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Willard Jenkins has long been an important voice in D.C. jazz in the most literal sense—-he’s a longtime announcing talent on jazz radio station WPFW. He’s also been a major contributor to jazz journalism and arts presentation, as a consultant to both the Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival and the Smithsonian Institution. (His influence extends beyond the District, too: He’s taught at Kent State University, is the coauthor of pianist Randy Weston‘s autobiography African Rhythms, and until earlier this year, was also artistic director of the Tri-C JazzFest in Cleveland.)
Add another dimension to Jenkins’ local jazz credentials—he’s been named the new Artistic Director for the DC Jazz Festival beginning with its eleventh iteration in 2015, the DCJF announced today. Jenkins succeeds festival founder Charlie Fishman, who held the artistic directorship for DCJF’s first 10 years.
Obviously, there’s no way to know yet what Jenkins’ vision and direction for the festival will be. (Washington City Paper will speak to him about it once he’s officially installed in the position after the new year.) But it’s an interesting turning point for the festival—-and with the replacement of its founder, a curious one. Fishman leaves quite a legacy to contend with, having turned an event that began as four days in a dozen venues into a week of more than 125 performances at more than 60 venues, attracting audiences from across the world. By any measure, it’s a remarkable accomplishment.
All the same, in this tenth anniversary year, some staleness started to peek through. So, too, did some discontent from local musicians. A recharge was needed—-and apparently someone involved with the DCJF thought so too.
So by any objective measure, it’s a big “we’ll see.” But there’s no reason not to be hopeful for the festival’s future.