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SECOND ANNUAL ART OF COOL FESTIVAL SWEETER THE SECOND TIME AROUND! by Larry Reni Thomas
(Published: May 05, 2015)


To say that the Second Annual Art Of Cool Festival, in downtown Durham, North Carolina, April 24-26, 2015, was not much better than the first one in 2014, would be like saying Duke Ellington wasn't the king of swing or that Dizzy Gillespie didn't help create bebop or that Miles Davis or John Coltrane didn't change the direction of American Classical Music, commonly called jazz, several times. If good music, fun, family and smiles, is your cup of tea, then the Art Of Cool Music Festival in downtown Durham, North Carolina, on April 24, 25 and 26, 2015 (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), was the best place to be! To say that it made a hip, swinging presence in the city that tobacco built, would be a crystal-clear, huge understatement. Weeks afterwards, the area music fans are still talking about how much of a sweeter success it was the second time around and they are already talking about how they can't wait until May 2016.

"It was designed to resemble the Montreal Jazz Festival, with diverse musical styles, not only jazz, an experience where fans can walk to different venues, and go from place to place."said Dr. Cecily Mitchell, who co-founded The Art of Cool Project, the non-profit which presented the festival. After programming several successful events at clubs, schools, museums and different venues since 2012, Dr. Mitchell along with her partner, musician/educator Al Strong, proved in 2014, that Durham was ready for The Art Of Cool Festival in downtown Durham and that the community would strongly support a weekend of music with outdoor stages, different music venues, over 30 (thirty) performances, a free festival kick-off party, an exclusive VIP opening party, panel discussions, master classes and art exhibits.

The smiling, ready-for-a-good time, happy crowd at the 2015 edition of The Art Of Cool Festival, was super- added proof that the joyous, jazzy event has, after the funky, fine first, freshman year, established itself, the second time around, as one of the hippest places to be before the busy summer music festival season, which includes, just to name a few, Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, DC, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit Jazz Festivals, Montreal (Canada) Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood (California) Bowl, Newport (R.I.) Jazz Festival, Montreux (Switzerland) Jazz Festival, Jazz Mobile Festivals in New York City and the Ocean City (NC) Jazz Festival. The Art Of Cool Festival has turned out to be a primer, a warmup to get you ready for the summer. Most of the 2015 Art Of Cool acts, like Roy Ayers, Kenny Garrett, Robert Glasper, Snarky Puppy, Marcy Cary, Soul Understated with Mavis Swan Poole and Anthony Hamilton, will be featured on the stages of some of the upcoming major 2015 summer festivals. What a blessing for the community as well as for the musicians!

Friday's highlights included the free outdoor Official AOCFEST Kick Off Party at Durham Central Park which featured the five local bands and food trucks. Kidznotes Jazz Ensemble. the last band to perform at the kick-off party, did so quite nicely and splendidly represented the new generation of musicians. Also noteworthy was the exciting performances by The Roy Ayers Band, a sexy-sizzling set from vocalist Eve Cornelious, and a seriously hip concert by Grammy-winner pianist Robert Glasper and his trio, that had the crowd singing along. But, the best performance of Friday night came from saxophonist Kenny Garrett and his quintet, who had some members of the audience dancing to his hot tight band. It was especially excellent when the band swung, as in 4/4.

Saturday's performances were almost hindered by showers, chilly weather and a small crowd. The ancestors were smiling, however, because the show went on anyway, and finally the weather cooperated, the rain stopped and shortly afterwards, the venue, the Durham Athletic Park was full of people who came to have a party and have a good time. They danced and moved to the beat of two smoking opening groups, the rocking, Brooklyn, New York-based Soul Understated, and the equally crowd-pleasing band called MuMu Fresh. They were followed by saxophonist Mike Philips and his band, who during their smooth jazz set, slipped in some 4/4 when he and his blasting horn section paid homage to John Coltrane when he did a medley of Trane's tunes, including a straight-ahead take on "Giant Steps." Interestingly enough, most of the audience stopped dancing when they started to swing. They started dancing again when the smooth jazz resumed. After Philips finished, Grammy award-winner, vocalist Anthony Hamilton, the main act, the one that the crowd had risked being in the rain for, came on the stage, to tremendous applause and dancing.

Later, Saturday night's live music included a slick concert from bassist Ben Williams and his outstanding group that featured smooth solos from saxophonist Marcus Strickland; an enthusiastically-received set from Richmond, Virginia fusion jazz group, Butcher Brown, that featured a Lee Morgan-like trumpet solo from guest sensation Christian Scott; a rousing performance from the Grammy-winning, North Texas University alumni group, the much-heralded Snarky Puppy and a late night supreme scorching concert from the veteran Marc Cary and his trio at The Pin Hook.

There were smiles galore on Sunday (April 26) at The VIP Only Brunch at The Durham Armory which featured vocalist Avery Sunshine. It was obvious from the laughing and hugs that the Second Art Of Cool Festival in downtown Durham was very successful and that the organizers and attendees were very pleased and quite satisfied. The goal of the Art Of Cool is to "expand the audience of jazz-influenced music." From the looks of the long lines of crowds at most of the concerts, the Art Of Cool, is on its way to bigger and better things. The best is yet to come!

For more information about The Third Annual Art Of Cool Festival 2016, go to: http:// www.aocfestival.org.

More Information: http://www.aocfestival.org

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