DC Jazz Festival Celebrates ‘Generations’ of Jazz

By Hailey Wharram

The DC Jazz Festival is bringing its inaugural Generations Series to Arena Stage at the Kogod Cradle, at 1101 6th St. SW, Aug. 31. Musicians spanning four generations will grace the stage from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. to share their passion for jazz with the District of Columbia. 

The night will showcase performances from a number of pianists, including seasoned performers such as George Cables, Benny Green, and Orrin Evans and fresher faces like Shamie Royston and Hope Udobi. Each pianist will be performing two pieces in a traditional piano trio — a pianist, drummer, and bassist—with Jeff “Tain” Watts and Kris Funn accompanying on drums and bass, respectively. Instrumentalists will also be accompanied by vocalist Jazzmeia Horn. 

While the Generations Series is intended to celebrate artists of all ages, DC Jazz Festival (DCJF) CEO and President Sunny Sumter is particularly interested in using this event as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on jazz elders.

“I noticed that during the pandemic there were a lot of elders in our community that were really struggling for performance, for opportunities to have their basic needs met. That’s what started the conversation,” Sumter said. “So I started talking to my artistic director Willard Jenkins, the board, and other people about what we could do as an organization to make our elders feel like somebody’s got their back.” 

Orrin Evans, the current DCJF Artist-in-Residence, approached the project with a similar desire to honor the musicians who came before him and continue to influence his craft today. In alignment with this goal, Evans will be playing a tribute to the late Geri Allen, a fellow jazz pianist-bandleader-composer who died of cancer in 2017. “She passed away not too long ago, so I try to always include her in everything I do in some kind of way,” Evans said. 

According to Evans, artists will mostly be performing original selections. Though, excitingly, each is sure to bring their own unique style to their set, and all are united by their love for this musical genre and the community of individuals that surrounds it. 

“Musically, it’s going to be a potluck… where everybody brings a dish,” Evans said. “The only difference is, with this potluck, everyone’s coming from the same kitchen. With some potlucks, you get there and it’s like ‘how does this mix together?’ This is definitely going to be one where no meal is out of place.”

Directly following the concert, attendees will have the opportunity to connect with the artists in a conversation and audience Q&A that Sumter will moderate. This portion of the night is expected to last around 40 minutes. 

“When you’ve got people like Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts in the room, George Cables, [and] Benny Green, I know the fans are coming because they want to talk to them and ask them specific questions,” Sumter said.

According to Sumter, this is just the beginning for the Generations Series. After this inaugural concert, four more concerts are in the works for later this fall, something largely made possible by the DCJF’s new home at the Arena Stage. 

“The opportunity to have this inaugural Generations Series concert at Arena is a great step to our being able to do year-round programming at the main center, to really help to meet Arena Stage’s mission of being a center for American Voices,” Sumter said.

Tickets for the Generations Series can be purchased here.





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