The 2013-14 JAZZ ROOTS series of concerts got underway at the Cobb Energy Centre for the Performing Arts on Wednesday night with a tribute to some of Jazz music's biggest icons from the "swing" era of Jazz. The Count Basie Orchestra led the tribute with Kevin Mahogany and Janis Siegel providing the vocals to honor the memories of Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald.
In what is becoming an eagerly anticipated addition to the Cobb Energy Centre's event calendar, Larry Rosen has brought back the JAZZ ROOTS series for a second run in Atlanta. This season five different musical styles will demonstrate their common heritage. Wednesday night the Cobb Energy Centre was "swinging".
The Count Basie Orchestra provided the underpinning for the entire evening and they played a 40-minute set full of their instrumental standards highlighted by "April in Paris" and "One O'Clock Jump". Their set provided ample opportunity for solo performances by many of the band members that were eagerly appreciated by the crowd.
Down Beat award winner Kevin Mahogany joined the orchestra on stage and performed several of the standards made famous by Joe Williams including his biggest hit "Alright, Okay, You win". Mahogany's deep, rich bass tones were perfectly rendered in the Cobb and, supplemented by the timeless Count Basie Orchestra, the audience were transported back in time to an entirely different era.
Janis Siegel, a member of the 8 time Grammy winning group Manhattan Transfer, paid homage to the great jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. My personal favorite of Siegel's performance was the Cole Porter song "Too Darn Hot".
In a touching moment midway through the show Scotty Barnhart, the newly named Director of the Count Basie Orchestra was given several proclamations from the City of Atlanta and others in recognition of his contributions to jazz music. Barnhart is a two-time grammy award winning trumpeter who is an Atlanta native. He was genuinely appreciative of the awards and took time to acknowledge the influence of his family and his third grade teacher, all of whom were in the audience to share his moment.
The Cobb Energy Centre for the Performing Arts is a perfect venue for shows like the JAZZ ROOTS series. Large enough to provide some real energy, feedback and atmosphere from the audience it's also small enough to provide everyone on the stage and in the audience a real sense of intimacy. But it's the acoustics and the sound system that allow the Cobb to become truly magnificent and they complement the subtleties of Janis Siegel's or Kevin Mahogany's voice just wonderfully.
The JAZZ ROOTS series returns to the Cobb on October 26 with "A Night in Rio" and Sergio Mendes and Eliane Elias will perform Jazz infused with a Latin American flavor.