When you hear of Durham, NC, you probably think of big tobacco or its reputation as a hotbed for college basketball. The people behind The Art of Cool Project hope to change your mind. Started by 11 professionals looking to highlight the burgeoning Durham cultural scene, they have produced concerts and events in the hopes of giving people a great experience while enjoying Durham. This year, they take that vision a step further with the Art of Cool Music Festival, set to hit a number of venues throughout the Durham community April 25-26, 2013. The schedule is chock full of artists both at the cutting edge of music and those with a deep tie to the history of jazz and blues that has deep roots in North Carolina.
While people will make pilgrimages to attend Coachella and Bonnaroo, the Art of Cool Project have quietly curated a diverse roster of talent for their inaugural festival. Jazz may have been their initial inspiration, but the full range of the jazz/soul experience is on display through the course of events. One of the headliners is Maceo Parker, legendary sax impresario for James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. Parker may represent the greatness of the past and present and fellow headliner Miguel Atwood Ferguson represents the present at the future. Ferguson also directs a tribute to North Carolina legends Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Roberta Flack. The forerunners of the next generation of soul are also heavily represented. The two day festival features appearances from Cody ChestnuTT, Amel Larrieux, Alice Smith, and The Foreign Exchange. Wunderkind Thundercat also gets a feature to display his futuristic soul while the Prince endorsed KING get to highlight their floaty harmonies on electro-soul tracks. The always jazzy Bilal will be in effect as well while the promising jazz trumpeter Christian Scott also gets his shine. And if that’s not enough, Mark de Clive-Lowe brings his popular “Church” to the festivities, an improvisational experience that incorporates everything great about music. An array of local artists fills out a schedule with over 40 artists displaying their talents.
The Art of Cool Festival has all the makings of a great event. If the curators can keep this up, there’s no doubt Durham will be known for more than basketball and barbecue.