The Seventh Annual D.C. Free Jazz Festival, to be held at Western Plaza (Pennsylvania Avenue at 14th Street NW) Saturday 6 to 10 p.m., is both free to the public and "free" with respect to the contemporary jazz sounds that will characterize much of the program. Performing will be quartets under the leadership of, respectively, saxophonists Andrew White and Carl Grubbs and drummer Steve Williams. At 11 p.m. the festival will move indoors, with admission still free, to d.c. space, where the Ganelin Trio from the Soviet Union will form the nucleus of a jam session.
From its inception in 1980 the festival has been largely home-grown; always present are players who may not be widely known but are nevertheless indispensable, such as Percy Smith, drummer for the Grubbs combo. Smith, one-time house drummer at the Howard Theatre, has played with hundreds of the city's musicians as well as with many visiting luminaries. A highly skilled timekeeper who has studied at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory, Smith prefers to depend on his ears rather than on a written score "because the music just tells you what to play -- it doesn't tell you how to play it."