The vote is unanimous: The inaugural Washington Women in Jazz Festival has been a big hit. Over the course of five Wednesdays in March, pianist Amy K. Bormet mined the city’s formidable female jazz talents and presented them, both as leaders and accompanists, on the bandstand. Every time this writer stopped in, the house was bustling and appreciative of the fierce straightahead sounds of front-liners, rhythm players, and vocalists galore.
But alas, even this must come to a close, and tonight it does so with a bang. Christie Dashiell is a hidden treasure: A vocal student at Howard, she is a strong, clear contralto with almost freakish control and a sly reservoir of soul that lurks just behind that control, ready to burst. She’s got a sort of simple, understated power on the stage that inevitably becomes contagious to whomever she’s working with.
Ditto for Sarah Hughes, an alto saxophonist with a thoughtful, deliberate approach that comes through even when playing high-velocity bebop. She’s got chops in spades, but a penchant for longish notes and a stream of pauses between phrases that suggest each part of her solos is being carefully considered before execution. Hughes played her first gig as a leader only last year, and has gained poise and a wellspring of sharp ideas in the time since.
These two are the headliners for tonight’s WWJF closing concert, accompanied by Bormet on piano, Karine Chapdelaine on bass, and Lydia Lewis on drums. They hit at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.