All That Jazz

All That Jazz

February 28th, 2014 by Veronica Egger in Local Regional News

Louis Armstrong said that if you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know. If this Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and singer was right, then the only way to understand jazz music is to experience it.

Avery Sunshine, who won Best New Artist at the Reader's Choice Awards in 2010, is the most recent addition to the headliner list. Sunshine's melodies to her are ministry, and her gospel roots are sure to shine through in her performance which is slated for April 27 at the Robert Kirk Walker Community Theater at Memorial Auditorium at 6:45 p.m.

McKissic said he is most looking forward to Gregory Porter, who he's been excited to see again ever since hearing him croon in a small club years ago. A multiple Grammy Award nominee hailed by critics as a new "king of jazz," Porter will perform in Chattanooga for the first time on April 27 at the same location as Avery Sunshine.

Thanks to Shane Morrow and James McKissic, co-founders of "Jazzanooga," Chattanooga residents and visitors can do just that in April.

Jazzanooga, the city's annual month-long celebration of its rich jazz heritage, will host internationally known vocalists Lalah Hathaway, Ruben Studdard, Gregory Porter and Avery Sunshine as headliners at this year's celebration.

"The exciting part for me is to really be able to showcase what we have to offer in jazz," says Morrow, who laments that Chattanooga's role in jazz has been underplayed. Morrow says that several decades ago, Chattanooga was a Mecca for famous jazz artists like Nat King Cole. It was also the hometown of "The Empress of the Blues" Bessie Smith, who was a profound influence on later jazz vocalists.

And so, Morrow and McKissic are beckoning the best crooners they can find to come shake the dust off Chattanooga's jazz music scene.

"It's a great neighborhood with a great musical history," McKissic says.