Jazz Fest brings music legends Hancock, Benson, Palmieri to Atlanta

The Atlanta Jazz Festival, billed as the one of the largest free jazz festivals in the country is bringing some legends to Piedmont Park on Memorial Day weekend.

Latin jazz giant Eddie Palmieri, million-selling crossover artist George Benson and Herbie Hancock, a keyboard artist who bridged multiple eras in jazz, will perform as the closing acts during three days of music May 28-30.

Credit: Douglas Kirkland

Credit: Douglas Kirkland

The Midtown park will host five acts each day, Saturday, May 28, through Monday, May 30, with music beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing until 10:30 p.m.

The headliners include:

Herbie Hancock

Performing on Saturday, May 28, Herbie Hancock is now in his sixth decade of making music. During that time Hancock has remained a vital force in jazz. As a member of Miles Davis’ second quintet, and then with his own group Headhunters, Hancock drove the music through multiple transformations, incorporating electronics, rock, funk, and influences from as far afield as the Ituri forest, while nurturing the music’s deep acoustic history.

Credit: Atlanta Jazz Festival

Credit: Atlanta Jazz Festival

Eddie Palmieri

Performing on Sunday, May 29, Eddie Palmieri is a bandleader, composer and performer of salsa-infused jazz, combining the rhythms of his Puerto Rican heritage with the legacy of Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner. At 85, Palmieri’s intensity is undiminished.

George Benson

Performing on Monday, May 30, is George Benson, a 10-time-Grammy winner. Benson has achieved pop-star status (with his album “Breezin’”) while maintaining complete command of the jazz idiom.

Each day will begin with an Atlanta artist, with Kebbi Williams and the Wolfpack opening the festivities on Saturday, Joe Alterman on Sunday and Julie Dexter on Monday.

Last year’s festival was delayed from May until September, due to a widespread variant of the COVID-19 virus, and the festival in 2020 was held as a virtual event, featuring Atlanta musicians performing online.

This year’s festival is a return to form, although the music will be concentrated on a single outdoor stage, unlike September’s festival which included two stages.

Camille Russell Love, executive director of the mayor’s office of cultural affairs, said the city hopes to expand the festival to other venues around the metro area in the future, with events in such locales as the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus and the Rialto Center for the Arts downtown.


Atlanta Jazz Festival with George Benson, Herbie Hancock and Eddie Palmieri

Noon-10:30 p.m. May 28-30. Free. Piedmont Park, 1320 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. atljazzfest.com.