3rd annual Jazz and Freedom Festival: D.C.’s jazz greats join together in a benefit for WPFW

Jazz and social justice go hand-in-hand. That much is made clear by the work of so many of D.C.’s jazz musicians.

Jazz and Freedom FestivalFor instance: Just last month, MBowie and the Blast (the new project of bassist Michael Bowie) released the video for their incendiary cover of Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” calling out the self-righteous double-speak of politicians. In much of her music, Akua Allrich raises her voice on behalf of the oppressed, drawing upon the legacy of inspirational forebears like Nina Simone, and offers listeners a glimpse at a better world. And the vocalist/pianist Aaron L. Myers II has been diligently organizing on behalf of musicians and artists for the past couple years, in a campaign that is already bearing some fruit.

With the inauguration of Donald Trump as president looming, we’re convening some of our favorite friends and allies for the third annual Jazz and Freedom Festival on Jan. 14, the Saturday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. Come be a part of the gathering, and your presence will help benefit WPFW 89.3 FM, D.C.’s “jazz and justice” radio station. All proceeds from the concert go straight to the station.

The concert will be at Tropicalia, in the heart of U Street, and it will feature performances from Allrich; MBowie and the Blast; and Myers, with his collective, REformanceArtists. We’ll also hear from Janel Leppin, the master cello improviser, and the Jazz and Freedom Quartet, led by Shannon Gunn. Yup, it’s a big, stacked lineup.

Doors will open at 3 p.m. on Jan. 14, and the event will go until 10:30. Show up by 3:30 to catch an expert panel on the threat of displacement (a constant for many living in D.C.), and what it means for both artists and other longtime District residents.

A bit about WPFW: Since the 1970s, the station has upheld a high standard of progressive broadcasting, upholding D.C.’s cultural identity and fighting for a bold politics of equality, self-determination and community control. It’s our honor to support the station with this benefit concert.


3:00 p.m. Doors
3:30 p.m. Panel discussion on displacement and justice
4:30 p.m. MBowie and the Blast
5:40 p.m. Akua Allrich
6:50 p.m. Janel Leppin
8:00 p.m. REformanceArtists
9:10 p.m. Jazz and Freedom Quartet



About Giovanni Russonello

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A co-founder of CapitalBop, Giovanni Russonello is also a music writer and critic for the New York Times. He also teaches writing as a lecturer at New York University's School of Professional Studies. He previously served as a contributor to the Washington Post, the FADER, JazzTimes, NPR Music and others, and hosted “On the Margin,” a books show on WPFW-FM. He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at [email protected]. Read him at giovannirussonello.com or nytimes.com/by/giovanni-russonello. Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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