The 22nd Capital Jazz Festival took place June 6-8, 2014 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD like every year, the whole weekend was sold out and the weather was perfect with sunny skies and warm temperatures. This year, the Soul Stage was in a different location, it was at the north eastern corner between trees, in the vicinity of the Pavillion Stage behind a small hill. The vendors had to move as well, everything was a bit closer together.
Friday night is warming up for me, since I usually suffer from jet-lag that night. Each day, the festival is opened by a "catch a rising star" artist, on Friday, it was singer/pianist Jarrod Lawson who made his mark on the last SuperCruise in the piano bar, he played for 15 minutes just accompanying himself at the piano, reminding me of Donny Hathaway and Frank McComb, definitely a talent to watch. After him appeared soul/r&b artist John Legend, he sat at the grand piano and was accompanied just by a guitar player and a string quartet, which allowed him to keep things simple and focused. After that Erykah Badu took over with her band rocking the house with her hip-hop/r&b grooves and eclectic stage persona.
Saturday at noon, "catch a rising star" Generation Next played a 90 minutes show featuring aspiring young players, Nicholas Cole on keyboards, Lebron on saxophone, Lin Rountree on trumpet and Julian Vaughn on bass. They provided a very entertaining set full of spirited playing, catchy melodies and playful camaraderie. Then veteran band Down To The Bone took over, the band is currently led by bassist Rufus Philpot and features a trumpet/sax horn section next to the rhythm section, they provided their typical brand of groovy jazz-funk with great solos by all involved, promoting the new CD Dig It. Things slowed down with the great Michael Franks, delivering a string of familiar classics, supported by a stellar band featuring the great Karel Ruzicka on sax and flute. Next was songstress Dianne Reeves who appeared with a large band that included a horn section and two keyboard players, she pulled all the stops and delivered a good show. One memorable highlight was the trumped solo by Sean Jones which was outer worldly. Trumpet player Rick Braun is always a reliable player to entertain the crowd, he had a great band with Michael Paulo on sax and Gerald Veasley on bass, providing another tight and memorable set. Saturday night was concluded with the "Remembering George Duke" Tribute show led by keyboardist John Beasley. First a short film was shown with footage taken on Capital Jazz events with George Duke. All the players in the band had a relationship with George Duke in one way or the other, like drummer Lil' John Roberts, bassist Byron Miller, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. and singer Josie James. Special guests included Phil Perry, who sang "Sweet Baby", Al Jarreau, who shortly will release his My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke CD, singer Jeffrey Osborne, and bassist Stanley Clarke. As a special surprise, host Marcus Miller joined the band to funk things up. This was a very memorable show that covered a lot of ground musically, I knew that Capital Jazz would pull all the stops to do this great musician justice with this tribute concert.
Sunday at noon, the festival was opened by "catch a rising star" drummer Lil' John Roberts who presented his debut album The Heartbeat featuring many of his illustrious friends, being an in demand drummer for years supporting some of the biggest names in the industry. Among his guests was singer Chantae Cann, unfortunately I didn't connect much with his neo soul efforts. Next was keyboardist Marcus Johnson who appeared with a full band complete with horn section and a violin player, giving us an hour of energetic uptempo instrumental jazz. Then it was time for the lovely Keiko Matsui who delivered her romantic brand of smooth jazz, supported by longtime band member Jackiem Joyner on saxophone, as always providing an entertaining hour of music. After her, things got serious with the Jeff Lorber Fusion, they appeared in their original lineup (Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip and Sonny Emory), plus special guest Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar, hitting it hard on a mind-boggling level of musicianship. Songstress Rachelle Ferrell slowed things down with her heartfelt performance, she sang beautifully and was open, receptive and playful. One of the highlights was when she did her version of "My Funny Valentine" and was distracted by the booming sounds of the nearby Soul Stage, thus taking the opportunity to pick up the distant groove and do an impromptu improvisation on top of it, which was fun and inspirational. Next were Incognito, one of my all-time favorite bands, singers were Vanessa Haynes, Tony Momrelle and - new this time - Katie Leon, plus special guest Maysa who hails from Baltimore sitting in for a couple of songs. They provided another memorable show, with Bluey lovingly expressing his admiration for Maysa. The festival was concluded on the Pavillion stage with soul singer Kem and his large band, bringing another fun filled and entertaining Capital Jazz Festival to an end.
[More pictures at Flickr]