The Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival is always a hot ticket. The headlining show on May 20 — a tribute to singer/actress/composer Abbey Lincoln with vocalists Cassandra Wilson, Diane Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater — is already sold out, and this year’s lineup is jam-packed with big-name performers and up-and-coming jazz artists.
On May 19, the program includes vocal trio JaLaLa, comprised of Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse (two founding members of the Manhattan Transfer) as well as Lauren Kinhan. Then there’s saxophonist Tia Fuller, who’s played with the Nancy Wilson Orchestra, the Wycliff Gordon Septet and the Rufus Reid Septet, in addition to producing three albums with her own quartet.
The night performance on May 21 includes multi-instrumentalist Corky Hale, pianist Peggy Stern, saxophonist Sue Terry and vocalist Marlena Shaw with the band “Five Play.” Shaw’s vocals — which blur the lines between jazz, soul and R&B — will appeal to jazz aficionados and newbies alike.
If you’re pinching pennies, but you still want to attend the festival, check out singer Charanee Wade, who was a joy to watch in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals competition last year (she was the runner-up). She performs a free concert on Thursday at Millennium Stage. On Friday and Saturday, see free shows by a group of pianists participating in the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Emerging Artist Workshop, a three-day intensive course that brings young musicians to D.C. to study and perform.