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Music fills airport atrium for holidays

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

From the ticket counters, the music sounded warped, slightly off, stretched out of shape by the long hallways full of rushing travelers and rolling luggage.

From the security check-point, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, jammed with holiday traffic in the days before Thanksgiving, the music was mostly a base line and something that sounded like a squeal.

In the Atrium, though, the music was genuine blues, with a vocalist going on about his woman, who left him, and a saxophone sending notes up to the glass sky light.

"Aight y'all," said Frankie Lee Robinson, leaning into a microphone beneath a clock tower and speaking to his audience of passed-out, passing-by and pausing passengers.

"We're 'Frankie's Blues Mission,'" he said. "Like, on a mission from God. We want to welcome y'all to Atlanta and we're going to do a like B.B. [King], if you don't mind."

The bass player, Jeff Maxwell, took up the beat again. Al Largo started whacking the drums and Robinson launched into "Sweet Home Chicago," singing: "Well one and one is two, six and two is eight. Come on baby, don't you make me late. Hey, hey."

By that time, Mark Kalafut had been waiting for his mom's delayed plane for half an hour. He'd been listening to the music -- sponsored nightly through the holiday season's busiest travel times by Hartsfield-Jackson's art program. He was pleased.

"It's relaxing, and it's the spirit of Atlanta," Kalafut said. "Normally, when you're at the airport, all you can do is maybe get on the cell phone or maybe flip open your lap top, so the music is a great change."

A wide variety of music will be playing in the Atrium this holiday season. For the two weeks before Thanksgiving, and the two weeks before Christmas, travelers and employees will hear jazz, gospel, blues, polka, big band and Christmas carols from 5 to 7 p.m., said Katherine Marbury, with the art department.

"We just want to make what could be a kind of stressful time a little bit easier," Marbury said.

Jerome Crawford was passing through, when he followed the sound of the music to the Atrium and stopped, to listen for a while.

"It's a great idea, to give people something to listen to," said Crawford, a musician with an affection for the blues. "So far, it's pretty good music, and they've got great acoustics with all that glass up there [on the sky light] bouncing the sound."