When Joe Alterman was first launching his profession as a jazz pianist in 2012, he opened a live performance on the Blue Notice membership in New York Metropolis for considered one of his heroes: Les McCann, finest recognized for the protest anthem “In contrast To What.”
“I grew to become obsessed together with his music in faculty,” says Alterman. “Les was doing all of the issues my academics had been saying to not do. Listening to him gave me the boldness to be me. I used to be very fortunate to be requested to open a live performance for him.”
Earlier than the present, Alterman lingered on stage after his sound examine within the hopes of assembly McCann. He was sitting on the piano when McCann rolled in sitting in a wheelchair. He got here as much as Alterman on stage and mentioned, “Play me some blues.”
The younger pianist obliged, and that second sparked a deep friendship between the 2 that continues to this present day. The jazz icon has additionally develop into considered one of Alterman’s greatest followers. “After I heard Joe play, I felt the best way I did once I first met Miles [Davis],” says McCann. “He’s on a ‘blow your thoughts’ degree.”
Alterman, 33, who grew up in Atlanta and nonetheless lives right here, is among the featured performers at this weekend’s three-day Atlanta Jazz Pageant headlined by Herbie Hancock, Kenny Barron and Julie Dexter. George Benson was initially scheduled to carry out, however needed to drop out.
After being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic after which pushed again to Labor Day weekend in 2021, the competition returns to its conventional Memorial Day slot at Piedmont Park Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The competition, hosted by the Metropolis of Atlanta Mayor’s Workplace of Cultural Affairs, is free.
Saturday’s lineup is Herbie Hancock, Masero, Tia Fuller’s Intersections, Kebbi Williams and the Wolfpack, and T.C. Carson.
Sunday’s schedule contains Alterman, Rhonda Thomas, The Baylor Undertaking, Warren Wolf and The Pack, and the Eddie Palmieri Afro Caribbean Jazz Septet.
On Monday, performers would be the Kenny Barron Quartet, Julie Dexter, Kathleen Bertrand, Makaya McCraven and Naia Izumi.
As well as, the competition is internet hosting the “31 Days of Jazz” program at varied venues across the metropolis all through Could and June.
This 12 months marks Alterman’s first mainstage look on the Jazz Fest. He’ll carry out Sunday at 1 p.m., joined by Kevin Smith on bass and Justin Chesarek on drums. “It’s actually particular,” he says. “I grew up going to this competition. It’s influenced me. I bear in mind seeing Donald Byrd and Freddy Cole and Barry Harris and so many others.”
He started to play piano in kindergarten, then fell beneath the spell of such jazz pianists as Oscar Peterson, Ramsey Lewis and Ahmad Jamal. Alterman studied at New York College and discovered that his hometown jazz celebration had a protracted attain. “After I was in New York, individuals talked about this competition,” he says. “It makes me proud to be from Atlanta.”
His sixth album, The Upside of Down, was recorded dwell on the fabled Birdland jazz membership in New York Metropolis, and launched final August. ArtsATL mentioned, “His music is vibrant and contemporary, immediately as trendy as it’s retro.” In JazzWax, Marc Myers wrote, “Joe has reached a brand new maturity as an artist and the outcomes are fairly thrilling.”
Alterman has picked up ringing endorsements from a number of legendary figures as a rising main voice in jazz piano, together with Ahmad Jamal and Ramsey Lewis. Jamal known as him “a particular artist.” Lewis says Alterman is “an inspiration to me . . . His piano enjoying, his will to discover and his capacity to swing, is a pleasure to behold.”
The younger pianist has cast relationships with a lot of his jazz elders, absorbing their tales and choosing up tricks to incorporate into his personal type. However his relationship with McCann has developed right into a deep friendship. McCann, 86, is battling well being points that compelled his retirement and the 2 of them discuss by cellphone a number of occasions per week. McCann is bedridden and lives in an extended-stay care facility in California.
“Joe’s music is from the soul; it’s actual,” McCann says. “It makes you are feeling joyous and pleased. There’s one thing emanating from him to you.”
The jazz elder has regaled Alterman with tales about his profession and his gigs in Atlanta. McCann and activist Stokely Carmichael, for instance, built-in the Atlanta chapter of the YMCA throughout one tour cease. And he has fond recollections of acting at La Carousel, the jazz membership opened by Paschal’s Restaurant when it served because the unofficial residence of the civil rights motion. “Paschal’s was my favourite place to play in Atlanta,” says McCann. “It was an important place. My followers had been there and it had the best meals . . . oh my God!”
McCann has impressed upon Alterman that music is a journey of self-discovery. “He likes to impress on me what it means to have a present,” says Alterman. “He says, the reward is in you, it’s not the piano; it’s you. Being associates with Les is among the nice blessings of my life. I’ve discovered a lot from him.”
“Understanding Joe is among the nice moments in my life,” McCann says. “I’m so grateful. He makes me smile day by day.”
Scott Freeman is govt editor of ArtsATL. He’s the creator of 4 books, together with the best-selling Midnight Riders: The Story of the Allman Brothers Band (which is in growth for a characteristic movie) and Otis! The Otis Redding Story. He has labored as an editor at Atlanta journal and Artistic Loafing. He was a reporter for the Macon Telegraph and Information, in addition to The Windfall Journal.