With performances from five National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters, up-close-and-personal “Meet the Artist” conversations, and the music of popular Grammy-winning artists Gregory Porter and Samara Joy, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, D.C. was the place to be for jazz.
DC Jazz Festival (DCJF) is an organization offering year-round appreciation and support of jazz, however there is the DC JazzFest, this year held Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, which is held annually at several venues around D.C., including the piers at the Southwest Wharf.
A Global Affair
In keeping with an international view of jazz, this year’s festival opening night concert and reception was at the House of Sweden, a venue at the Embassy of Sweden. Performers were the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio from Iceland and D.C.’s own The String Queens.
On Saturday, attendees were entertained by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble on the District Pier stage.
On Sunday, Etienne Charles took audiences to his native Trinidad with his group Creole Soul. NEA Jazz Master bassist Dave Holland from Great Britain played a hard-driving set on Sunday, Sept. 3, with drummer Eric Harland and guitarist Kevin Eubanks, former Tonight Show bandleader.
Experience is the Best Teacher
DCJF took a new approach to staging performances and showcasing artists that spanned multiple generations. The “Generations Series” was curated by pianist Orrin Evans, DCJF’s artist-in-residence.
On Aug. 31, five generations of pianists performed at Arena Stage and then participated in a talkback session led by Sonny Sumter, president and CEO of DCJF. Veteran pianists George Cables, Benny Green, and Evans were joined by emerging pianists Shamie Royston and Hope Udobi. Each pianist, who are also composers, played three songs accompanied by the rhythm section with Kris Funn on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.
The Generation Series will continue in the fall with another component of jazz.
“This evening was really special for me because I got to see all these young people,” said Cables. “I can see the future of this family is not in any danger. It’s great, and I am blessed to be a part of this family.”
Competition Features Up and Coming Artists
Three bands competed for a $15,000 prize in the DC JazzPrix Finals held at Union Stage on Saturday, Sept. 2. The bands were Birckhead from Baltimore, Ember from Brooklyn, New York, and New Jazz Underground from New York, New York. A panel of judges picked New Jazz Underground as this year’s winner.
Juilliard classmates, New Jazz Underground, includes saxophonist Abdias Armenteros, bassist Sebastian Rios, and drummer TJ Reddick.
Winning $15,000 was monumental for the trio.
“This enables us to do our first official record,” bassist Rios said. “We have a YouTube channel that has been finished by DIY (do it yourself). We will now take what we have to another level.
To add to the competition, Executive Director of the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities Aaron Myers hosted the DC JazzPrix. During set changes, Myers kept the audience engaged with his great humor, piano skills and singing.
Moving to a Different Level
Vibraphonist Warren Wolf took the audience to school with his Saturday, Sept. 2 evening session, “History of the Vibes.”
He began by stating his instrument is not a xylophone but a vibraphone.
Wolf and his group ran through the list of vibraphonists by performing songs recorded by each artist on the list. That list featured Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Cal Tjader, Gary Burton, and Roy Ayers.
“I wanted to tell people a little more about my instrument. Many have only heard of Lionel or Roy Ayers,” said Wolf, who teaches at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the San Francisco Conservatory.
Award-winning pianist, composer and music director Mark G. Meadows, well-known in the D.C. area for his work with Signature Theatre and Strathmore, performed selections from his forthcoming album “Only Time.”
He also announced that he will be a part of the Broadway production of “The Outsiders” based on the 1983 movie of the same name.
Twitter: @dcjazzfest Facebook: facebook.com/dcjazzfest Instagram: @dcjazzfest LinkedIn: DC Jazz Festival