If you’re smart, when you attend the Atlanta Jazz Festival in 93-degree heat and unrelenting sun with zero breeze, you do what a lot of the audience did: bring a canopy or tent, wheel up a cooler, put down some lightweight chairs, and stay all day at one of the three stages. If you’re a jazz correspondent, you insist on seeing all 13 acts (partial sets, at least), walking briskly between the three stages for nine hours or so until you’re covered in sweat and grime and your feet are blistered. You suffer for the music, but the music rewards you.
The festival, free and open to the public, took place in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park over Memorial Day weekend, and the Saturday (May 25) lineup was especially promising. It began at the Park Drive Stage, the smallest of the three, with Atlanta’s Avery Dixon, a young man who defied bleak medical odds (he weighed under two pounds at birth) to become a promising alto and tenor saxophonist with a David Sanborn-ish aesthetic. He had a band of pros, playing music steeped in R&B with a crossover sensibility.