And just like that … the DC Jazz Festival is upon us! For the District’s jazz scene, these are the brightest two weeks of the year; from the clubs to the restaurants to the dive bars — if they ever host jazz, they do now. Check out capitalbop.com/calendar for a listing of all the jazz going on as part of the DC Jazz Fest (all the area shows that aren’t part of the festival are listed, too). But for those who prefer CliffsNotes, here is a selection of our favorite offerings at this year’s festival.
Of course, we want you to come out to CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft Series, our collection of four shows at the festival featuring innovative, modern players. You can find more information on that here, and pick up tickets here. But in our best shot at an unbiased, comprehensive “picks” list for the festival, we decided to rule out any of our own shows. Scroll down for our official list of festival faves.
Cyrus Chestnut & the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars Quartet / Bohemian Caverns / Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4
Cyrus Chestnut is a piano player who’s got it all down pat: the stride piano of the ’20s and ’30s, the bebop acrobatics of Bud Powell’s generation and the heady groove of modern jazz. Into all of it he inflects overt gospel underpinnings, doubling his octaves and never keeping his blues licks far at bay. Chestnut, a Baltimore native, is one of this generation’s finest piano players, and he is joined here by three fellow alumni of Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30. $25 cover in advance, $30 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar
Nasar Abadey & Supernova / Smithsonian American Art Museum / Sunday, June 5
Drummer Nasar Abadey leads this progressive jazz ensemble in trenchant explorations of his original compositions. The music is rooted in the bop tradition, but inflected with a connection to the many different musics of the African diaspora. On drums, Abadey prods and pushes with a contemporary sense of groove. The band includes some of the D.C. area’s best jazz musicians: saxophonists Gary Thomas and Joe Ford, pianist Allyn Johnson and bassist James King. Free. View event on calendar
Jimmy and Tootie Heath / Bohemian Caverns / Friday, June 10 and Saturday, June 11
Between the three of them, brothers Percy, Jimmy, and Albert “Tootie” Heath have collectively had an undeniable impact on jazz music. Each one separately played a role in the founding and fashioning of hard bop in the 1950s, then in the ’70s they came together to record and perform as a band: the Heath Brothers. Separately, bassist Percy Heath (who passed away in 2005) was an in-demand musician during the bebop era, performing and recording with Miles Davis, Johnny Griffin and Dizzy Gillespie before joining the iconic Modern Jazz Quartet. Tenor saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath was also 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. Drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath made his recording debut with John Coltrane, on the saxophone legend’s first album as a leader. He was an in-demand hired gun, recording with many artists from Benny Golson’s Jazztet to Nina Simone. Jimmy and Tootie continue to tour, and they recorded a new album in 2009. $30 cover in advance, $35 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar
Bobby McFerrin / Warner Theater / Saturday, June 11
Some people might remember him for the a capella reggae hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but legendary vocalist Bobby McFerrin has long been at the vanguard of his craft, pushing the boundaries of the voice in music. He has created a number of techniques, and is a pioneer in overdubbed vocal soundscapes. His 1984 album “The Voice” was a landmark as the first solo vocal jazz album – actually without any overdubs, accompaniment, or signal processing. He is joined at this performance by Howard University’s similarly groundbreaking vocal group, Afro Blue. In the past few years, the ensemble has garnered wide attention through its appearances at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, as well as the recent release of an acclaimed album of songs recorded over six years. The fact that this is a collegiate ensemble makes its prowess all the more impressive. For the DC Jazz Festival, the combined powers of Bobby McFerrin and Afro Blue become VOCAbuLarieS. Tickets $38-$82. View event on calendar
Jazz on the National Mall / Sylvan Theater / Sunday, June 12
The DC Jazz Fest’s most popular feature – which went dormant for last year’s festival – is back: a full day of free music on the National Mall featuring two of the world’s top jazz ambassadors, Eddie Palmieri and Roy Hargrove, plus three international artists whose stars are rising. Palmieri, who will helm his All-Star Salsa Orchestra, is one of the greatest living Latin jazz pianists – but even that description doesn’t do him any justice. Throughout his career, he has incorporated bebop and fusion influences with aplomb. Still, it’s his work as a leader of Afro-Caribbean bands, usually with his kinetic keyboard playing in the driver’s seat, that has made Palmieri a legend. Hargrove, a trumpeter who has grown from boy wonder to jazz statesman, will lead his hip-hop/jazz fusion band, the RH Factor. The other acts include the strong Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuña, the French jazz harmonica player Frédéric Yonnet and Nigerian singer and guitarist Toby Foyeh. Free. View event on calendar
A Night in Treme / Kennedy Center / Monday, June 13
Everyone loves New Orleans. The city’s rich cultural history is undeniable as the birthplace of jazz music, and its legacy lives on in homegrown artists who have become mainstays of the national and international music communities. The DC Jazz Festival will present “A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans,” highlighting the musical tradition of the Crescent City by highlighting the Treme neighborhood that is featured in the eponymous HBO series. A hub of the New Orleans brass tradition, it is home to one of the oldest Black communities in America. When the Crescent City invades the nation’s capital on June 13, performers will include the Rebirth Brass Band, Donald Harrison, Dr. Michael White, Big Sam Williams, James Andrews and Wendell Pierce. Tickets $20-$65. View event on calendar