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The former East Coast Jazz Festival returns this weekend as the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, under the stewardship of DC saxophonist, educator, and mentor Paul Carr. Held at the Hilton Rockville —- the ECJF’s longtime home base —- the festival features a gallimaufry of performances, master classes, and live interviews, with a couple of film screenings thrown in as well.
Unfortunately, the festival doesn’t charge by individual performance, but rather by session — Friday evening and late night, Saturday afternoon, evening, and late night. But buying into the session will get you these recommended performances:
Quite possibly the highlight of the whole festival: tonight’s performance by the Paul Carr Quintet, in which the saxophonist plays with local bassist Michael Bowie and three world-renowned players: pianist Mulgrew Miller, trumpeter Terrell Stafford, and drummer Lewis Nash. It’s rather a microcosm of the whole festival: a mix of local and national musicians, all of them with virtuoso chops, strong schooling in bebop, and a deceptive taste for risky bandstand business.
The afternoon session really belongs to two local sets of twins. Saxophone duo Peter (tenor) and Will Anderson (alto) are Bethesda natives now holding court on the Manhattan scene as members of the Village Vanguard and Lincoln Center jazz orchestras, and with their quintet: Sacha Perry (piano), Ari Roland (bass), and Keith Balla (drums). The latter will perform at 1:30 on the MAJF’s Ronnie Wells mainstage. They’ll be followed at 3 PM by DC’s Jolley Twins, pianist Noble and drummer Nathan, scions of a D.C. musical dynasty (their father, Noble Sr., was a guitarist) and together and separately among the most powerful forces on the DC club circuit.
Marc Cary is another homegrown talent; born and raised in DC, the pianist is now in New York and boasts an impressive resume that includes work with vibraphone sensation Stefon Harris and a long run as Abbey Lincoln’s musical director. His own musical project is the Focus Trio — a group that explores and amplifies the crossroads of West African, Native American, Indian, and Chinese music. (Bassist David Ewell is half Chinese; drummer Sameer Gupta is of Indian heritage and an expert on the country’s musical traditions; and Cary’s roots are both African American and Chappaquiddick Wampanoag.) Their world fusion happens at 8:30 on the Ronnie Wells mainstage; at 10:15 Cary does a “Before and After” session with JazzTimes contributor and Library of Congress jazz guru Larry Appelbaum
The late night sessions for both Friday and Saturday are the same: a jam session, with the trio led by Maryland bassist Wes Biles as its core. Each, however, is likely to include some of the star musicians who play in the evening sessions, and with the loose and unpredictable nature of a jam session there’s a good chance of some edgy, adrenaline-charged performances that are not to be missed.