By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, May 15, 2009
Among the highlights of the Kennedy Center's annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival and its mix of ticketed and free events is the competition. It will pit four fabulous young pianists against one another -- in front of audiences -- till one emerges as this year's winner (which means much adulation as well as the opportunity to play in one of the ticketed festival performances next year).
-- Today, backed by a full jazz band (all-female, thankyouverymuch), piano finalists Carmen Staaf, Shimrit Shoshan, Rema Shimamura and Julia Brav perform twice as they vie for the title. Each will play five pieces over the course of the day; one must be original, and one must be a piece by Williams. The judges will be looking at style, technique and the young players' ability to command a band. The winner will be announced at tomorrow's ticketed show in the Terrace Theater. Free. 12:30 and 6 p.m. today on the Millennium Stage.
-- Last year's young winner, sax player Hailey Niswanger (pictured at left), wowed judges with her original composition and preternatural swagger. Tonight, the Berklee College of Music student gets to join Annette A. Aguilar & StringBeans Brazilian jazz band, Grammy-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater and other top ladies of jazz on the Terrace Theater stage. Tickets are $38. 7 p.m.
-- And tomorrow, the festival returns to the Millennium Stage for a performance of the very music that Williams helped pioneer: sacred jazz, which was inspired by her conversion to Catholicism. Williams's biographer, Tammy Kernodle, is joined by pianist Deanna Witkowski to talk about and perform Williams's work in the genre. Free. 6 p.m. Saturday on the Millennium Stage.
All Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival events are held at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600 or http://www.kennedy-center.org. Be sure to call for ticket availability.
Style on the GoMaryland
For Families Open House On the Bay
It might not be quite warm enough to hit the beach, but you can break yourself in easy -- you can wade in -- at tomorrow's open house at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center near Annapolis. The center, which is dedicated to the study of coastal environments, will offer lessons about the Chesapeake Bay; a kayak race; chances to catch crabs and fish (sorry, you'll have to release them); two-hour canoe trips; free boat rides; live music; and chances, of course, to (finally) dip your toes in the water. $2 suggested donation; children, $1. 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. tomorrow. 221 E. Central Ave., Edgewater. 301-238-2737 or http://www.serc.si.edu.Northern Virginia
Festivals The NoVa Fine Arts Festival
This two-day festival brings 225 artists from around the country to the streets of Reston this weekend, but for the budget-minded there are tons of other reasons to go: Brooklyn aerialist-contortionist troupe Cirque-tacular performs daily at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.; there's a children's art tent; and local musicians will play. Proceeds benefit the Greater Reston Arts Center. $5 donation requested; $10 per family. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday. Reston Town Center, 11900 Market St. 703-471-9242 or http://www.restonarts.org.The District
Nightlife Balkan Beats
Balkan music doesn't sound like ideal dance-party fare. And that's why we applaud the creativity behind the Fez & Moustache Party tomorrow night, which is, yes, a dance party featuring Balkan music. DJ Rebelzero and DJ Jason spin, there will be a belly-dance performance, and free novelty mustaches will be handed out -- to get you in the mood. Free. 9 p.m. DC9, 1940 Ninth St. NW. 202-483-5000 or http://www.dcnine.com.The District
Film "Daytime Drinking"
This Korean Film Festival selection is essentially the "Juno" of South Korea. It's not about a teen mother, it's just a little film made for about $7,000 (borrowed from the filmmaker's mom) that managed to blow away box-office expectations. Director Noh Young-seok's debut (in which he also acts) follows a just-dumped young man on a spiritual journey aided by . . . booze (the film is one of the festival curator's top picks). Free. Tonight at 7. Tickets (two per person) are distributed an hour before the film. Meyer Auditorium, Jefferson Drive and 12th Street SW. 202-633-1000 or visit http://www.asia.si.edu/koreanfilm2009.