- - Thursday, June 2, 2011

The DC Jazz Festival, formerly the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, offers jazz buffs nearly two weeks of rich musical culture and fun at venues throughout the District through June 13.

Sunny Sumter, executive director of the festival, stresses the variety of sounds to be presented. “It’s like Wynton [Marsalis] says, ‘It’s a democracy.’ We’re offering a little bit of everything here, from straight ahead to Brazilian to Afro-Cuban. … It’s all about the diversity of styles and performers.”

The opening weekend’s highlights include a performance by the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Quintet with guest pianist Cyrus Chestnut on Friday and Saturday at the Bohemian Caverns on U Street Northwest.

Vocal “gymnast” Bobby McFerrin returns to the Warner Theatre in downtown Washington for a concert on June 11. Mr. McFerrin’s fluid vocals, highlighted in his newly released CD, “VOCAbuLarieS,” will be accompanied by Howard University’s Afro Blue Reunion Choir.

Returning to the festival after a one-year absence is the all-day, family friendly Jazz on the National Mall show on June 12, starting at 1 p.m. Harmonica player Frederic Yonnet tops the bill for the concert, along with Roy Hargrove’s hip-hop/jazz collective RH Factor and pianist Eddie Palmieri.

The festival closes at the Kennedy Center on June 13 with, fittingly, “A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans,” an evocation of the varied sounds of the musical melting pot and birthplace of jazz. The production features the Rebirth Brass Band and performers from “Treme,” the acclaimed HBO series set in the Big Easy from producer David Simon (“The Wire”).

Along with entertainment, the festival will focus on the educational side of America’s only indigenous musical genre with master classes on Tuesday and Thursday and June 10 and 11 at Bohemian Caverns taught by among others, drummer Tootie Heath (Jimmy’s brother), John Lee, and Yotam Silberstein from the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars.

The festival also will pay tribute to those who have advanced the art and acceptance of jazz with the lifetime achievement award and the John Conyers Jazz Advocacy Award, named for the veteran congressman from Michigan. Saxophonist Jimmy Heath and Mr. Palmieri have been named co-winners of this year’s lifetime achievement award. Miss Sumter says the winner of the Conyers honor will be named this fall and that several notable people are under consideration.

Performances by prominent national and local talents will take place at a variety of venues, including the Phillips Collection, B. Smith’s at Union Station, Kramer Books & Afterwords, the Children’s National Medical Center and Madam’s Organ. The performances at Children’s are part of festival’s Jazz for a Healthier Generation program, which, in part, shares the gift of music with some who can’t attend concerts because of illness.

For more information on the DC Jazz Festival, visit www.dcjazzfest.org.

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