Atlanta jazz enthusiasts know that “First Friday at First” is the place to be on the first Friday of each month. What could be better than hearing Joe Jennings in one of the most comfortable acoustically satisfying jazz rooms in the region?

Great jazz is good for the soul and good food and drink is an added perk of First Friday. First Friday at First is a part of the “Jazz Ministry” at First Congregational Church. As Atlanta’s premier jazz ministry, this jazz concert is held on the first Friday of each month.

It is a program sponsored and hosted by First Congregational Church under the direction of The Rev. Dwight Andrews, pastor of the church and a jazz master in his own right.

The featured artist for Nov. 1 is saxophonist Joe Jennings, performing with the Neighborhood Arts Ensemble. First Friday at First is held at 6 p.m. on the Church’s campus at The Commons, located at 125 Ellis Street, NE; Atlanta, Georgia 30303.

Jennings is an accomplished musician, composer, bandleader, and educator, and is the founder of the Neighborhood Arts Ensemble where he served as its Director of Music and Artist-in-Residence for many years.

Currently serving as president of Sip-Jenn Music, Jennings retired as Director of the Spelman College Jazz Ensemble and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Spelman College in 2013. Jennings’ teaching experience includes Clark College, Mississippi Valley State College, Morehouse College and Spelman College.

His performing experience includes tours and performances with Johnny Taylor, Duke Pearson, Clifford Jordan, Edward “Kidd” Jordan, Alvin Fielder, Freddie Waits, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Ruben Phillips and Nancy Wilson to name a few.

Jennings was the leader of “The Joe Jennings Saxtet,” founder and Director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Youth Ensemble – a jazz workshop for metropolitan youth, and is the co-founder and director of the recording group, Life Force. Life Force was featured at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1991. Joe directed the Atlanta All-Stars—a cultural ambassador music group to the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

This is the final concert in the First Friday series for 2019. The line-up for Jazz 2019 has included some of Atlanta’s most prestigious jazz musicians who have graced the stage, anywhere.

These jazz professionals have included Myrna Clayton, vocalist (March); Rod Harris, guitarist (April); Sy Smith, vocalist (May); Virginia Schenck, vocalist (June); Jason Marsalis, vibraphonist and percussionist (July); Gary Motley, pianist (August); Mace Hibbard, saxophonist (September); and Jay Hoggard, vibraphonist (October). Joe Jennings and the Neighborhood Arts Ensemble Big Band again provide the grand finale performance of the season.

First Friday at First Church is the brainchild of Andrews, an accomplished musician and composer and professor of music at Emory University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Jazz Hero Award by the Jazz Journalists Association.

As a musician, Andrews has appeared on over 25 jazz and ‘new music’ recordings. He is recognized for his collaborations with playwright August Wilson and director Lloyd Richards, having served as musical director for the Broadway productions of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Seven Guitars, and the Broadway revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton.

The public is invited for great music, dinner, fun, and fellowship. Come early to get a seat or purchase your tickets in advance. Individual tickets are $20 each; season tickets are $15 each for purchases of eight or more concerts, and student tickets are $10 with student identification. Prices for dinner range from $4-7.

All funds raised at church-based events will be used toward other church programs and outreach ministries. To purchase tickets for First Friday at First, please visit Eventbrite atfirstfridayatfirst.eventbrite.com.

(Photo: Courtesy of Joe Jennings)

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