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The vocal trio KING features production from Paris Strother, a jazz-trained pianist. (Courtesy of the artist)

The Art Of Cool: 5 Bands At The Borders Of Jazz

by Patrick Jarenwattananon
Apr 25, 2014

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This weekend in central North Carolina, an adventurous music festival will pursue an explicit goal: to get more people to listen to jazz.

The event is easily the biggest production to date from the Art of Cool Project, a small concert-promotion outfit based in Durham. Encouraged by the highly educated populace of the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle region, a concentration of successful venues and a history of African-American music, Art of Cool planned a two-day festival this Friday and Saturday throughout its hometown. And it's doing so by spotlighting many acts at the borders jazz shares with hip-hop, R&B and other similar styles.

"Our thing is expanding the audience for jazz," Art of Cool co-founder Cicely Mitchell says in a phone interview. She says she found her way into classic jazz via neo-soul and R&B herself. "We believe this festival could be a gateway festival, or a gateway presentation, to turn people on to jazz."

The most prevalent bookings feature groups who freely traverse or ignore jazz's boundaries: James Brown and Parliament saxophonist Maceo Parker, jazz-trained neo-soul vocalist Bilal, singing bassist Thundercat, eclectic and proggy guitarist/composer Rafiq Bhatia and the adventurous groove veterans in Kneebody — among many others. Here's a look at five more acts playing this weekend's Art of Cool Festival.

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