Scott Slade, WSB Atlanta Top Drive time radio program interviews
producer Larry Rosen about the launch of JAZZ ROOTS in Atlanta, GA.

If you’re going to introduce a new jazz program, it might as well be one created by an industry heavyweight. CHARLES SYKES / AP, (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)Esperanza Spalding will be performing Oct. 19 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

By Melissa Ruggieri

“Jazz Roots: A Larry Rosen Jazz Series” will debut in Atlanta at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre this fall, the fourth market for the concert event that launched in Miami in 2008 under Rosen’s guidance.

The inaugural series arrives Sept. 21 with a “Jazz and Soul” concert by Al Jarreau and Ramsey Lewis, followed by the Oct. 19 “Ladies of Jazz” night with Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington, and wraps Nov. 30 with Dave Koz and some musical pals.

Rosen, as jazz aficionados know, is an esteemed producer, musician and co-founder -- along with Dave Grusin -- of the stalwart jazz label GRP (now owned by Universal Music Group).

After steering a run of sold-out dates at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center, the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas and The Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind., Rosen, who chatted at Cobb Energy earlier this week, is adding Atlanta to the list of markets for the series.

Plans have been underway for about a year and a half to bring the series here.

Rosen said when he was first contacted by Cobb Energy, he thought, “This sounds great, but it has to be organic to Atlanta. I want it to represent the community. Wouldn’t it be cool to do something related to Georgia?”

Crafting a local-themed program is a specific goal for the future since there are already “Jazz Roots” advisory committees comprised of music-minded specialists from media, universities and the community stationed in the existing cities.

Along with Atlanta, the “Jazz Roots” series is also being added at the new Smith Center in Las Vegas and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

But for Cobb Energy, the timing is especially meaningful: The Jarreau-Lewis concert will also serve as the venue’s fifth anniversary celebration.

“We were looking for something unique and this was a natural fit,” said Michael Taormina, managing director of Cobb Energy. “Right now everyone is fascinated with jazz.”

Though the concerts are the primary draw for most patrons, there is a second component of “Jazz Roots” – education.

For each concert, 100 high schoolers from metro Atlanta schools – still to be determined – will attend soundchecks and engage in Q&A sessions with the artists, as well as attend their shows. These educational opportunities will be programmed into Cobb Energy’s ArtsBridge series.

“We’re targeting those kids who play in jazz bands who have an interest in the music so they have the context of what they’re coming to see,” Rosen said, adding that he has high expectations for the Atlanta series.

“In some ways, Atlanta might be the biggest market for this,” he said. “There’s history here, the audience is here and there’s a void in the market. There are a lot of things that can grow here.”

Jazz Roots series at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
“Jazz and Soul” with Al Jarreau and Ramsey Lewis. 8:30 p.m. Sept. 21. $40-$100.
“Ladies of Jazz” with Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington (CQ). 8 p.m. Oct. 19. $26-$77. Dave Koz and Friends Christmas Tour, 8 p.m. Nov. 30. $36-$76.

Tickets to all shows on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cobb box office (2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta), Ticketmaster outlets, 1-800-745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com.