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The Jazz Legacy Project

Connecting Jazz and American Culture

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Why does Thelonious Monk play the piano like that? Why is John Coltrane's music so intense? Why is Billie Holiday's voice so unique? 

Created in 2015 after an epiphany Justin Varnes had while teaching Jazz History at Georgia State University, the JLP has an ongoing residency at the Velvet Note jazz club in Atlanta, where they have been selling out their performances for 6 years and counting. Ditching a traditional textbook in favor of playing records and telling stories about the artists to college kids who knew little or nothing about jazz proved to be a big success. It turned out that performing the artist's music and telling their stories in between proved to be an even bigger success. 

But it's more than just offering insight into what to listen for when listening to jazz, it's also woven into American history - as jazz itself is. Many movements in jazz are a direct result of cultural shifts in America, and connecting an artist's music to a time or an event in history can open up a new world when listening to it.

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Rejected by symphonies and by both sides of his mixed-race heritage, Mingus forged his own path by creating socially- conscious, ever-swinging music that provided a home for others who felt lost. His love of Dixieland, Duke Ellington, and the Blues would lead the way to becoming the 2nd most prolific jazz composer behind only his idol, Ellington.

Composing both the music and lyrics to nearly 1,000 songs,
Porter stands alone with his unparalleled
gift for contributing so much to the Great
American Songbook. He also had a gift of matching the emotional content of the melodies and harmonies to the lyrics like no other. All while living a life that makes the most lavish rock star pale in comparison.

Holiday's traumatic childhood and fight to be treated as an equal both on and off the bandstand weren't fully appreciated in her time. But once the World caught up to her, they discovered a trailblazer and one of the most gifted storytellers in American music.

Throughout John Coltrane's life, he struggled to beat addiction, struggled to be a better person, and struggled to find his own voice on the saxophone. From his early days with Miles Davis through A Love Supreme, Coltrane turned those struggles into some of the most beautiful and important music ever created.

A fateful snowstorm led to a last- minute opportunity to play with Donald Byrd - Blue Note's biggest artist at the time. The seven-year marriage of jazz's brightest young star and its iconic record label produced some of the most popular jazz of the 1960s. It also chronicled the journey of a kid who wrote music about his childhood neighborhood in Chicago to a man who would write about his more worldly view of life during the Civil Rights era.

A happy accident left Art Blakey and Horace Silver alone in a recording studio. What came out was the beginnings of the Hard Bop era. What followed was a band - The Jazz Messengers - that would serve as a school for over 20 of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

The Jazz Legacy Project presents a mesmerizing tribute to the legendary Nat "King" Cole, fronted by the incomparable vocalist, Cleveland P. Jones. With a captivating blend of jazz, soul, and timeless melodies, the band brings the essence of Nat "King" Cole's music to life in their unforgettable performances. 

One of the most misunderstood pianists of all time, Monk's style was deliberate and filled with soul and spirit. Monk's unique influences - Bebop, Ellington, and Drums - helped shape the most recorded jazz composer of all time.

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