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Future of Jazz: Bradford

Jazz pianist straddles the fence

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Like most artists, jazz pianist Bradford must contend with constrictive labels. Though he competed in the nu-jazz category at the Atlanta Jazz Festival's recent Future of Jazz competition, he found a way to break free from definition. In the end, his band's hip-hop version of Miles Davis' "All Blues" struck a winning chord.

So what exactly does his music sound like?

"I would say it's almost like a world beat," says Bradford Rodgers, who performs under his first name only. "There's elements of ethnic and maybe acid jazz and that kind of thing." Whatever it is, he's been developing his musical language since he was a kid, picking up different instruments through the years.

Though he's a multi-instrumentalist, Bradford focuses on writing and arranging. "My main instrument is actually the band."

His last album, Jihaad, dropped in 1998, but lately he's been amassing arrangements for a new disc. When he found out about the Future of Jazz competition, Bradford gathered his new band, laid down some tracks and dreamed up a set list. But the musicians only rehearsed once, which Bradford admits isn't how he usually prepares for a gig.

"That's not the way I wanted to do it, but the guys working with me are really awesome," he says. "It just worked out really well."

As for playing on the jazz festival stage, Bradford's not too nervous. After all, he's been honing his musical approach with bandleader Nick Longo for years at Sambuca Café.

"I've hopefully got enough chops," he says. "I mean, they've let me play piano at Sambuca for the last four years, so I don't suck. But Chick Corea I'm not."

Catch Bradford at Wednesdays in Woodruff, May 7 at noon, or Sunday, May 25, at Woodruff Park in conjunction with the 31st Atlanta Jazz Festival. Free. 84 Peachtree St. 404-658-1877.

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