Harvestfest Shortlist

2002 HarvestFest Schedule

Tucked into a 100-acre former Christmas tree park just west of Atlanta, Harvestfest has evolved into a major regional event within the bluegrass and improvisational rock/funk/jazz (i.e. jam band) scenes. Celebrating its fifth year with more than 30 acts on four stages, the event offers an interesting mix of living bluegrass legends, next-school bluegrass youth, funky jazz wild cards and standard jam fodder. The stylistic juxtaposition of featured performers is highly diverse and at times almost perplexing.

"All the bands at Harvestfest are about the roots of American music," says event founder Thomas "T-Dawg" Helland. "Bluegrass and funk came from that same center of music, but have extended in different ways." Here are a few of Harvestfest's healthiest extensions.

Two degrees of bluegrass separation: From Bill Monroe, arguably the father of the bluegrass style, to Leftover Salmon (9 p.m. Sept. 28; main stage) and the rest of the latest generation of psychedelic slam-grass outfits, the picking tradition has traced a tightly connected lineage over the past half-century. The history of several featured Harvestfest performers forms one influential strand.

Harvestfest elder statesman Vassar Clements (3:30 p.m. Sept. 29; main stage) is one of the most talented and prolific bluegrass fiddlers alive. His career in bluegrass began in 1949 as part of Bill Monroe's venerable Bluegrass Boys, which would later include guitarist/banjo-player Del McCoury (4:30 p.m. Sept. 28; main stage).

Clements hooked up with Peter Rowan, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman (5:30 p.m. Sept. 29; main stage) in 1973 to record the bluegrass benchmark, Old and in the Way. A year earlier, Garcia and the Grateful Dead had performed on Demon in Disguise, an album by influential '70s folk musician and former Bob Dylan sideman David Bromberg (2 p.m. Sept. 29; main stage).

Autumn leaves: Harvestfest jazz Few jazz musicians in the last decade have performed as relentlessly or been as vital to the rejuvenation of jazz as Karl Denson. Back in the early (pre-acid) '90s, when the Rippingtons were the closest thing to hip, Denson stepped out of his role as Lenny Kravitz's tenor sax man to form the Greyboy AllStars, a funky bugaloo unit that reintroduced youthful energy and class to crusty contemporary jazz styles. The success of the AllStars presaged a movement of groove-inflected new-school jazz artists like Charlie Hunter and Soulive (8:30 p.m. Sept. 27; main stage; see article). Denson's current assembly, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe (11:30 p.m. Sept. 28; main stage) adds soulful vocals and more complex composition to the Greyboy get-down factor.

Comprising the third line of this weekend's organ jazz offensive is the Bay Area's Om Trio (3:30 p.m. Sept. 27; CuCu's Nest stage). One of the freshest faces at Harvestfest, Om is occasionally prone to lapses in improvisational discipline. But at its best, this young crew crafts smooth, compact layers of Fender Rhodes and crisp rhythm.