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Guide to the DC Jazz Festival
One of America’s greatest art forms receives an annual summer showcase
Founded in 2005, the DC Jazz Festival brings together heritage, history, culture and music. As a city, DC has a deep, wonderful history of jazz music. Jazz great Duke Ellington (also known as “The Duke”) was born here, a musician who graced many a stage across the city and country, celebrated today with a stunning statue outside the recently restored Howard Theatre.
During The Duke’s time, U Street was the epicenter of the jazz scene, lovingly known as “Black Broadway.” For decades, the nation’s capital was the embodiment of a thriving jazz culture, and the DC Jazz Festival celebrates the city’s homegrown musical past, present and future.
The festival works to spread jazz to new listeners of all generations, young and old, students and educators, parents and children. Veteran fans of the genre will also be enthralled by the star performances that dot the city throughout the festival’s run.
Up-and-coming artists also get their due, and the showcase also draws in local artists to highlight DC’s continuous contribution to the jazz genre. The festival also offers important educational opportunities to students in order to further the future of jazz in the city.
So how can you participate, learn and appreciate jazz? Each year, the festival features upwards of 200 performances that take place in almost 100 venues across town. Of course, the jazz genre blends beautifully with others, so expect to hear the blues, swing music, soul singers and Latin performers as well.
In 2015, headlining and featured artists were incredibly diverse. Singer Esperanza Spalding, hip-hop artist Common and Femi Kuti (son of the legendary Fela Kuti) performed for spellbound audiences at the Yards Park during the main stage event. Many other DC venues hosted artists, including The Hamilton Live and Bohemian Caverns.
A unique aspect of the festival is Jazz in the ‘Hoods, which allows audiences to watch dozens of performances across 20 neighborhoods around the city in an astounding array of venues, from restaurants to hotels to galleries. Most of these shows are free so that every audience can enjoy the smooth sounds of jazz.
This year, the festival will take place from June 10-19. Head over to dcjazzfest.org for the lineup, schedule and tickets.
Now that you have read up on the DC Jazz Festival, explore other cool events in DC. Check out events & festivals all over town.