Butcher Brown beats the heat at the Atlanta Jazz Festival

Butcher Brown embraced fluidity at the Atlanta Jazz Festival on May 25, 2024.

When the five members of Butcher Brown settled onto the Meadow stage at the 47th Annual Atlanta Jazz Festival, their task of getting the audience out of their seats was not going to be easy.

Before them, thousands of people sat on lawn chairs and blankets under umbrellas. A never-ending sea of tents waded behind the guests. Butcher Brown was charged with charming these very people out of their seats and into the home-grown groove they take worldwide.

Attendees dancing to Butcher Brown's set.

For its first Atlanta show in at least two years, the Richmond-based jazz-fusion quintet began its set with “I Can Say to You” from its 2023 album, Solar Music. Accompanied by an ebullient organ solo by multi-instrumentalist DJ Harrison, this track demonstrated why everyone under the sound of those speakers ought to remember their name.

Kevin Martin, an Atlanta local and jazz fan, waited four long years to be face-to-face with Butcher Brown. He first heard the band’s music on WCLK and then became a regular streamer.

"I've been wanting to see them for years,” Martin said. “I had an opportunity to see them, but then the pandemic happened and everything got shut down. The reason why I came to this festival, primarily, was to see them."

The joy in watching Butcher Brown perform is each performer’s unmistakable dedication, passion, and expertise. The intimacy among their instruments is shown by the precision of their craft and musicality. The band’s deep respect for the venue and knowledge of the genre were made palpable, the set highlighting their capacity for more “traditional” jazz sounds. While playing “Turismo,” Butcher Brown showcased how much it belongs at the festival by using highly technical solos. It was after these solos, perhaps satisfied with how they demonstrated their skill in traditional jazz, that they let loose to show just how wide that skill can stretch.

They performed a tropical interpretation of “Run It Up,” a nearly gothic version of “Fohbliv,” and a sunny performance of “#KingButch,” the latter accented by a captivating solo from percussionist Corey Fonville.

Left to Right: Andrew Randazzo, Marcus "Tennishu" Tenney, and Morgan Burrs.

The energy peaked during “No Way Around It” and won the band their hard-sought goal: getting the audience out of their chairs to dance on their feet. The start of bassist Andrew Randazzo’s bassline was all the audience needed to abandon the comfort of their lawn chairs. During their vamp, Butcher Brown’s genre-bending abilities were on full display. But the tonal shift may have been a bit much for those unfamiliar with Butcher Brown’s fluidity.

"Thalia, is it heavy metal playing right now or I'm tweaking?" a friend texted me towards the end of the song.

"Lolll, they're versatile!" I texted back before tucking my phone away to dance in the moment.

"They're very eclectic, which is what I really like,” Martin said. “Whether it's funk, rock, rap, jazz, smooth jazz, hardcore bop, they just play everything and tie everything together.”

Fans abandoning their lawn chairs to dance together.

The band’s efforts to connect with the audience were well-supported by the professionalism and craftsmanship of the most intricate details of the performance, with each musician visibly focused on their instrument and delivering their best. The transitions between songs were impeccable, showcasing their seamless connection and communication onstage. There was hardly even a need for crowd control, as each song tastefully fed into the other. The band exhibited a wide range of its discography, returning to its 2014 debut album All-Purpose Music with songs like “Sticky July”.  The energy didn’t let up long enough for the audience to disconnect, although Butcher Brown members showed clear fatigue under Georgia’s unforgiving sun. Although Tennishu, the band’s trumpeter, saxophonist, and MC, encouraged the audience to rise from their chairs, the heat weighed on both the audience and performers so moving energetically was a sluggish labor by the end of the set.

It was a sticky 82 degrees on the lawn of Piedmont Park. Moody breeze shunned the few clouds offering respite from the sun. Despite the weather, the band members were dressed in almost all black, except for Randazzo’s loose white linen button-down and guitarist Morgan Burrs’ ensemble of basketball shorts, long-sleeve shirt, and fuzzy bucket hat.

Bianca hearing Butcher Brown live for the first time.

Bianca, a new Butcher Brown fan who recently moved to Atlanta from Florida, discovered them through the Atlanta Jazz Festival and independently researched to forge a stronger connection.

“I was kind of looking at the lineup, started to listen to Butcher Brown, and I really liked them,” Bianca said. “So for the past week, I've been just listening to their albums and radio stations and branching out into what Butcher Brown attracts.”

After hearing them live, she’s already looking forward to the opportunity to see them again.

Butcher Brown brought their best to Atlanta and their impact on the audience will be well-rewarded with attentive ears and more fans. In Bianca’s words: “If I see them on a lineup, I'm there.”

Photos and video by Deanna Griffin.