Still on a High from the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Almost every year, if I’m in town, you’ll find me sitting on a blanket and checking out the acts at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. It falls right around my birthday, so it’s become a tradition for me to spend it enjoying the people and the music as my own personal celebration.

This year, I found myself riding a birthday high that is still lingering. See, even before the festival, earlier that same week, I was blessed to witness my second born, my son, graduate from high school…on my birthday…and to celebrate him with friends and family who had traveled from all over.

Then, the festival...I'll just share some of the highlights:

  • Sharing the stage with a crew of musicians who have been exploring Afrobeat and Funk with me for well over a decade: the hard-hitting rhythm section of Kenton Bostick, Reginald Starling, Tavius Elder and Alex Jones; the gifted vocal stylings of Brenda Moorer, Jameelah Mullen, and our featured guest, Julie Dexter; Patrick Daniel on tuba, bringing that New Orleans soul; and the tight horn section, including Ali Barr, Avys Burroughs, and, Dashill Smith, serving double-duty as our funky frontman.
  • Collaborating with the force that is Giwayen Mata…shout out to Tambra Omiyale for the fierce choreography on “Zombie.” Check out the video below.
  • Watching a sea of Atlanta music lovers groove to the Common Ground sound and seeing among them my children, my wife, my sister and brother, my aunt, my cousins, my Tuskegee family and so many other folks who continue to support us and this music...

I still haven’t come down from it.

It was an honor and a thrill to be part of Russell Gunn’s visionary curation of Atlanta musicians on the Contemporary Stage, including Cleveland Jones, Julie Dexter, Wolfpack, Mamaniji Azanyah. and Gunn, himself. And, when it came to our set, he made a great call when he asked Common Ground and Giwayen Mata to collaborate. Now, if you know Giwayen Mata and Common Ground Collective, you also know that we both are musical marathoners with reputations for delivering performances that call our audiences to move and fully engage…for hours. So, it was no small feat to condense everything we wanted to share into an integrated one-hour experience and maintain the integrity of both ensembles. But, we did it.

We took a ride through the sounds and rhythms of Nigeria, Guinea, Mali, around the 70’s terrain of homegrown Funk & Soul and landed in a 2nd Line in Congo Square, New Orleans. (We'll be sharing more of our thoughts about and inspiration from this music we love in future posts, so stay tuned...) We were on a mission to gradually take the experience higher and create synergy and a collective consciousness with our audience. And, the magic on that stage that night was real!

Check it out for yourself in the videos below (s/o to Carol Brown-Rye for the "Zombie" and "Spirit Dancer" videos) and share your festival experience with us.

Julie Dexter performing "Spirit Dancer" with Mausiki Scales & the Common Ground Collective

Taking it to New Orleans!

Author: Mausiki Scales

Photo Credit: David Organ