As every year, I attended the 18th annual Capital Jazz Festival in Columbia, MD which took place at the Merriweather Post Pavillion surrounded by a big park. There was the main stage at the pavilion where I had my seat, while a more R&B oriented lineup was offered on the second "soul stage", next to it was the festival marketplace where several crafts were displayed and food was sold. This year, they moved this part of the festival to a different area of the park and expanded it a bit.
The weather was nice, relatively hot and mostly dry, only on Sunday afternoon there was a short thunderstorm, which was followed by sunshine again. Everything went smoothly with only one exception: This year, bigger cameras with detachable lenses were disallowed. On the website, people are encouraged to bring their photo cameras, only camcorders are prohibited. When I approached the gate, security told me that my big DSLR with telephoto lens was not allowed on the premises and forced me to return it to the car, which was quite frustrating. As it seems, the pro photographers were fighting off some competition. I hope, that this policy either will be clearly stated on the website next year to avoid any hassles or - even better - corrected again. Bummer!
I bought my tickets blindly, which was not a wise thing regarding Friday night. Instead of a top-notch lineup, it was an "evening of music & comedy", featuring Sinbad, followed by Gladys Knight. Being a white boy from Europe, I simply lacked the cultural background to dig the humor of Sinbad, so this was a bit of a waste on me. The show of Gladys Knight was nice, the lady still looks georgous and sings great, only the choice of material was a bit too modern for me, I would have enjoyed some of her vintage songs a lot more. At least she sang "Midnight Train To Georgia". After those two shows, the mix & mingle party at the Marriot featured DC's own Spur Of The Moment, which I had to skip because the jet lag forced me to hit the sack. Despite the fact that people seemed to enjoy Sinbad, I hope that next year Friday will offer some world-class bands again and this comedy & music evening had been a one-time experiment this year.
On the pavillion stage, the music on Saturday and Sunday provided a great mix of smooth jazz, funk, straight ahead, by newcomers and established artists as well. On both days at noon, the concerts were kicked off by a "catch a rising star" showcase featuring some upcoming artists - although I considered several of those artists being rather established. On Saturday it was B.K. Jackson, Althea Rene, Lin Rountree & Phaze II, while on Sunday it was Brian Simpson, Tom Braxton, U-Nam & The Urban Jazz Coalition. The schedule on Saturday was Marcus Johnson, "G & Lee" featuring Lee Ritenour & Gerald Albright, Basia, Esperanza Spalding, Brian Culbertson, and Ledisi, while on Sunday we got The Jeff Lorber Fusion featuring Eric Marienthal & Jimmy Haslip, David Benoit, Rachelle Ferrell, Nick Colionne & Eric Darius, with Kenny G bringing the festival to its close. At least, they stuck to the concept of bringing new talent to our attention, although I consider the "jazz challenge" concept a more rewarding thing, I still remember Marcus Anderson and BK Jackson bringing the house down in earlier years.
I don't want to run down each concert, instead I would like to point out those highlights that stuck in my memory long after the festival has closed. Flautist Althea Renee really brought her own cool vibe to the concert with her flute playing during the first "catch a rising star" concert on Saturday, she is a great player that has something to say. 18 years old BK Jackson playing after her is one of the most outstanding and talented players on the scene today, he has stage personality, enthusiasm and can play. This young man is definitely one to watch in the future. Esperanza Spalding on bass & vocals is a true jazz artist defying categorization and was a breeze of fresh air, as was Rachelle Ferrell on Sunday with her great set of expanded songs and her absolutely unique singing style. The Jeff Lorber Fusion was living up to its name with some hard hitting no-nonsense tracks delivered by four awesome artists. Nick Colionne & Eric Darius delighted the crowd with an energetic show and lots of humor, those two artists form a great team. There was not a weak show among the many concerts heard.
On a side note, the Q&A sessions hosted by Angela Stribling were revealing too. I skipped the Basia concert and checked out Down To The Bone (after Shilts left the band) to see that they carry the torch very well and groove like ever. I stumbled upon the Q&A session with Brian Culbertson, which was very insightful. Brian talked about his collaboration with Maurice White who collaborated on his last album and, most interestingly, named David Sanborn being the artist on the top of his list of artists he wants to work with. Unfortunately, David Sanborn hasn't answered his calls yet, but let's hope that the two get a chance to do some music together. Too bad that I didn't have enough time to check out more Q&A sessions. I also was sorry that I had to miss a concert on the "soul stage" by Patrice Rushen & Friends featuring Doc Powell, Ndugu Chancler, Eric Marienthal, & Freddie Washington. But sometimes, you have to set priorities.
So, with the exception of the annoying "no-DSLR" policy and the for me uninteresting comedy evening on Friday, this year's Capital Jazz Festival turned out the be another great event full of enjoyable music and - most of all - meeting friends, old and new, immersing myself in a sea of like-minded music aficionados having a good time. I will be back next year!