- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Sunny Sumter's smooth, silky voice lays the foundation for a blend of jazz, funk, R&B;, Latin and African rhythms that she hopes will change the mind-set of traditional jazz and maybe the world.
Her last CD, "Rite of Passage," a snapshot of world music, highlights her versatility as a singer, songwriter and producer. With an impeccable sense of music, she has mesmerized audiences from the District to New York and from Aspen, Colo., to Paris, Moscow, Tel Aviv and Bali.
"That's why I invited musicians from around the world, like Africa, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Israel and Trinidad, just to name a few, to bring different experiences to the table," says Miss Sumter, who grew up in the Anacostia section of Southeast Washington.
Miss Sumter will be performing songs from "Rite of Passage" and her new, as yet unreleased CD, "Freedom," at 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Blues Alley. She will be accompanied by Vinny Valentino on guitar, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Gilad on percussion.
What message can listeners expect to hear from Miss Sumter on "Freedom"? In answering, she quotes a line from James Baldwin's book "The Price of a Ticket": "Artists are the keepers of the culture."
"What's happening in the world today is going to shape a good part of the 21st century," Miss Sumter says. "And as an artist, I, too, will have a role to play, as well as everyone in whatever capacity they can, as long as it's positive. When you can do that, I think the world and mankind will have a future that's bright."
Whenever Miss Sumter has time, she works in the community, especially with children because this warms her heart, she says. She teaches at the Smithsonian Institution's Jazz Camp for Kids, for youngsters ages 9 through 12, teaching them about the importance of jazz history.
Miss Sumter, a board member of the D.C. Chapter of the International Association of Jazz Education, also presents workshops on women's contributions to music and culture. She also appears regularly as a host for "Jazz Central" on the BET Jazz Network.
She explains that with her "Freedom" CD, she hopes to expand her fan base.
"I believe jazz music is so broad and has a huge platform, and I hope this CD has the potential to reach not only fans in the jazz community, but the whole spectrum, touching every heart and soul possible," she says.
Her blend of jazz, soul and contemporary world sounds came well before mainstream listeners appreciated the sophisticated jazz-pop styles of Grammy winner Norah Jones.
Miss Sumter says her love of jazz became apparent at age 9 after she listened to jazz legend Sarah Vaughan. Then and there, the seed of jazz was planted. She began her musical journey at Duke Ellington High School of the Arts and then entered Howard University, where she studied voice.
She realized that this seed for jazz needed to grow and what better place than New York City?
After gaining more experience, Miss Sumter spent several months in Italy working with that country's famous singer-songwriter Sergio Caputo, who is best known for the pop CD "Un sabato italiano."
Upon her return to the District, she re-entered Howard University and completed her bachelor of arts degree in music.
On her debut album, "Getting to Know You," she gained critical acclaim in the United States as well as abroad.
Since then, Miss Sumter also has received a standing ovation from more than 1,000 international leaders including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell after performing a song she composed for the African National Summit at the Kennedy Center.
Clearly, this local artist has brought her music far, but now she is bringing it home.

WHAT: Sunny Sumter
WHEN: 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW
RESERVATIONS: 202/337-4141
TICKETS: $20 per person.

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