Review: Emory Jazz Fest 2021

February 18, 2021

ATLANTA - Before I came to Emory, “Jazz Fest,” was what happened in New Orleans the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May. Now, Emory’s own jazz fest at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts is on my radar, and it’s that time of year

A year ago, the Emory Jazz Fest concert looked very different – live performances, lectures, demonstrations, and master classes. Due to the pandemic, Jazz Fest 2021 went virtual.  A pre-recorded stream featured jazz guitarist Bobby Broom with bassist Kenny Davis and pianist Gary Motley. While jazz performances usually involve musicians on stage together, weaving the music before our eyes, this event had each artist recorded individually, with the final stream combining the three videos together.

Despite the virtual nature of the concert, it still held on to the intimacy of jazz. While there was an array of American songbook classics, Broom and Motley also shared original compositions. The musicians divulged their relationship to the pieces when they introduced them, and this only served to heighten the experience of each piece. Broom mentioned his penchant for infusing songs with a funky bass line, and that proved to be true as they moved from the opening lively tune of “Sweet and Lovely” into “Jitterbug Waltz.”  The “Jitterbug Waltz” is a classic by Thomas “Fats” Walker that featured tunes even brighter than the first, though it slowed at points to add depth and moodiness.

Overall, the trio found moments in each song to play out in a celebration of life. Broom’s bright guitar notes lent heavily to this sense of joie de vivre. Broom notably spoke about the joy that the three musicians felt when coming together to make music. It was palpable in the music selection and in the way that they played their instruments. The added intimacy brought by the virtual concert might have played a role in this joy, as almost every engrossed expression the musicians could be seen up close by the audience.

There were technical difficulties. The concert stream started a tad later than it was supposed to – but this is a common occurrence for in-person performances, too. If anything, I was amused by how in-the-moment and live that made the experience feel. 

With excellent musicians and a functional streaming platform, I recommend attending Schwartz Center Virtual Stage events. See upcoming events here.

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This review was written by a student for the new virtual zine Conversations with Eggs. Conversations with Eggs is operated by Emory Arts and some frighteningly smart students. It releases rolling reviews and critiques of art "stuff" by the Emory community and annually releases one themed volume of creative work. Its formal website will be launched in March.