The DC Jazz Festival is officially in full swing, and jazz ensembles are playing their hearts out every night at about 40 Washington area venues. If you haven’t seen any shows yet, not to worry: Many of the festival’s biggest events are this week, including an all-star lineup of international players at Jazz on the National Mall and an underground series of concerts by talented local acts.
Here are your best bets for the second part of the DC Jazz Festival:
Sponsored by the jazz Web site CapitalBop, the DC Jazz Loft series promotes no-frills, innovative music by local cats. Its last two DC Jazz Festival shows will feature two saxophone-fronted groups — the Darius Jones Trio with OOO at the Red Door Loft on Friday and the JD Allen Trio with the Elijah Jamal Balbed Quartet on Saturday.
Hear world-class jazz outdoors at this free event. After a one-year hiatus, Jazz on the National Mall returns to the DC Jazz Festival, with an exciting schedule of performers from world jazz traditions. The day kicks off with Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa, a band that fuses Nigerian Yoruba music with jazz, rock and Latin styles. Then hear Latin jazz vocalist Claudia Acuna croon in Spanish with her quartet. International trumpet star Roy Hargrove and harmonica player Frederic Yonnet follow with their respective bands, and Puerto Rican pianist Eddie Palmieri’s not-to-be-missed All-Star Salsa Orchestra rounds out the day.
Don’t worry, be happy that Bobby McFerrin is playing one of the biggest shows of the DC Jazz Festival on Saturday with Howard University’s Afro Blue Reunion Choir. If you’re wondering what McFerrin has been up to since his cheery hit, you’ll be pleased to hear tunes from “VOCAbuLarieS,” the artist’s first recording in eight years that garnered three Grammy nominations in 2010. His show is likely to include audience participation and other surprises, and the backing of the choir is sure to enrich his sound.
Along with Eddie Palmieri (who you can see at Jazz on the National Mall on Sunday), Jimmy Heath is the joint recipient of this year’s DC Jazz Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The prolific saxophonist and composer is the second oldest of the legendary Heath brothers (Albert “Tootie” and bassist Percy). He has produced more than 100 recordings, playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody and Miles Davis. After hearing the legendary player with brother “Tootie” at the historic Bohemian Caverns, you’ll see why he’s such a big deal.