This year’s Art of Cool Festival, April 28-30 in Downtown Durham, is jam-packed with activities, events, and concerts that celebrate jazz-inspired music. As much as you’d probably like to, it would be impossible to attend everything, but here are some highlights that you absolutely cannot miss.
1. Critically Acclaimed Artists
Of course, the biggest draw to Art of Cool Festival is the music. A combination of forward-thinking jazz, soul, and mature hip hop performances ensure that there’s something on the line up for everyone.
First, schedule in the headliners. On Friday, April 28, “The God MC” Rakim will perform at the Durham Armory to kick off the festival in the foundation of hip hop. On Saturday, see funk legend George Clinton at the Carolina Theatre. Later that night, Grammy and Academy award-winning artist Common will perform at DPAC (this performance requires a separate ticket purchased on the DPAC website).
Local artists will get in on the action as well, like Raleigh-based rapper NANCE, Charlotte musician Will Wildfire and jazz guitarist Will Darity and R&B artist Danny Blaze, both from Durham.
2. Soul Yoga
Unwind from the previous night’s performances on Saturday morning at Soul Yoga, a rooftop yoga class enhanced by the soulful spins from DJ Doc Bintu. Held in the Google Rooftop Lounge at American Underground, the class is led by resident yoga instructor Louisha Barnette, a certified health coach and yoga teacher. The class is the perfect way to limber up and center your mind before a day of inspiring panels and discussions.
3. Innovate Your Cool
On Saturday from 9am until 4pm, there will be a meeting of the minds at Innovate Your Cool: A Conference on Innovation held at American Underground. The free conference is bursting at the seams with discussions, panels, workshops and demonstrations. Standouts include the “Equity and Entrepreneurship” panel, where thought leaders will discuss the importance of equal distribution of opportunities in the digital space, and the “Compose Your Cool: Coding Workshop” where participants will learn to code via music.
There’s also the “Paid in Full: Invest Wisely” panel, discussing fundraising for new ventures and the importance of financial literacy, and conversely, the “30 years 'Paid in Full'” fireside chat on the impact and creative process of the classic hip hop album “Paid in Full” by Rakim and Eric B. Emcee Rakim, Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal, and Combat Jack podcast host Reggie Ossé will host the once-in-a-lifetime conversation.
4. Compose Original Beats
Deep down, we all want to be in the music world. Make your music producer dreams come true at one of two Beat Making Lab sessions held during Saturday’s Innovate Your Cool conference at both 10 am and again at 1 pm. The workshop is led by Pierce Freelon, the founder of Blackspace – a digital makerspace based in Durham, and the co-founder of the Emmy award-winning PBS series Beat Making Lab. Who knows, you might just create the next song of the summer.
5. VIP Brunch with Kindred the Family Soul
For the full festival experience, snag an All Access VIP ticket for exclusive perks throughout the weekend. In addition to VIP section seating near the performance stage, access to the VIP hospitality lounge and priority entry to most venues, guests can wrap up the weekend at a VIP jazz brunch at the Durham Convention Center with performances from Grammy-nominated neo-soul duo Kindred the Family Soul and jazz/soul singer Frank McComb.
What’s a festival without parties? The socializing begins before the festival even gets stared on Thursday night at the Durham A-Z: J is for Jazz Exhibit Opening Party at the Museum of Durham History and The President’s Party, featuring 10-piece stage band Empire Strikes Bass, at The Blue Note Grill.
Get in on the late night fun on Friday night (technically Saturday morning) at a jazz-meets-hip-hop “Trap Jazz Party” at Motorco from 12:30 am until 2am. Although it’s technically not a party (but we’re sure it’ll turn into one), Durham-based jazz and hip hop quartet The Beast will host a free “Dusk ‘til Durham” performance at the Durham Hotel rooftop on Sunday evening.