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Jazz and Freedom Festival
There are still those who insist that jazz is too far removed from the zeitgeist to be relevant; the truth is, one could argue that no other genre—not even hip-hop—has worked harder to meet the moment in the last dozen years or so. Certainly that was the challenge trombonist Shannon Gunn was addressing when she organized the Jazz and Freedom Festival in 2015. Co-produced by the D.C. jazz advocacy organization CapitalBop, the festival recognized the need to address systemic social justice issues as the U.S. entered one of the most brittle, politically charged eras in its history. Seven years later, the issues have only intensified, and JAFF has doubled down on its mission—addressing the social climate in its music, holding panel sessions, and donating all its proceeds to selected social justice organizations. In 2022, the organization in question is Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a community defense that advocates for police and prison abolition. (Unsure about the cause? HWD will host a panel discussion during the festival on abolition politics and organizing.) The music centering those ideas comes from steel pannist Victor Provost and his band, a duet by bassist Corcoran Holt and percussionist and poet Jabari Exum, the duo Jupiter Blue, Gunn’s Jazz & Freedom Ensemble, and the Collect!v Crew. These are stellar musicians who make smart, creative, endlessly beautiful tunes. But don’t come looking for nostalgic daydreams or to be “transported” to another time or place. JAFF aims to keep you in the here and now, and on the ground. The one-day festival starts on Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. at Eaton DC, 1201 K St. NW. capitalbop.com. $0–20. Proof of vax and masks required.