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For whatever reason, the lineup for the 13th annual DC Jazz Festival (June 9-18) is a little thin this year, and its longtime home-base venue, The Hamilton, is conspicuously absent from the schedule. But there’s something nearly every night of the fest that’s worth your time. (On some nights, more than one something.) Here are this year’s most essential acts. 

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque 

When: Saturday, June 10, 8 p.m. 

Where: Sixth & I Historic Synagogue 

Tickets: $18-$27.50

Here’s The Deal: Much of the best talent in this year’s festival is concentrated on the night of Saturday, June 10. But in a pinch, the decision is for Bunnett, whose all-female ensemble Maqueque plays intricately researched but raw and soulfully expressive Afro-Cuban jazz at Sixth & I. 

Amy Shook and the SR5tet 

When: Sunday, June 11, 6 p.m.

Where: The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage

Tickets: Free

Here’s The Deal: For this year’s local jazz track, DCJF is spotlighting the bass players who carry the banner of D.C.’s long and rich bass tradition. Shook, here co-leading a band with drummer Frank Russo, is one of the city’s most dependable. 

Pat Metheny 

When: Monday, June 12, 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Kennedy Center

Tickets: $39-$79

Here’s The Deal: Metheny takes some flack for being a stunt guitarist; he’s one of the founding fathers of new age, and plays a complicated guitar known as “the Pikasso.” But he’s one of those musicians of such vast influence that if you’re hearing the contemporary language of jazz guitar, you’re hearing Metheny’s language. 

Hiromi and Edmar Castañeda 

When: Tuesday, June 13, 8 p.m.

Where: The Howard Theatre

Tickets: $40

Here’s The Deal: “Jazz at the Howard” brings together two international young innovators: Hiromi is a pyrotechnic Japanese pianist, Castañeda a pyrotechnic Colombian harpist. But their styles are different enough to guarantee both energy and unpredictability. 


When: Thursday, June 15, 7 p.m.

Where: University of the District of Columbia

Tickets: Free

Here’s The Deal: Last year inaugurated the DCJF band competition, with the award going to the exciting New Century Jazz Quintet despite formidable competition. This year’s finalists include two trios (one featuring a vocalist) and a multinational six-piece—the competition a crucible for gifted newcomers. 

Odean Pope Saxophone Choir 

When: Friday, June 16, 8 p.m.

Where: Abramson Family Auditorium

Tickets: $20

Here’s The Deal: A giant of the Philadelphia saxophone tradition, Pope’s Saxophone Choir is a multi-sax ensemble—often up to nine horns—with rhythm section and a sound every inch as vast and distinctive as it implies. 

JazzFest at the Yards 

When: Friday, June 16-Sunday, June 18

Where: The Yards

Tickets: $49-$150

Here’s The Deal: DCJF’s signature event comprises three days of music at Yards Park on the Anacostia riverfront. This year’s headliners include hip-hop/classical fusioneers Black Violin, vocal sensation Gregory Porter, influential alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and innovative pianist Robert Glasper.