Arts Desk

DC Jazz Festival: Planning Your Mega-Weekend

You've already met Alex Brown, our festival pick for this evening (midnight at Cashion's Eat Place, 1819 Columbia Road NW, Free). But there are even more big things happening over the weekend—especially tomorrow.

SATURDAY
MegaFestThere's always a rickety, homemade vibe to DIY projects and events—to some extent, that's the point. But it doesn't mean DIY can't be ambitious. CapitalBop's MegaFest, in fact, is a motherfucker when it comes to ambition. The District's most prominent and cutting-edge jazz advocates first partnered with the DC Jazz Festival last year, effectively becoming its avant-garde programming track (the first the fest has ever had). It was a major innovation for both parties, but it wasn't enough. CapitalBop wanted to redefine the whole idea of a jazz festival.

And, in a very real sense, they're doing it with MegaFest. Tomorrow, starting at 3 p.m., CapitalBop takes over the Taste of DC headquarters on New York Avenue and stages its own festival-within-a-festival. It's an 11-hour, wall-to-wall marathon of jazz-related happenings—plus refreshments, art, and commerce. Taste of DC, the founder of the feast, is providing food and drink all throughout, while the event-planning company SHAM is sponsoring an all-day pop-up shop (featuring records and clothes) and floating art gallery of local artists' work. In addition, there's a movie screening at 4 p.m. of the 2009 documentary film Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, and at 5:30 a panel on jazz and hip-hop.

Oh, and jazz. Lots of it. There is a 3:30 extended set by Paul Carr's Jazz Academy Youth Combo. At 7 p.m. tenor saxophonist Elijah Balbed performs in a trio featuring bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Kush Abadey; all three travel frequently between the jazz scenes of D.C. and New York. At 8:30 is Mad Curious, the trio (again featuring Mateen) led by brilliant local drummer Lenny Robinson. And in sets at 10 p.m. and midnight comes the headliner: Pianist, composer, bandleader, and D.C. native Marc Cary leads a new quintet called Cosmic Indigenous. Cary, who was first inspired by hearing hometown go-go music, is an obsessive student of various musical languages and the possibilities of melding them. Cosmic Indigenous is his most audacious effort yet, a fearsome voodoo rite of Asian, African, jazz, funk, and electronica. The festival has never seen its like.

MegaFest takes place from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 629 New York Ave. NW. $15 at the door, or $25 for their all you can drink "Beer and Bop Happy Hour" from 3 to 7 p.m. (You can also buy tickets to the Cosmic Indigenous' midnight set only, for $10.)

SUNDAY
John ScofieldAnd here's how you end a festival in style: With an electric and electrifying set by one of the most accomplished and consistently interesting—even downright strange—guitarists in jazz. Well, OK, it's probably not fair to call John Scofield "strange" after 30 years of his six-string endeavors. Still, he merrily courts the unexpected. In three years, Sco released three wildly different albums. 2009's Piety Street was a look back at old-time gospel music, filtered somewhat through the flavor of New Orleans and the contemporary American south; 2010's 54 set his compositions within the massive Dutch jazz ensemble Metropole Orchestra. Last fall came a quartet record called From A Moment's Piece, which hearkens back to the classic sound of hard bop jazz guitar, with a quiet, low-key groove that instantly and wholly evokes the atmosphere of the after-hours jazz club. Even with that recent record, though, there's no telling which Sco will show up. And that's the fun of it. The John Scofield Trio (with bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart) performs at 7:30 p.m. at The Hamilton, 14th and F streets NW. $33 – 43.50.

Photo: Nick Suttle.

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