Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Will Bring Its Strongest Line-up Yet To Rockville

The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival returns to Rockville, Maryland February 15 through the 18th. This year is the Festival’s 4th edition and takes place at the Hilton Executive Meeting Center in Rockville for a weekend of jazz music, workshops, interviews and a High School Band competition. The festival combines internationally renowned artists along with both established and up-and-coming acts from the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Paul Carr - Photo  Ron Weinstock
This year’s festival will have a special focus on the Hammond B-3 and feature performances by organists Pat Bianchi, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Joey DeFrancesco. In addition, there will be performances by pianists Orrin Evans, Helen Sung and Larry Willis; saxophonists Bobby Watson, Paul Carr, Sharel Cassity and Tim Warfield; vocalists Gregory Porter (singing the title track of his album Be Good in video above), Carmen Bradford and Stephanie Jordan; as well as the supergroup The Cookers. That only cracks the surface of the performers appearing.

Friday evening, February 15, the Festival’s Ronnie Wells Main Stage kicks off with pianist Orrin Evans and his trio with special guest, saxophonist Tim Warfield. Evans, a former finalist in the Thelonious Monk Competition, has become one of the most acclaimed young pianists, rooted in the tradition but also quite forward looking. Following Evans will be the Grammy nominated Gregory Porter accompanied by the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Paul Carr, which features some of Paul’s students from the Jazz Academy of Music and special guests from among the Mid-Atlantic’s finest musicians. Porter is among the most talked about new names in the jazz vocal circles and brings a warmth reminiscent of Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway to his soulful jazz styling. The main stage will close with saxophonist Paul Carr with B3, a group consisting of organist Pat Bianchi, guitarist Bobby Broom and drummer Bryon Landham. 
Carmen Bradford

On Saturday afternoon bass clarinetist Todd Marcus will lead his group which will have as special guest, clarinet master Don Byron. That will be followed by a vocal summit featuring Sharon Clark, Lynette Washington and former Count Basie singer Carmen Bradford, backed by the Chris Grasso Trio. Grasso is among the DC area’s most in demand accompanist for singers. Saturday afternoon concludes with the Akiko Tsuruga Quartet, featuring the Japanese born organist who is a mainstay on the NYC scene.

Saturday Night’s performances on the Main Stage opens with the Larry Willis Quintet that includes trombonist Steve Davis, saxophonist Joe Ford, bassist Steve Novosel and Billy Williams on drums. This is quite an impressive grouping including former McCoy Tyner saxophonist Ford and Rashaan Roland Kirk bassist Novosel in addition to the leader. It will be followed by another supergroup, Women In Jazz, which includes vocalist Sharon Clark, saxophonist Sharel Cassity, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Amy Shook and drummer Allison Miller. The Main Stage closes that night with the legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B-3.

Sunday’s Main Stage opens in the afternoon with saxophonist Bruce Williams leading a group with Pat Bianchi on organ. Williams, a Washington DC native, is a member of Ben Riley’s Thelonious Monk Legacy Septet as well as being the newest and youngest member of the World Saxophone Quartet in addition to leading several ensembles on his own. San Francisco area saxophonist William O’Neill will lead a group that also features vocalist Kenny Washington, and the afternoon closes with the Jazz super-group, The Cookers. The Cookers comprise of true jazz legends including pianist George Cables; tenor saxophonist Billy Harper; drummer Billy Hart; bassist Cecil McBee; trumpeter and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson; flautist and alto saxophonist Craig Handy; and trumpeter David Weiss. 

Stephanie Jordan
Photo © Ron Weinstock
The final night on the main stage opens with saxophonist Bobby Watson. New Orleans vocalist Stephanie Jordan will be singing a Tribute to Lena Horne, but hopefully she will also sing her wonderful rendition of Shirley Horn’s Here’s To Life. The Ronnie Wells Main Stage closes with the multiple poll-winning organist Joey DeFrancesco for more hot Hammond B-3 grooves. The Festival’s Main Stage Line-Up is arguably the strongest yet, and a musical feast for those who want to hear real, straight-ahead jazz.

In addition to the main stage line-up, the Festival hosts a High School Jazz Band competition and performances by a number of up and coming performers in MAJF Club room. Friday night saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed performs. He has just released his first album, “Checking In,” which is certainly going to gather much attention for his robust playing and his thoughtful, impassioned solos. Also in the Club that night is vocalist Chad Carter. Saturday in the club will be saxophonist Marshall Keys, vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter and saxophonist Bruce Swain. On Sunday Janine Gilbert Carter will be doing a gospel brunch show in the Hotel Atrium along with performances in the MAJF Club by Darius Scott, Ivy Ambush and Cloudburst.

For the first time, the Festival will have a Juke Joint with blues performances over the weekend from David Cole, Clarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner and Linwood Taylor. There will be workshops by some of the performers and interviews with Gregory Porter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, The Cookers and Joey DeFrancesco. Each night will conclude with Wes Biles leading a midnight jam. 

It is a music packed weekend with much more details on the performers as well as the schedule, ticket information, accommodations info and more at www.midatlanticjazzfestival.org. Hope to see many of you there.

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