The 2015 DC Jazz Festival kicked off on June 5th beginning a series of sensationally talented acts at different venues around the city.
Different artists from different jazz genres performed at some of the best restaurants, music halls, and public spaces in the city.
We got a chance to peek in on the jubilation this weekend:
George V Johnson Jr, born and bred in D.C., has made his name as a vocalist, actor, producer, composer, and playwright. He performed at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden along with Armand Ntep and musicians such as Deante Childers before hundreds of jazz-enthusiasts who enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere while lounging around the garden’s pool and sitting atop the grass. Johnson’s sounds brought life to the garden before the rain fell, even coaxing some audience members to get up and dance with original songs including “Mother Africa,” a beautiful piece written in tribute to Nelson Mandela and the end of Apartheid.
The Soul Rebels, an 8-piece band from New Orleans, made a stop at The Yards during their international tour. Their sound, reminiscent of the Bayou culture from which they came, made the heat bearable for the audience who didn’t hesitate to show their love for the talented young men.
Esperanza Spalding opened up at The Yards on Saturday. The cellist, singer, and bassist descended upon the stage to bring a special performance to D.C. in the form of her new album, not slated to hit the stores until this Autumn. The album, called Emily D+ Evolution and titled after her middle name, is a journey in self-exploration, emotions, and self-love. The ‘noble noble’s’ lineup allowed the audience to savor her wide vocal range as well as a special piano performance that surely made its mark on every onlooker.
Common, hip hop lyricist, actor, and writer, ignited the energy onstage, performing well-known hits such as “The Corner,” “Love of My Life.” He was accompanied by D.C.’s own Maimouna Yousef who brought her own soulful flair to his act. Common introduced a special young guest to the stage, Kobi, who gave John Legend a run for his money while singing “Glory” from Selma. After a hype solo from DJ Dummy, Common left the audience with vibes of encouragement to appreciate one another and be involved in our communities.
Femi Kuti and The Positive Force Band brought a taste of Lagos, Nigeria, to the stage to wrap up the night. The oldest son of Fela Kuti and his musical entourage brought the house down and left every seat empty with rousing rhythms and lively onstage dancers. While switching among his saxophone, trumpet, keyboard, and basson, he infused his fans with auditory images of a vibrant Africa, notions of self-empowerment, and a push to stay positive. “At the shrine at Lagos, we do this all night for 5 hours,” he said before playing an encore that could have raised the dead with songs like Fela’s “Water Get No Enemy” and “Bang Bang.”
Nicholas Payton graced Bohemian Caverns with his trio on Sunday night. He began his set with a selection from Black American Symphony, followed “6,” an upbeat piece from his recent album, “Numbers,” and ended with a creatively smooth rendition of “When I Fall in Love.” He, drummer Marcus Gilmore, who is also the grandson of jazz legend Roy Haynes, and bassist Vicente Archer returned for an encore performance of Duke Ellington’s “Perdido.”