This Saturday: CapitalBop launches ‘Riffin” series of interactive listening sessions with renowned artists

Ever wonder what it’d be like to flip through old YouTube footage and chat about it with one of your musical idols? That’s happening.

This Saturday we’re launching Riffin’: CapitalBop Listening Sessions at the Atlas, a monthly series of interactive conversations between audiences and the artists who play the Atlas Performing Arts Center. All of the sessions will start with a few performance videos projected on a big screen, highlighting players the featured musician has named as influences. From there, the main idea is to put you — the listener and the curious audience member — in direct contact with the musician. You can ask any question that comes to mind about the video or the artist’s own work. (Editors Luke Stewart and Giovanni Russonello will be guiding the conversations with a bit of commentary and some of our own questions, too.)

The Riffin’ sessions are free and open to the public. They take place at 7 p.m., an hour before the evening’s concert, so once you’re there and you’ve been to the session, you can decide whether you want to buy a full ticket to hear the evening’s performance.

We did a couple of these video-viewing discussions last year at the Atlas, one with Mary Halvorson and one with Joel Harrison, and they brought about such revelatory and frank moments that we figured we ought to make it a regular thing. This year’s lineup of interviewees is a doozy — we’ll be getting to the heart of what inspires such prominent figures as Don Byron, Matt Wilson and Darcy James Argue. This weekend, we start with the most exciting name of all: the recent Pulitzer Prize finalist Wadada Leo Smith.

This Saturday, Smith will perform his groundbreaking Ten Freedom Summers, a nearly five-hour work that spans over 50 years of Civil Rights Movement history through thorough, evocative orchestral arrangements. The work was about 30 years in the making, and its release on CD last year drew strong, universal praise from critics around the world. His performance at the Atlas, which spans three shows over two days, will be Ten Freedom Summers‘ D.C. premiere.

Below you’ll find a schedule of all our upcoming Riffin’ sessions.

Saturday’s Riffin’ session at the Atlas Performing Arts Center begins at 7 p.m. Wadada Leo Smith will present Ten Freedom Summers over three performances this weekend — one on Friday and two on Saturday. His second Saturday show will take place at 8 p.m., directly after the Riffin’ session. Tickets cost $28.50 in advance, or $33.50 at the door, and can be purchased here. More information is available here. Full series passes are available for $85.50.

Discounted tickets are available at varying prices, depending on the time and date of purchase, at



Giovanni Russonello

About Giovanni Russonello

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Giovanni is the founder of CapitalBop, and a music critic for the New York Times. 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. As head of CapitalBop, he has covered the D.C. jazz scene since 2010. (He is no longer directly involved in the presenting of CapitalBop's concerts.) He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at Read him at or Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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