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SEPT. 28–OCT. 2
Years back, I attended a Smithsonian-sponsored panel discussion on Latin jazz. New York trumpet player and conguero Jerry Gonzalez had a name card on the dais but at first seemed to be a no-show. Ten or so minutes into the tasteful discussion, a skinny figure clad in ripped jeans swaggered up the aisle toward the stage; it was Gonzalez. Through the rest of the discussion and at that night’s raucous concert with the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Orchestra, Gonzalez offered both the consummate knowledge and rebel attitude of a true music professional. Gonzalez and his Fort Apache Band (appearing at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, on the National Mall) will bring that mesh of brashness and skills back to town with the first annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. Put together by former Dizzy Gillespie manager Charles Fishman, this celebration offers a number of name and lesser-known artists who, though some might not have Gonzalez’s defiance, all understand the Duke’s credo: “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing.” The O’Farrill Orchestra (at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Lincoln Theatre) will add some clave rhythms to commissioned Ellington numbers; others will just bring the horns, strings, and percussion flavor as they see fit. Joining Gonzalez on next Saturday’s lineup will be New Orleans parade vets the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, D.C.’s own go-go swing statesman Chuck Brown, Duke Ellington School grad Wallace Roney, vocalist Sunny Sumter, and legendary Miles Davis bandmate Wayne Shorter. The Duke Ellington Jazz Festival opens Wednesday, Sept. 28, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 2, at venues throughout the city. See City List for a full schedule of events, or call (202) 232-3611 or visit dukellingtonfest.com for more information. (Steve Kiviat)