Atlantans dug the debut season of Jazz Roots, so Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre is expanding the series from three to five concerts for 2013-14 and offering them as a subscription package for the first time.
The new season, which includes multi-act, themed shows and educational outreach by brand-name jazz performers, is being announced Tuesday exclusively in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before a media launch event Tuesday night at Cobb Energy.
The 2013-14 lineup, to be presented September through February, features artists including Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer, Sergio Mendes, Dave Koz, Aaron Neville and Take 6 in programs paying tribute to the music of Count Basie, Brazil, New Orleans and Ray Charles. The Koz date, also featuring Oleta Adams, is a Christmas-themed show.
Audiences averaged more than 2,000 per concert in the 2,750-seat John A. Williams Theatre for the inaugural season that ended last November. That caused Cobb Energy to add a fourth gig under the Jazz Roots umbrella, with David Sanborn and Jonathan Butler to appear May 22.
The enthusiasm that greeted the first season’s lineup— plus educational outreach that included master classes by artists in Cobb Schools and student-musicians attending sound checks and Q&A sessions at Cobb Energy — led the performing arts center and its Jazz Roots advisory board to think expansively for 2013-14.
Larry Rosen, who launched the Jazz Roots concept at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center six years ago and made Cobb Energy the series’ sixth home, said he wasn’t surprised that metro Atlantans responded.
An esteemed producer, musician and co-founder of the GRP jazz label (now run by Universal Music Group), Rosen said Atlanta boasts more residents “who already in their DNA understand what this music is about” than most cities.
“Other communities that don’t have the same racial mixture, they don’t quite understand it,” Rosen continued in an exclusive interview with the AJC. “They’ll understand Frank Sinatra, but they may not understand James Brown the same way, or understand the blues, or understand Ella (Fitzgerald), Joe (Williams) and (Count) Basie.”
Rosen doesn’t deny that he defines jazz in broad terms.
“When you say jazz series, that’s a very touchy word for some people, who we in the industry call ‘the jazz police,’” Rosen said. “They think it has to be a certain era of jazz that fits into a certain box. I grew up on that and I love that music, but it’s very difficult to sell 2,000 plus tickets for that. This box is way bigger.”
Rosen cites two factors that make Atlantans receptive to the Jazz Roots concept. One is the Clark Atlanta University jazz station WCLK-FM, which has “a 40-year history and an audience that listens to them and is passionate about the music.” And the other is ArtsBridge, Cobb Energy Foundation’s well-established arts education program for K-12 students, an outreach effort that dovetails with Jazz Roots’ thrust. Jazz Roots profits are funneled into the ArtsBridge program.
“I’m not a promoter just looking to book shows,” Rosen said. “I have a mission here about music education, culture and selling this music, America’s music, to large audiences.”
JAZZ ROOTS LINEUP
Sept. 25: “Ella, Joe, Basie” featuring Janis Siegel, Kevin Mahogany, Count Basie Orchestra
Oct. 26: “A Night in Rio” with Sergio Mendes, Eliane Elias
Dec. 2: “Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour” featuring Dave Koz, Oleta Adams and guests to be announced
Jan. 30, 2014: “New Orleans” with Aaron Neville, Dirty Dozen Bass Band
Feb. 26, 2014: “Georgia on My Mind: Celebrating Ray Charles,” featuring Take 6, Clint Holmes, Nnenna Freelon, Shelly Berg and the Clark Atlanta University Band and Singers
Series subscriptions, $145-$455, available at 10 a.m. May 15 at the Cobb Energy box office (2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta), Ticketmaster outlets, 1-800-745-3000. Single tickets, $29-$99, go on sale July 19.