40th annual Savannah Jazz Festival ends on a high note

Savannah Jazz Festival

Charleston-based Ranky Tanky bids the audience farewell at the 40th annual Savannah Jazz Festival

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some can’t-miss performances were on deck to wrap up the 40th annual Savannah Jazz Festival.

Organizers scaled back this year’s in-person audience due to local COVID-19 guidelines. But the festival has teamed up once again with WSAV to stream every performance live online for free to tens of thousands around the globe.

Rewatch every 40th annual Savannah Jazz Festival performance at wsav.com/savannahjazzfestival.

Savannah State Wesleyan Gospel Choir

Georgia Southern University Jazz Ensemble

Grant Green Jr.

As the son of legendary jazz guitarist Grant Green (1931-1979), Grant Green Jr. was exposed to exceptional musicianship right from the start. Growing up in Detroit, he enjoyed a constant parade of jazz greats streaming through his living room. His neighbors included Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight, members of the Four Tops and the Temptations. Miles Davis was known to join impromptu jam sessions in their home.

Green Jr. toured the world in one band or another from an early age and was based in NYC for many years. A popular band he was part of for over a decade is the Godfathers of Groove with Bernard Purdie — also called Masters of Groove. Green Jr.’s ability to blend funky grooves with the melodic soul-jazz and blues has made him a festival favorite playing at the Detroit Jazz Festival, Savannah Music Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, and now for his first time at the Savannah Jazz Festival.

A wonderful songwriter as well, his latest original album “Soul Science” was released on Ropeadope Records in 2019, featuring his Atlanta-based band. In 2020, he developed a show dedicated to the legendary Burt Bacharach in the steps of his father who was on the iconic Bacharach tribute album on Blue Note Records.

Kenny Banks Jr.

Kenny Banks Jr. is noted for his blended technique in mixing jazz and gospel styles.

Downbeat Magazine describes his playing as “gospel and blues-infused” and calls his arrangements “thrilling, modern and surprising.” Under the guidance of his mother Esther Banks, music director at St. Paul AME Church in Columbus, Ohio, the church became his first musical outlet.

In 2003, Banks Jr. entered the broader world of music with the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra, and he joined the orchestra in tours of Peru, Canada and across Europe. In 2009, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to pursue his musical career full-time.

Banks Jr. has performed across the world and the United States, with such artists as the Thow Croker Quintet, Jennifer Holiday, Jazzmeia Horn, India Arie and Phife Dog of A Tribe Called Quest.

In 2019, he was a finalist in the 2019 American Pianists Awards and performed to great acclaim in solo and trio formats, as well as with Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling.

Don Braden

Saxophone and flute virtuoso, Don Braden’s music is soulful, and it swings.

One of America’s most important jazz musicians performing today, Braden has been part of the Harvard Monday Jazz band for several years and has been the director of the renowned Litchfield Jazz Camp for over 20 years.

A recent record, “Luminosity,” is upbeat, positive and guaranteed to put you in a good mood. Braden’s philosophy holds that positive outlooks are contagious and keep things moving upward.

He has performed with jazz greats, including Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard and many others. His collaborative album with Vanessa Rubin, Full Circle, is a triumph. Braden also teaches Masterclasses in saxophone, quartets, improvisation and music business.

Organizers are happy to have him back as a top performer at the Savannah Jazz Festival.

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