By Hannah E. Jones
South Arts recently selected 12 artists and ensembles around the country to receive funds to help cover the costs of a local tour. In June, Georgia’s Greg Satterthwaite Quartet will embark on a three-stop tour in Georgia and Florida, thanks to a grant provided through the nonprofit’s Jazz Road Tours program.
Headquartered in Atlanta, South Arts is a nonprofit increasing access to arts and culture through funding opportunities. The Jazz Road Tours program is funded by donations from the Doris Duke Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, and about 50 artists receive $5,000 to $15,000 each year to help cover expenses like venue and travel fees, payment for artists and more.
South Arts Director of Jazz, Drew Tucker, describes the Winter 2023 Jazz Road artists as passionate, authentic and diverse. “[This cohort is] a good representation of the jazz field from a stylistic standpoint and a human standpoint,” he said.
The Dacula-based quartet includes frontman Greg Satterthwaite (piano), Quentin Baxter (drums), Delbert Felix (bass) and Derrick James (saxophone). Due to scheduling conflicts, Felix isn’t able to play on tour so Rodney Jordan will join as bassist.
The band was formed last October, and this will be their first tour together. Receiving a $14,880 grant, Satterthwaite feels “definitely special and grateful to be chosen, and really excited to get out there and share the music.”
This program is all about increasing access to creative opportunities, Tucker explained. Jazz Road Tours is designed to help jazz musicians elevate their careers while also bringing “this uniquely American music to places that it’s never been before, hopefully to audiences that don’t [usually] get an opportunity to see it.”
The grant application requires the musicians to craft a tour that meets three criteria, featuring venues that elevate the jazz field, connect communities and enhance the musicians’ careers.
This summer, the quartet will play at Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., on June 21, the Good Times Jazz Bar & Restaurant in Savannah, Ga., on June 23 and 24 and The Velvet Note in Alpharetta, Ga., on June 30.
Satterthwaite selected the first venue because it’s in the school district where he began his formal musical education at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts. He sees this concert as “my way of giving back to that community.” Savannah was chosen to celebrate the quartet’s inception, as the first place the group played together. Finally, the Alpharetta show is a homeward-bound performance for the metro Atlanta musicians.
Music has been an integral part of Satterthwaite’s life since he first played the piano at age 11. He started playing gigs at 16, going on to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas in Jazz Piano Performance, a Master of Arts in Commercial Music from Florida Atlantic University and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Miami.
In addition to playing as a professional musician, he is an Assistant Professor of Jazz Piano and African American Studies at the University of Georgia. He also co-founded Jazzspire in 2022 to celebrate artists and promote creative education.
Satterthwaite is drawn to jazz because of its strong ties to African American history and culture. The genre is also rooted in improvisation, which allows him to further hone his craft.
“Jazz is a great American art form. It’s music that celebrates the African diaspora,” Satterthwaite said. “It’s music that allows for improvisation and creativity. It really allows you to be a unique artist, put your stamp on things and express yourself in a personal way. There’s infinite room for creativity.”
Between now and the upcoming tour, Satterthwaite is focused on finishing his second album, “Savannah Blue.” Born in Jamaica, Satterthwaite is tapping into his roots for this record, and some tracks are infused with an Afro-Caribbean style. The album will be released just before the tour.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Greg Satterthwaite Quartet and their upcoming tour, click here. To check out the other Jazz Road Artist recipients, click here.