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 supervision of The Reverend Dr. Dwight Andrews, pastor of the church and a jazz master saxophone player in his own right.
The featured artist for October is Kevin Bales, a jazz pianist/composer whose career in jazz started and was shaped at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, FL. There he met and performed with, and went on to record and tour with, many monumental artists who had settled into that burgeoning North Florida jazz scene. Giants like Wynton Marsalis, Louie Bellson, Eddie Daniels, James Moody, Ben Tucker, Ira Sullivan, Sam Rivers, and Nat Adderley. He counts among his mentors’ bassist Ben Tucker, multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, guitar legends Nathen Page and Jack Petersen, and the fiercely individual saxophonist Bunky Green who lead him to into five years of tours. His encounter with guitarist Nathen Page blossomed into 15 years of spot tours and four albums. And his work with trumpeter extraordinaire Marcus Printup has become a lifetime association that has included recordings on Blue Note/Capital records. Ten years touring and recording with vocal iconoclast Rene Marie culminated in a Grammy Nominated album.
Kevin has amassed a long list of awards and a reputation as one of the finest jazz pianists performing anywhere. In 1994, less than a decade into jazz, he won the American Pianist Association’s Jazz Piano Competition. In addition to nearly every important jazz venue in the South, he has performed in some of the most acclaimed clubs and festivals in America and around the world: the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, The Bakery in Los Angeles, The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center jazz series, the Toronto and Edinburgh jazz festivals, and the Moscow Center for the Performing Arts.