by Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart
The District’s biggest jazz happening of the year is upon us. Starting tomorrow, the DC Jazz Festival will spend the next 10 days throwing a spotlight on over 100 jazz shows at clubs, restaurants, theaters, galleries and other venues. The festival is always a diffuse affair, but this year, without the typical Jazz on the National Mall concert, it might seem like there’s not much to hold the programming together. But it’s excellent just to take a week and a half appreciating the way that D.C.’s jazz world works year-round: It’s a loose, dynamic assembly of excellent musicians who perform all over town, in a range of styles and settings, every night of the week.
That said, the festival is infusing some uncommon talent into the mix: There’s the bass legend Ron Carter (playing at Bohemian Caverns), the bounteous singer Dianne Reeves (at the Howard Theatre), the unsparing guitar innovator John Scofield and the young gun and D.C. native Ben Williams (both at the Hamilton, the closest thing the DCJF now has to a home base), just to name a few of the DCJF’s performers.
At CapitalBop, we have a hand in the operation, too. We’re presenting the second annual D.C. Jazz Loft Series — a three-day string of adventurous jazz shows held at alternative venues. (We’re especially excited about the series’ finale, the Jazz Loft MegaFest, on June 9; more info on that is below.)
Below you’ll find CapitalBop’s guide to the full festival, with a pick for what to do on each of its 10 nights. (We left off our own shows, except for the MegaFest.) Read on, and enjoy the music!
June 1 (and 2) | Ron Carter, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
The venerable president of the bass is still hard at work after playing on thousands of recordings, and after performing in some of the most celebrated groups in jazz. From the beginning of his career in the waning years of the 1950s to today, Ron Carter has performed with virtually every important musician in the Music. As a bandleader he has been equally prolific, leading acclaimed groups like the Golden Stryker trio as well as his own big band. His music has also been an influential force in hip hop, classical music, and film. Ron Carter performs with fellow NEA Jazz Masters pianist Kenny Barron, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and drummer Lewis Nash, in the Classical Jazz Quintet. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $38 cover, no minimum. [Luke Stewart] More info
June 2 (and 3) | Jazz ‘n’ Families Fun Day, The Phillips Collection, 10-5
On June 2 and 3, the usually quiet halls of the Phillips Collection welcome a total of 12 hours of jazz and a small children’s carnival throughout the galleries. There will be an instrument petting zoo, storytelling, face-painting and portraits, and the bands playing over the course of both days are strong: Marianne Solivan and Brian Settles on Saturday, and Heidi Martin, Michael Bowie and even a “meet the artist” session with Kenny Barron. [Giovanni Russonello] More info
June 3 | Dianne Reeves, The Howard Theatre, 8 p.m.
The voice of Dianne Reeves captivates, invoking the numerous vocal innovators of the past, while remaining staunchly original. At a very early age, she learned how to utilize her uniqueness. Her musical family certainly played a part in this Detroit native’s development, not to mention the mentorship she received from some of the greats in music, from Sergio Mendes to Harry Belafonte. Ms. Reeves’ acclaim is so great that she is not only a four-time Grammy Award winner, but she is the only singer to ever win in the ‘Best Jazz Vocal Performance’ category three times consecutively. She performs at the Howard Theater on Sunday, June 3. [LS] More info
June 4 | Ben Williams & Sound Effect, The Hamilton, 7:30 p.m.
Bassist Ben Williams, 28, who grew up in D.C.’s Michigan Park neighborhood and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, plays the acoustic bass with warm, earthy precision. He’s a sideman for some of the top names in the game, including Jacky Terrason and Marcus Strickland, and as a bandleader he’s an accomplished crusader for the contemporary, playing cards from throughout the deck of African-American popular music. On his hit new album, titled State of Art, you’ll find grooving original compositions, a tune dedicated to a hard-bop great but narrated by an emcee, a Woody Shaw classic infused with go-go rhythms and covers of songs by Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Not to mention one glistening, dissected version of a jazz standard. Expect much of the same when Williams brings his group, Sound Effect, to the Hamilton. Also on the bill is pianist Jonathan Batiste, the 25-year-old pianist, with his Stay Human Band. Batiste has impulses not unlike Williams’s. Employing the piano, keyboard and melodica, he refracts his bluesy, funkified sound through the prism of history. [GR] More info
June 5 | Jimmy Heath & Antonio Hart, The Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Tenor saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath was a popular hired gun and bandleader during the bebop era, performing often beside his brother in bands led by Gillespie and Davis. He was also a prolific composer, penning a number of tunes that have become jazz standards, and as a member of the Heath Brothers band he has maintained a standard of innovation and excellence for decades. Here his quintet double bills with an organ quartet led by Antonio Hart. Hart is a Young Lions-generation alto saxophonist with soulfulness that’s smooth, but refreshingly rough around the edges when it wants to be. Cover varies ($27.50-$38), no minimum. [GR] More info
June 6 | Rodney Richardson with Lena Seikaly, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m.
Guitarist Rodney Richardson, the house guitarist in the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, melds a post-bop sensibility, bluesy chops and an ear for indie rock experimentalism. He’s a pithy composer and a clever re-interpreter of pop tunes. He’ll soon move to Chicago, but here he appears with his organ trio and the formidable singer Lena Seikaly, whose voice is both as warm and as round as a lightbulb. $25 cover, $15 for students, no minimum. [GR] More info
June 7 | Dwayne Adell Trio, Bohemian Caverns, 8 & 10 p.m.
One of the city’s most respected pianists, Dwayne Adell performs here in a trio featuring Kris Funn on bass and Quincy Phillips on drums, an expert pair that performs together constantly. Adell is a musical autodidact who has greater fluency at the keyboard than with a pencil and staff paper, but he can master virtually any piece of music and make it his own. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $15 cover, no minimum. [GR] More info
June 8 | Brass-A-Holics, The Hamilton
For a city still grieving over the loss of its iconic Godfather of Go-Go, it is appropriate and expected that tributes to Chuck Brown will continue for a long time. At the DC Jazz Festival, New Orleans-based Brass-A-Holics will pay its tribute to the Godfather, whose music has played an important role in the development of contemporary New Orleans music. Chuck’s funky D.C. go-go found great reception in the chocolate sister-city of New Orleans. Brass-a-Holics merged the go-go beat with the classic New Orleans brass band sound to create a booty-shaking blend highlighting the best of two of the funkiest cities on Earth. Cover varies ($27.50-$38), no minimum. [LS] More info
June 9 | CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft MegaFest, Taste of DC Loft, 3 p.m.-2 a.m.
CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft Series at the festival culminates in the Jazz Loft MegaFest, where the top-floor space at 629 New York Ave. NW will be turned into a pop-up shop, art gallery, improvised music venue, movie theater, eatery and more. Four bands will perform, including the danceable, futurist sounds of Marc Cary’s Cosmic Indigenous feat. vocalist Awa Sangho. Food and drink will be provided by the Taste of DC. This is CapitalBop’s don’t-miss event of 2012. $12 cover in advance, $15 at the door, $10 midnight set, no minimum. [GR] More info
June 10 | John Scofield Trio, The Hamilton, 7:30 p.m.
Legendary guitarist John Scofield’s clawing electric guitar sound is immediately recognizable, and he’s given to spiking an extended funk jam with wet, rock-ish riffs — but he swings with the baddest of them. He’s joined in this remarkable trio by the Dave Holland apprentice Scott Colley and battery-driven drummer Bill Stewart. Cover varies ($33-$43.50), no minimum. More info
Photo of Ben Williams above by Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop.