Now in its ninth year, the DC Jazz Festival has settled into a groove. It’s found in the Hamilton a comfortable home base for its biggest performances (save for the big closer, which is at the Kennedy Center), with reliable ancillary venues at the Phillips Collection, Twins, Sixth & I Synagogue, and the Howard Theatre. It’s also found great help with programming—Bohemian Caverns, the Atlas, and CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft bring cutting-edge, often up-and-coming artists into the fold—even as producer Charlie Fishman and Artistic Director Paquito d’Rivera stick with popular repeat headliners Roy Hargrove (June 9), Cyrus Chestnut (June 12), and Brass-A-Holics (June 15).
But this isn’t a time to write off the DCJF as old hat. Among these staples are some interesting new choices for the festival. The Hamilton’s headliners also include Stefon Harris, a young composer and vibraphonist who is determined to bring a contemporary spirit to the music (June 7), and Terri Lyne Carrington, whose current project is a fresh and often funky reinterpretation of Ellington’s legendary Money Jungle (June 8). Twins offers a pair of duos, celebrated experimentalists Janel and Anthony teaming with saxophonists Sarah Hughes and Brad Linde (June 9). Linde has another pairing, with his mentor, the legendary Lee Konitz, at Atlas (June 14). And guitarist John McLaughlin, one of the primary movers in jazz fusion (a genre that has gotten little attention at previous festivals), plays the Howard on June 16, the festival’s final night.
Then there’s the festival’s avant-garde contingent, which only came into being two years ago after a long spell of resistance—Washington audiences, after all, aren’t known for their experimental tastes. But CapitalBop’s 2011 entry into DCJF signaled outreach to the newer, younger, hipper District, and the offerings have only deepened since. This year they include a duet between free-jazz saxophonists Peter Brötzmann and Joe McPhee (June 8), as well as Black Host, a noisy, uniquely textured ensemble led by drummer Gerald Cleaver (June 9). This year, though, other wings of the festival are getting in on the avant act: Bassist Michael Formanek leads an edgy quartet (featuring Cleaver) at the Atlas (June 12), and Bohemian Caverns presents one of the titans of the music in saxophone great Pharoah Sanders (June 14-16), whose anthem “The Creator Has a Master Plan” inevitably will provide the closing theme for the entire festival.
The DCJF is also diversifying in other ways. The aforementioned Kennedy Center keynote, “Jazz Meets the Latin Classics” (June 14), is a sequel to last year’s classical pastiche, but also introduces the canon of Latin classical composers (as opposed to Latin jazz musicians) into the mix. And hip-hop, increasingly the currency of young jazz, gets a real boost this year. “Jazz Meets Hip Hop,” a workshop/concert featuring local artists in both genres, takes place at THEARC on June 5; CapitalBop’s June 15 “Blowout Show,” at a pop-up on H Street NE, features two groups, Karriem Riggins Quartet and ERiMAJ, led by jazz beatmeisters who also work as hip-hop producers. Oh, and for good measure, the festival presents a concert that same night, at Kastles Stadium at the Wharf, by none other than The Roots. Now that’s a groove to settle into.
The D.C. Jazz Festival takes place at multiple venues from June 5 to 16. Ticket prices vary. dcjazzfest.org.