Atlanta Jazz Fest: Gregory Porter, Benny Goison and The Headhunters

The 2016 Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage lineup was a winner.  There have been many that have called the Atlanta Jazz Festival the NOJazz Festival in recent years.  In recent years, I found myself only venturing to Piedmont Park for a single day of the three day festival.  My thirst for some more traditional jazz had not been sated in recent years.  This year my thirst was quenched with music by The Headhunters, Benny Goison and Gregory Porter.

The Headhunters

The Headhunters brought their signature are a  jazz-funk to the stage. I best remember The Headhunters from their time as the band backing Herbie Hancock during the 70s.

Throwback to spring 1975 with this full concert by the Headhunters.

The Benny Goison Quartet

The bebop jazz tenor saxophonist, composer, and arranger Benny Goison has been playing jazz music since the 50’s.   Benny Goison was inducted in to the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame in 2009.

It was quite the treat to hear Benny Goison provide interludes between songs about the history of jazz and his experiences play jazz and participating in the evolution of jazz music during the past 60+ years.

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter’s baritone voice is crisp, clear, powerful and rivals any vocalist I have heard.  His voice catches you with the first taste of his lyrics. Donny Hathaway and Nat King Cole come to mind when I try to come up with comparable voices.  Trust me when I say, GO ADD GREGORY PORTER TO YOUR MUSIC LIBRARY.  This is an artist that you will want to listen to for hours on end.

Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Gregory Porter that mixes gospel and soul with his music. In 2010 his debut album, Water, was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal album at the Grammy Awards. The title track from is second album, Be Good, was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the Annual Grammy Awards in 2012.

With a star filled Atlanta skyline in the background of the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Gregory Porter was a stand out performance that ended the 2016 Atlanta Jazz Festival with memories that will stay with me.

On “No Love Dying,” Greg Porter led the crowd on a call and response and you could feel the positive energy as the crowd chanted “There will be no love that’s dying hear!” for about 5 minutes.  Then with “Liquid Spirit” he took us to church with this song that has a few centuries on negro spirituals flowing between the cords, hand claps and thrumming of the bass.  I have listened to “Be Good” at least 200 times since I first heard it and hearing it live made me want to hear it several hundred more times.”Be Good” is a strong reminder to place your love where it is appreciated and returned unconditionally. With “1960 What” we are reminded of the assassination of Martin Luther king, riots and innocent young Black men being gunned down.

Gregory Porter on Youtube

If you missed him at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, here are a few Youtube Videos that will give you a feel for what you missed.


During the song “Music Genocide”, Gregory Porter had the band stop playing and sang a Capella with the crowd. You could hear the amen’s in the crowd as the air was filled with the thousands of harmonious voices decrying…”I do not agree, this is not for me.  No, musical genocide.”

“I do not agree, this is not for me
No, Musical genocide
I will not commit nor will I submit to
Musical genocide
This is not for me, I won’t let it be
No, musical genocide
Give me a blues song
Tell the world what’s wrong
And the gospel singer
Giving those messages of love
And the soul man
With your heart in the palm of his hand
Singing his stories of love and pain
Oh, I do not agree” – Gregory Porter “Musical Genocide”
To the organizers of the the 2017 Jazz Festival stay to true to your roots and bring back more “pure” jazz artists to the stage.