked the crowd with a formula of different tempos and feels, he took advantage of the diverse couple-oriented crowd.  You can see he has a great time on the stage, and is a pure entertainer who connects with music connoisseurs.  Jeff is not a straight-ahead jazz musician; he plays only arrangements that move him.  He masterfully delivered well-sculpted sounds from a soprano saxophone.  Jeff and his band morphed hip hop, R&B, pop, and jazz fusion to an audience that thoroughly enjoyed his ear for intonation, sound, and stage presentation.

 

This remarkable regional festival was a day of smooth music infused with universal sounds for all generations and cultures.  The universal sounds that each artist created blended new contemporary forms to provide the audience a low-key, exhilarating, and energetic day of pure fun and memorable music. The festival is dedicated to smooth music genre. The bands played original compositions and covers of Michael Jackson, George Benson to Duke Ellington to a fusion of world sounds.  The atmosphere was far from being just low key on a cool summer day.  I had the most amazing time and I am telling everyone to support next year’s Smooth Music Festival. 

 

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