May 19: Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. Opening night for this proud Kennedy Center tradition (now in its 16th year) features returning favorite Janis Siegel, but also two of the most exciting up-and-comers in jazz. Flutist Jamie Baum and saxophonist Tia Fuller aren’t big names, but have earned this kind of high-profile showcase; expect them to prove it.
June 11: Bobby McFerrin at Warner Theater. Most of America knows McFerrin via “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” his maddening 1988 foray into the pop charts. But he’s actually one of the most original and talented vocal jazz artists America’s ever produced—hence his top billing at this year’s DC Jazz Festival.
June 25: Jon Faddis at Blues Alley. Dizzy Gillespie is dead and gone, but his legacy as a trumpeter is enormous. Faddis is his protégé, standard-bearer, and heir to his title as the most virtuosic jazz trumpet player alive. In many ways, he’s now surpassed his onetime guru.
July 1: Ben Williams at Bohemian Caverns. D.C. native Williams has had no shortage of homecomings since his triumph at the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition. What’s different this time is that he’s come home to celebrate the release of his bold debut album,State of Art, on the stage of the city’s best jazz venue.
August 12: Minsarah at Twins Jazz. Perhaps the least-known act on this list, Minsarah has talent and a vision that outstrips its obscurity. The piano trio’s got an uncanny way with making unusual melodies and abstract rhythms sound familiar and easy to the ear, and some of the freshest approaches to improvisation happening today. They deserve—in fact, command—your attention.