The 2nd Annual Jazz + Freedom Fest: A marathon benefit show for Black Lives Matter, feat. DC’s jazz greats

Jazz has been the soundtrack to some of the most radical changes in the history of the United States. The music was often a vehicle to both reflect and influence the public. From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” to John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” from New Orleans jazz to the avant-garde, musicians have used the music to reflect life. It is no accident that jazz developed alongside several social and political revolutions in America.

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The second annual Jazz and Freedom Festival, a musical marathon that will take place this Sunday, from late afternoon into the evening, seeks to further explore the links between jazz and social justice. Most importantly, the music must be interacting with a contemporary movement. Since the Ferguson Uprising in 2014, #BlackLivesMatter has been the nation’s most pervasive movement, one that speaks to the challenges of police violence and racial oppression writ large. So at the Jazz and Freedom Festival, in addition to hearing from a handful of D.C.’s brightest and most conscious jazz talents, we will engage with representatives from Black Lives Matter DMV. They will moderate an opening panel discussion with the performers, as well as being present throughout the festival to discuss issues and platforms for change.

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The musician panelists will be a multi-generational group, each with their own approaches to jazz, rooted in their widely different perspectives and experiences. Here’s the lineup.

4 PM: Panel discussion

Representatives from Black Lives Matter and the evening’s performers discuss the impact of today’s racial justice movement on their music-making.

5 PM: Savannah Grace Harris Trio

One of the finest young drummers in the game, the Oakland transplant Savannah Grace Harris has a deep pocket that shifts easily from swing to groove.

6:15 PM: Fred Foss Trio

Mentor to countless jazz talents — some of whom are now world-renowned — alto saxophonist Fred Foss has played with everyone from Lionel Hampton to Abdullah Ibrahim to the activist, poet and scholar Amiri Baraka. In recent years, he’s delivered some powerhouse performances at the loft.

7:30 PM: Reginald Cyntje Duo

The Caribbean-born trombonist Reginald Cyntje is on a roll–he’s released an album a year for the past four years, each using music to address social and spiritual concerns, and they just keep getting better. (Read our recent interview with the insightful activist-musician.) Last year he stole the show at the first Jazz and Freedom Festival; we couldn’t help but invite him back.

8:45 PM: Jazz and Freedom Octet

Led by festival co-organizer and trombonist Shannon Gunn, this straight-ahead ensemble makes contemporary musical statements with an ear toward social justice.

10:00 PM: Renaissance Trio: Nasar Abadey, Allyn Johnson, and James King

The greatest elements of the D.C. jazz tradition live on in drummer Nasar Abadey, pianist Allyn Johnson and James King; they’re the core of Abadey’s Washington Renaissance Orchestra, and they’re D.C.’s most respected rhythm section. They’ll bring things past the boiling point in the final set of the night. logo



About Luke Stewart

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Luke Stewart is CapitalBop's co-founder and director of presenting. He's also a renowned DC/NYC-based musician and organizer of other important musical presentations, with a presence in the national and international professional music community. He was profiled in the Washington Post in early 2017 as “holding down the jazz scene,” selected as “Best Musical Omnivore” in the Washington City Paper’s 2017 “Best of DC,” chosen as “Jazz Artist of the Year” for 2017 in the District Now, and in the 2014 People Issue of the Washington City Paper as a “Jazz Revolutionary,” citing his multi-faceted cultural activities throughout DC. In DC his regular ensembles include experimental jazz trio Heart of the Ghost, Low Ways Quartet featuring guitarist Anthony Pirog, and experimental rock duo Blacks’ Myths.  As a solo artist, he has been compiling a series of improvisational sound structures for Upright Bass and Amplifier. As a scholar/performer, he has performed and lectured at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Medgar Evers College, George Mason University, Wayne State University, University of Montana, New Mexico State University, and the University of South Carolina. He holds a BA in International Studies and a BA in Audio Production from American University, and an MA in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship from the New School. Reach Luke at [email protected].

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