The Art of Cool Festival announced most of the lineup for its second festival, scheduled for April 24–26, 2015 in Durham. The talent will include Roy Ayers, Anthony Hamilton, Snarky Puppy, Kenny Garrett and Avery*Sunshine. If some of those names seem familiar, many were teased earlier in order to drive a festival Kickstarter.
Unlike last year’s inaugural Art of Cool Festival lineup announcement, tonight’s grand rollout of the 2015 AOCF list of performers wasn’t complemented by any jam session or concert. That is, of course, unless you count the concert that just took place in Durham Performing Arts Center, where festival co-founder and Art of Cool Project president Cicely Mitchell and her team of volunteers were on duty, promoting next year’s three-day festival. Meanwhile, on the DPAC stage, one of the festival’s headliners, Hamilton, was busy singing tunes from his new Christmas album, Home for the Holidays.
Both parties will see each other again in April, when Hamilton takes a different Durham stage to perform the entirety of his critically- acclaimed 2003 LP, Comin’ from Where I’m From, as part of AOCF’s Carolina Soul series. But tonight, there’s still more work to do: For Hamilton, it’s touring and promoting, and for Mitchell, it’s campaigning for as many ticket sales as she can get in order to make the upcoming festival more financially successful than the first one. It’s a great coincidence, one that Mitchell isn’t ashamed of calling “opportunistic.”
In fact, Mitchell’s announcement-night focus closely resembles the focus of this year’s festival lineup, which is rounded out more by soul-forward acts like Hamilton, Jesse Boykins III and Avery*Sunshine than by the jazz-centric ambitions of the previous year, even though jazz staples like Kenny Garrett Quintet and the duo of Gretchen Parlato and Alan Hampton have AOCP’s jazz-core covered.
“We definitely used the [last year’s] festival as a way to expand the audience for jazz,” says Mitchell. “A lot of the people we saw at our concerts this year really get behind neo-soul artists, so we just wanted to make sure that we were giving the people what they wanted while also including the more progressive jazz acts.”
But it’s niche festivals like AOCF that interconnect musical worlds like neo-soul and jazz, challenging the boundaries of such categorizations. This is why acts like soul-jazz trio Moonchild, jam boys Snarky Puppy and jazz futurists BadBadNotGood are equally at home in this lineup.
“This year, we asked people who they wanted to see,” says Mitchell. “This lineup is a reflection of the public’s recommendation.”
This crowdsourcing strategy is precisely how Mitchell decided to book jazz icon Roy Ayers as AOCF’s main headliner. Known for classics such as “Don’t Stop the Feeling,” “Searching” and “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” Ayers may be one of the most influential musicians outside of James Brown to impact the soul and R&B spectrum of the past several decades.
“He’s a jazz vibraphonist and he has an expansive catalogue,” says Mitchell. “So this will be kind of a reintroduction of Roy Ayers to one particular generation, but also an introduction to a younger generation by being able to talk about his catalogue that has been sampled over the years. He represents what Art of Cool is all about.”
For more information including ticketing and the full lineup, visit the Art of Cool Festival website.