The National Black Arts Festival will host two events at the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival in an effort to unify fans of various ages and art disciplines. Jazz and hip-hop make for a rich collaboration at Talkin’ All That Jazz: The Jazz and Hip-Hop Fusion Concert at City Winery on May 23. And on May 25–26, the organization hosts Art in the Park, a pop-up outdoor gallery in Piedmont Park during the jazz fest.
The NBAF, a nonprofit organization that supports art and artists of African descent through education and entertainment, has supported jazz and its role as a social conduit for more than three decades. The organization is seeking ways to transcend the generational divide in jazz music.
“We already know that the National Black Arts Festival has always had a long-standing legacy of supporting jazz music,” says Ahmad Jamal, WCLK radio host and cohost of the Talkin’ All That Jazz event. “And now we’re looking at a new generation of young people and how to get these young folks into jazz music.”
Talkin’ All That Jazz: The Jazz and Hip-Hop Fusion Concert is an auditory journey that examines how jazz and hip-hop influence each other. The event includes performances by D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik, DJ Kermit, Soul Food Cypher and emcee Yamin Semali. Jazz classics will be restyled through sampling techniques, where artists use tracks by another to complement the music arrangement.
“When you look at the history of jazz, you look at the history of hip-hop and tie in the National Black Arts Festival,” Ahmad says. “The National Black Arts Festival has always been about cultural preservation. One aspect of that is bringing jazz artists to the forum.”
Ahmad says he got his namesake from Ahmad Jamal, now 88, a famous jazz pianist, composer and bandleader from Pittsburgh. Jamal’s jazz song “I Love Music” (1970) was sampled on “The World Is Yours” in 1994 by New York rapper Nas. The sample helped people understand the elder Jamal’s music on a deeper level, and hearing the song in a new context built a bridge back to the living legend, Ahmad says.
Attendees can expect to hear jazz classics by Dr. Lonnie Smith and Herbie Hancock, as well as contemporary hip-hop and jazz fusion by A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. Ahmad cohosts with soul music aficionado and filmmaker Jason Orr of the seminal FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival, who has the same ethos of cultural preservation.
Ahmad wants audience members to leave the events with a better understanding of the parallels between jazz and hip-hop. “We always try to go above and beyond just the art,” Ahmad says. “Because the art is a representation of who we are as human beings, I want people to walk away knowing that we shouldn’t allow ageism and generational divides to separate us.”
The NBAF will have a tent where fest-goers can browse and buy art from Atlanta artists. The gallery is curated by Tracy Murrell, a painter and collage artist and the winner of Atlanta Magazine’s Best of Atlanta 2017 Rising Curator award. The outdoor exhibit will showcase emerging and established artists including quilt makers and traditional painters and sculptors.
“National Black Arts Festival has a long history as a festival, as well as a history of uplifting arts and artists of African descendant in multiple arts disciplines,” says Vikki Millender-Morrow, president and CEO of the organization.
“But we wanted to collaborate and still maintain the festival feel, even though we are not going to put on our own festival. We thought bringing in the Atlanta Jazz Festival would be a great way to bring a visual arts component.”