On Friday, April 25th and Saturday, April 26th Durham, North Carolina was the central place for all things cool in the world of eclectic soul and future jazz. The next generation of great musicians played with today’s most revered soul artists headlining multiple stages. The two-day festival was full to the brim with everything from today’s rising jazz stars to groups and performers that don’t necessarily fit in the “jazz” category. While some of AOC’s performers might share the stage together on occasion, or even appear at the same event, a festival that contained all these acts has never been accomplished before. Never has there been a festival dedicated to presenting a collective of like-minded artists of this magnitude and scale who are all part of pushing the boundaries and changing the landscape of what we perceive to be jazz. Welcome to The Art of Cool.

Maceo Parker at The Carolina Theater - Photo by Scott Stewart

AOC’s headliners included James Brown’s legendary sax-man Maceo Parker, Thundercat, KING, Christian Scott, Bilal, Foreign Exchange, Amel LarrieuxCody ChestnuTT, Alice Smith, and the Frolab-curated production Caroline Soul feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Nnenna Freelon, Marcus Strickland, Gerald Clayton, and many more.

It’s as if Essence Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival collided into a two-day music euphoria that was captured in North Carolina. Although it was nearly two weeks ago, the festival still has audience members and performers alike talking about the synergy, the music, and an experience unlike any other. Relive those fugacious moments that were captured by Jati Lindsay, Scott Stewart, and Frolab, and check out what some of AOC’s performers had to say about their two days at the Art of Cool.

Shout out to the festival directors and curators, Cicely Mitchell, Al Strong, and Cognito Barr (Frolab) for organizing a fest unlike any other. Support Art of Cool Festival here. 

Photography by Frolab

Photography by Frolab – KING & Phonte

“I’ve lived in this area for over 15 years and The Art of Cool festival was, hands down, the freshest thing I’ve ever seen in Durham. The atmosphere was warm and easy, like a cross between a jazz festival and a family reunion. The crowds were all really energetic and appreciative and I was truly honored to be a part of history.”

-Phonte of Foreign Exchange

“We had an amazing time at the inaugural Art of Cool festival. Once we arrived, we felt the incredible atmosphere that AOC sought to create- the perfect backdrop for celebrating the warmth and creativity of Carolina Soul, and to showcase and honor jazz & soul legends as well as newer artists. The spirit was alive between the festival committee, artists, and fans, and we’re proud to have been part of the inception of a truly great meeting of musical minds. Unmatched hospitality and overwhelming love from the audience will definitely bring us back in the future. Cheers to many more!”


Photo Credit: Frolab - Carolina Soul Tribute  Nnenna Freelon, Marcus Strickland, Ndambi, Gerald Clayton and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson

Carolina Soul Tribute
Nnenna Freelon, Marcus Strickland, Ndambi, Gerald Clayton and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson

“When I think about the 1st ever AOC Festival last weekend, the word that comes to mind is, ‘special.’ A gathering of like-minded people in a gem of a city. Carolina Soul was a reunion of old musical comrades, and an introduction to new ones. Hip folks all around me all weekend long. Art creators and lovers everywhere you looked- the energy was truly special.”

-Gerald Clayton

“AOC Project hit the ball out of the park! A Home Run of a music festival. A perfect balance of name brand artists, local Carolina bands, underground genre busting collaborations and… a few surprises. This calls for a rewrite of the cultural MAP!!!!”

-Nnenna Freelon

“There are not the words to express what the Art of Cool Festival means to me, but I will try my best. There is priceless value in fellowship, communion, healing, and experiencing the spirit all at once. And that is what this wonderful festival was able to do. This was an event where closeness of family and community by way of art ruled the hearts and minds of everyone in attendance. I walked away forever changed and inspired to spread wings and fly. Thank you Art of Cool.”


Cody ChestnuTT at Art of Cool Fest Photo by Jati Lindsay

Cody ChestnuTT at Art of Cool Fest Photo by Jati Lindsay

“I’ve been blessed to play many festivals all around the world—in over 10 countries. I can say, without hesitation, that the Art Of Cool festival was one the best events I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. The organizers invested pure soul into this festival— making the artists and all involved feel extremely appreciated and respected. As an African American artist, I needed the platform that the AOC provided—their sense of spirit and culture. The care and love woven into this musical experience brought both artist and music lover together effortlessly. Making all present (from my perspective) feel at home. Thanks again, to you all! Much love.”

-Cody ChestnuTT

Christian Scott & Cody ChestnuTT at Art of Cool - Photo by Jati Lindsay

Christian Scott & Cody ChestnuTT at Art of Cool – Photo by Jati Lindsay

“In 18 years of constant traveling and performing, if I had to choose one moment, one festival, to relive it’d be Art Of Cool!”

-Christian Scott



1 Replies to "Rare Moments at a Rare Festival: Welcome to The Art of Cool"
AJ Reynolds says:
May 9, 2014 at 12:45 am

This festival was truly amazing. A close friend and I found out about it, and honestly I didn’t know if I could afford the ticket price for a two day pass, but I’m so thankfully my friend talked me into it. It was worth the next week of ramen haha. This festival was filled with so much love, respect and FAMILIES! Young and old, watching wonderful musicians, make art live. We were truly apart of something great, and I feel blessed to see such a wonderful write up, because this festival really was just as amazing as promised!!!

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