High Notes of the 2017 DC JazzFest
By Willard Jenkins, Artistic Director
Our 2017 DC JazzFest was so chock full of artistic highlights, having to pick and choose from among them is a tough task! Here are my Top 10 DCJF ’17 artistic highlights – listed purely in date order:
Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days
Given how hard our staff works throughout the year to ensure our patrons will have a good festival experience, it is difficult to label any of our myriad festival components a ‘no-brainer’; but if anything falls into that category it’s this feel-good “preview” weekend at the Phillips Collection. Strolling through the various galleries seeing the many happy families of patrons, descending the stairs to the bustling rooms of activities for kids – including our Instrument Petting Zoo, which my grandson absolutely loved – and eventually entering the SRO auditorium full of patrons enjoying one or more of the eight bands which performed so splendidly, is a great joy and one that I hope an increasing number of you will partake of in future editions.
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque
These women, helmed by their award-winning Canadian saxophonist, brought a particularly jubilant sense of Afro-Cuban music to our annual Sixth & I concert. That they are such a vibrant all-woman band just added to the excitement.
Princess Mhoon Dance Project: In Jazz We Trust
This was an enchanting example of the relationship between jazz and dance that has proven so fertile down through the decades. This program also gave us nice slice of the Dizzy Gillespie Centennial celebration, as the second half of this extensive program was choreographed to some of Diz’s greatest compositions and performances.
Though he knew in advance... the NEA always notifies its NEA Jazz Masters recipients before announcing in order to get their full buy-in, it was obvious that Pat Metheny was quite humbled by being announced on our evening as part of the 2018 NEAJM class at his own concert! And from there he proceeded to perform a blistering near-3 hour performance with his current quartet.
Sun Ra Arkestra
“Space is the Place” was evident in this performance by one of the few “ghost” bands (bands that continue to tour when their leader passes on to ancestry) that remains vital. This evening featured two shows, but with audiences occupying every available seat and standing or sitting on every inch of available floor space (good thing the fire dept. wasn’t on the scene!), at one of the newest members of our growing DCJF family of affiliated venues, Capital Fringe.
DCJazzPrix Finals at UDC
This second annual DCJazzPrix young bands competition finals found a more apropos home at UDC Theatre, and the three performances proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our judges had selected the finalist bands well! Congratulations to the victors, AMP Trio + Tahira Clayton, a quartet of musicians that have been together since their undergrad days at the University of North Texas.
Odean Pope Saxophone Choir/Reginald Cyntje
Proving once again that our partners at CapitalBop bring a certain “edge” to our festival that is quite essential in terms of rounding out our artistic offerings, was this kinetic saxophone + rhythm section “choir” of golden reeds. Reginald Cyntje is without doubt the premier trombonist living in our community.
Chano Domínguez Trio
This program, by the Spanish pianist who among his other charms has brought a sense of jazz to Flamenco music, was a powerful reminder of our ongoing sub-theme of presenting the International Language of Jazz.
Kenny Garrett Quartet
Simply put, given that the saxophone is arguably the signature instrument of jazz expression, Kenny Garrett is one of the premier saxophonists of our time!
Proving once again his superb storytelling skills, the affable baritone brought great pleasure to our big closing day audience, bringing our 2017 festival to a rousing close on a lovely Sunday evening