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Preview: The Hot Swinging Triangle North Carolina Fall 2021 Jazz Season by Larry Reni Thomas
(Published: August 30, 2021)

The busy, expanding, thoroughly-satisfying jazz scene in what is called the "Triangle" area of the Piedmont section of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) just keeps getting better and better. Who needs the New York. Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. or any other East coast jazz scenes when everybody seems to be coming this way? The area can boast of several venues that present live jazz including, C. Grace's, Irregardless Café, and Brasa's, in Raleigh; The Carolina Theatre (www.carolinatheatre.org), Motorco Music Hall, Blue Note Grill, Sharp Nine Gallery, Pinhook, Kingfisher, the Hayti Heritage Center, The NorthStar Church of the Arts, Arcana and The Fruit in Durham; and Weaver Street, The Station, The Second Wind, and The Arts Center in Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The scene is also enhanced by the music presented by the three main universities in the area: Duke University in Durham (Duke Performances, (www.dukeperformances.duke.edu), North Carolina State University (NC State LIVE (www.live.arts.ncsu.edu) and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) (Carolina Performing Arts, www.carolinaperformingarts.org).

In addition, other area colleges and universities present live jazz and have outstanding jazz studies program and jazz ensembles. North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham has nationally acclaimed, award-winning jazz ensembles, under the direction of saxophonist, Dr. Ira Wiggins. They have performed at The White House twice and at The Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Durham resident saxophonist Branford Marsalis was recently an artist-in-residence at NCCU, and vocalist Nnnena Freelon, who also lives in Durham, has been featured at several of NCCU jazz events.

A good sign that the Triangle jazz scene is growing is the very pleasant emergence of organizations dedicated to jazz: The North Carolina Jazz Listening Group, and The Triangle Jazz Society, which has been around since 2005, The CoCo Jazz Arts Community and The Durham Jazz Renaissance Foundation. The area is also fortunate enough to have a 24-hour jazz radio station, NCCU' s WNCU-FM, Durham (which has been on the air since 1995). Other radio stations, such as WCOM-FM, Chapel Hill-Carrboro's community station, Duke University's WXDU-FM, and UNC-CH's WXYC-FM, also program jazz music. WXYC-FM and WNCU-FM both hold live jazz concerts on special occasions.

This robust, contagious wonderful jazz activity makes for a jazz scene that is just as hip as any scene in the nation, or the world for that matter. Where else, can you hear radio stations playing the music day and night, experience live jazz in the clubs, colleges and the universities, and have an abundance of jazz studies programs in almost all of the area's institutions of higher learning, including high schools? Jazz heaven maybe. This Triangle jazz community is enjoying jazz heaven very well. The community will smile and be highly pleased with the upcoming, splendid, variety-packed 2021 fall jazz music season.

The fall jazz season gets started when The Ninth Annual John Coltrane Jazz and Blues Festival (www.coltranejazzfset.com), takes place, Labor Day weekend, (September 4 and September 5, 2021) in his hometown of High Point, North Carolina, about an hour and half west of the Triangle area of the state. This year's Coltrane festival lineup includes vocalist Kurt Elling, Chris Botti, Lakecia Benjamin and Tito Puente, Jr. Also, in the month of September, The Ernest Turner Quartet, featuring Jason Marsalis and Stephen Riley, are slated to perform September 11, 2021 at The Sharp Nine Gallery, Durham, North Carolina. Imani Winds and Cory Smythe are scheduled to perform, September 12, 2021, at Baldwin Auditorium, on Duke University's East campus, Durham. Boney James is scheduled to perform at that same night, September 12, 2021, at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, in downtown Raleigh. Gregory Porter is scheduled to appear on September 22, 2021, at The Carolina Theatre, in downtown Durham.

The month of October 2021 will feature an October 16th performance by saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin on the campus of North Carolina State University at Stewart Theater. The November 2021 line-up includes November 5th and 6th concerts by Durham native, New York-based pianist Chris Pattishall at The Rubenstein Arts Center on Duke University's campus, in Durham, North Carolina. Vocalist Ledisi, whose photo is featured on the September 2021 issue of Downbeat Magazine is scheduled to perform November 18,2021 at The Carolina Theatre in Durham. The trumpet player, Chris Botti, is slated for a December 5, 2021, appearance at the Carolina Theatre, Durham

Whew! What a fine, fruitful, uplifting fall jazz season 2021 looks to be in the Triangle area of North Carolina and one that will get better and better as time goes by. We've gone full circle. Jazz musicians used to leave the state. Now there coming back to the place where Trane, Monk Max, Nina and Percy were born. The music is alive and well in North Carolina and the proof is in the pudding. Viva the Carolina Jazz Connection!

*Note: Events are subject to change. Check ahead.

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