Editors' pick

Going Out Guide Weekend Concerts: Jazz & Soul Night with Maimouna Youssef

Please note: This event has already occurred.
Going Out Guide Weekend Concerts: Jazz & Soul Night with Maimouna Youssef photo
(Loves Life Photography)

Editorial Review

There are two ways to get your free tickets:
Pick them up at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, beginning at 8:30 a.m. on the day of the show, or swing by the Carter Barron box office, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, beginning at noon. Tickets go fast and are limited to four per adult.
There are no scheduled rain dates. Picnic areas are available in the park around the amphitheater. For more information, call The Post at 202-334- 6808 or the Carter Barron concert line, which will have updated information on weather-related cancellations, at 202-426-0486.

Feeling free to be different

By David Malitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 17, 2011

“My mind works like a DJ,” says Maimouna Youssef.

Youssef is not referring to one of those hapless jocks who has to play the same dozen songs every hour. She’s talking about those old-school types with free rein to cross genres and dig around through a variety of sounds.

That’s apparent to anyone who has heard the 26-year-old up-and-comer’s “Black Magic Woman” EP or seen her perform. Tonight, Youssef headlines the first of the annual Going Out Guide Weekend concerts at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, dubbed Jazz and Soul Night. But given Youssef’s tendency to dabble, it could just as easily be called R&B/Funk Night.

“I like to show the connectiveness between music,” the Baltimore native says. “People always want to know what genre you are and for you to stick to that genre. I just hear it differently. It’s probably because I’ve had so much exposure.” That exposure began at a young age. Youssef comes from a musical family — she performed with her mother and grandmother in a theatrical piece called “Three Generationz” — and attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts. That provided her with a strong and diverse musical base, and by her late teens, she had moved to Philadelphia to pursue music full time.

It was there that good fortune combined with natural talent presented her with a career breakthrough. Youssef was recording in the building that housed the studio of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, the Roots. She befriended the musicians, who took a liking to her silky-yet-forceful voice. After experimenting with different vocal hooks and song ideas, she was featured on “Don’t Feel Right,” a Grammy-nominated rap song from the Roots’ 2006 album, “Game Theory.” Youssef spent some time on the road with the band, which emboldened her to create a colorful canvas with her own music.

“They would make the blend so seamless,” Youssef says of Jimmy Fallon’s “Late Night” house band. “They showed me how it’s done. In the course of a show we’d go from a reggae song to Rick James to some of their own hard hip-hop. Sometimes we’d do Latin; sometimes we’d cover Ray Charles. People just had a great time. They were exhilarated.”

That same adventurousness can be heard on “Black Magic Woman,” Youssef’s solo-debut EP. Each song has its own sound. “You Ain’t Hard” is a bright, thumping hip-hop track, “Free as a Bird” is an appropriately breezy R&B ditty and the title track is a torchy blues romp. A hint of playful jazz runs throughout, and Youssef’s bewitching voice holds it all together.

Youssef promises even more variety on her upcoming full-length, which will be out later this year. She wrote all of the songs on “Black Magic Woman,” but the new album will feature some collaborations.

“The [songs] that are more avant-garde will be the ones that I came up with,” she says with a laugh, “the ones that take a lot of twists and turns. Because that’s the way I feel life is. Music mirrors our lives. It’s never a looped, four-bar track. There are unexpected breakdowns and bridges. Sometimes it doesn’t go back to how it was in the beginning.”

So don’t get too attached to a particular style at tonight’s concert. There’ll be a burst of new sounds with the next song.