What to catch at the 13th annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival

The Washington Women In Jazz Festival returns this March for its (lucky) 13th year, helmed by founder, the pianist and D.C. jazz mainstay Amy K Bormet. Since 2011, Bormet has organized a month-long, citywide showcase highlighting D.C.’s vibrant community of women and non-binary jazz musicians. This year’s festival is back in full swing starting this Sunday, March 5, featuring both returning favorites and exciting newcomers at venues all over the city.

Reflecting on her more than decade-long track record, Bormet expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the way that the WWJF has helped cultivate a stronger musical community, and how D.C.’s artist ecosystem has helped guide the festival’s direction. “That’s a big part of it for me: looking at the community of artists and thinking of all that they have really done to support me in this endeavor,” Bormet told CapitalBop recently. 

From the festival’s earliest days, musician friends of hers have been integral in helping bring the festival to life. “I can still remember signing up Leigh [Pilzer] to do social media, or Integriti [Reeves] being willing to run tickets at the opening show of the first festival,” she said. The musicians mentioned are the internationally renowned baritone saxophonist Dr. Leigh Pilzer and the widely respected vocalist Integriti Reeves: two premiere artists with their own distinct stardom that have maintained a strong connection to the WWJF since it began. Each will have her own feature performance at this year’s schedule.

Additionally, the WWJF is expanding its operations this year with the launch of The Turnaround, a new magazine dedicated to capturing the voices of women and non-binary members of the jazz community. The publication will feature a diverse collection of interviews, articles, essays and more, offering a written accompaniment to the festival’s musical performances. The festival will celebrate the publication of The Turnaround‘s first edition with a release party on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Eaton DC.

From there, the festival will unfold over a period of four weeks. Bormet and her team have crafted another exciting schedule of performances. “It’s a very inclusive festival and people have really taken to it,” Bormet said. “It’s such a strong core of people, and it’s a great way to reconnect to a lot of really wonderful musicians that I love playing with and love being a part of this community with.”

Below you’ll find a selection of CapitalBop’s highlights from the 2023 WWJF. A full festival schedule can be found at the festival’s website.

Amy K Bormet: March residency

Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Every Monday in March (March 6, 13, 20, 27), 7 and 9 pm, $25
tickets ($15 food or beverage minimum)

This year’s festival includes one of Bormet’s longtime dreams coming to fruition: a monthlong Blues Alley residency, featuring a different act each Monday of the month. On March 6, Bormet’s trio will headline the legendary D.C. venue, with Karine Chapdelaine on bass and Angel Bethea on drums. The following Monday, March 13, sees a performance from another of Bormet’s bands, Biomorphic Forms, which features flutist/vocalist Alex Hamburger, drummer Keith Butler and trumpet/synth player Nicole Davis. On March 20, Leigh Pilzer’s Seven Pointed Star (a septet that also features Bormet) will perform. And on March 27, the festival will close with a performance from AmyAna, Bormet’s collaboration with the Brazil-born percussionist and drummer Ana Barreiro. Showtimes are at 7 and 9 pm on March 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th. 

Washington Women in Jazz All-Stars 

Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW
Friday, March 10, 6pm, $10 cover
[view on CB calendar]

Every Friday evening, Jazz Night at Westminster is “the hang.” For a $10 cover, you’re welcomed into the congregation of D.C.’s famed “jazz church” to experience jazz performances that have been running since 1999. This year, the WWJF is presenting an all-star combo featuring famed vocalist Integriti Reeves, trumpeter Bell Thompson, Amy K Bormet on piano, bassist Karine Chapdelaine, and drummer Eliza Salem. Reeves has shared the stage with legends like Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, and Esperanza Spalding, and her prodigious vocals will be on full display alongside Bell Thompson, a rising trumpet phenom out of Philly. Come for the killer musicianship, stay for Westminster’s famed fried fish and mac and cheese. 

Celestial Splang-a-Lang!

Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE
Friday, March 17, 8pm, $32 tickets
[view on CB calendar]

Pilzer and Bormet will debut their all new, 18-piece big band featuring an ensemble chocked full of WWJF alums. The self-proclaimed “jazzstronauts” are preparing to launch the audience into an evening of original big band compositions, with a set that ranges from swing to the avant-garde. Pilzer, a force of nature on the bari, has been a core performer at the festival since Year 1, and has arranged and performed with countless artists, including D.C. titans Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy. Pilzer and Bormet, longtime friends and collaborators, have put their musical minds together many times before, but never in a big-band setting. Don’t miss it.

Zoë Jorgenson Trio

The Goethe Insitut, 1377 R St. NW
Sunday, March 26th, 2 pm, $15 ticket (includes one drink ticket)
[view on CB calendar]

Bassist and vocalist Zoë Jorgenson first made her WWJF debut in the festival’s 2018 Emerging Artist Showcase, a night devoted to up-and-coming musicians from local colleges and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. A George Mason University graduate, Jorgenson has since been performing and teaching across the country. This year, she’s taking center stage with her trio after having recently returned to the DMV area. Once an emerging artist, Jorgenson is now an established presence — both on the WWJF stage and the scene at large.



About Adam Narimatsu

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Adam Narimatsu is a writer and musician living in DC.

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