For the 3rd straight year the Art of Cool Festival (presented by the Art of Cool Project) continued on its quest of becoming the premiere festival showcasing jazz and jazz-influenced music with performances from Terrence Blanchard, Taylor McFerrin, Nicholas Payton, Rapsody and many more. Although the festival is based in Durham, this year’s lineup was decidedly West Coast heavy with artists from the Los Angeles area such as Anderson .Paak, J*Davey, The Internet, Kamasi Washington and Thundercat. Beyond performances, the Durham-based festival also featured events such as Innovate Your Cool (IYC) -consisting of roundtables, talks, freestyles, and keynote speeches-, JamShopSipRepeat – a marketplace-, and day parties.
This year’s crowd mirrored the eclectic lineup. Taylor McFerrin brought out the beat heads, while Kamasi Washington’s crowd was mixed with jazz purists, soul lovers, and hip-hop heads. The Internet packed the Carolina Theater with a slew of women mesmerized by Syd, as well as couples ready for a soulful date night. Pinhook was filled to the brim with hip-hop enthusiasts for Rapsody. Whatever feel the attendees were in the mood for, there was an artists there to satisfy it.
As has been the story so far this festival season, Aftermath signee – Anderson .Paak set the tone for this year’s acts on the first night. His high octane performance featured heaters from his latest album, Malibu, and his previous release, Venice, including “Drugs” and “Am I Wrong.” His electrifying performance had the audience all in as they danced and sang along to “Come Down” and “Suede” – a collab with NxWorries. Paak, drenched in sweat throughout most of the set, effortlessly rocked every part the stage while periodically retreating to his drum kit to give the tracks a bit more kick. Once his set ended, Paak reappeared in the crowd and kept the party going by partying and dancing with fans. Later that night he appeared onstage at Pinhook with Durham’s own/Jamla Records signee, Rapsody, to perform “Without You.”
With so many festivals popping up, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out. The Art of Cool Festival is successfully going against the grain of the seemingly monotonous line-ups and curating a niche festival that features jazz heavyweights, as well as artists that have and are continuing to contribute and create the popular sounds within jazz, soul, and hip-hop. By doing this, the Art of Cool is not only increasing the profile of their festival, but showcasing Durham’s emerging creative scene and celebrating musicianship.