DC Jazz Fest welcomes Snarky Puppy, Nick Cannon, Jon Batiste for 15th anniversary

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the DC Jazz Festival (Jason Fraley)

Few cities have as rich a jazz history as the nation’s capital, the birthplace of Duke Ellington.

But history is made every day at the 14th annual D.C. Jazz Festival from June 7-16 at The Wharf, Hamilton Live, City Winery, Kennedy Center, Twins Jazz and National Gallery of Art.

“It’s our 15-year anniversary,” Executive Director Sunny Sumter said. “We started in 2004 with Charlie Fishman, who used to manage Dizzy Gillespie. He started it on a paper napkin at Cashion’s in Adams Morgan. The first year we had 12 concerts, now we have 160 concerts. We’re in 25 neighborhoods, 40 venues, expecting over 125,000 people this year.”

Here are Sumter’s Top 10 reasons to attend this year’s D.C. Jazz Festival:

1. ‘The talent is stupendous’

“The talent is stupendous,” Sumter said. “Snarky Puppy, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Jose James, Michael Franks free at The Wharf guys! Cécile McLorin Salvant at The Hamilton Live, Stefon Harris + Blackout, and the Brass-A-Holics at a big New Orleans Throwdown at The Anthem.”

2. ‘Something for everybody’

“There’s actually something for everybody,” Sumter said. “I’m talking all generations, anyone who’s new to the music, or even old jazz heads. There really is something for everyone. Just check out the website, download your schedule and just go to anything that appeals to you.”

3. ‘A taste of NOLA’

“You get a taste of NOLA in D.C. because we are doing a ‘New Orleans Throwdown’ at The Anthem, people, on June 15,” Sumter said. “I’m talking beads and a second line.”

4. ‘Iconic American venue’

“You can salute American icons in an iconic American venue — the Kennedy Center,” Sumter said. “‘Great Masters of Jazz’ is happening June 16, honoring Quincy Jones, Nancy Wilson, Roy Hargrove, Shirley Horn, Fred Foss, Patti Austin. It’s going to be hosted by Nick Cannon from ‘America’s Got Talent’ — and some of the finest jazz artists are coming to pay salute.”

5. ‘The Wharf is waiting’

“The Wharf is waiting for you,” Sumter said. “I’m talking free outdoor stages with music, art, food and drink galore. Free, free, free, free, free! Come on down June 14, 15 and 16.”

6. ‘Jazz in the Hoods’

“Not all of your discoveries will be on stage,” Sumter said. “We want you to check out D.C.’s coolest neighborhoods as part of our ‘Jazz in the Hoods,’ presented by Events D.C. … I’m talking Hamilton Live, Ben’s Next Door, Atlas Performing Arts, Ivy City Smokehouse, Kreeger Museum, Anacostia Arts Center, City Winery. ‘Jazz in the Hoods’ citywide, 25 neighborhoods.”

7. ‘Family Fun Days’

“Families can do a prelude at ‘Jazz and Family Fun Days’ at the Phillips Collection,” Sumter said.

8. ‘Capital sounds, global reach’

“We are doing an international stage bringing people from Denmark, Australia, Finland, South Africa, Russia, Italy. They’re coming and celebrating this great jazz music right at The Wharf.”

9. ‘Up close and personal’

“You can meet the artists up close and personal,” Sumter said. “You can get them to sign your CDs, sign your shirt, sign your hand!”

10. ‘Our national treasure’

“Jazz is America’s national treasure,” Sumter said. “Whether you dig it once a year, twice a year, every week, come appreciate jazz as America’s national treasure. … People say, ‘I don’t listen to jazz throughout the year’ or ‘I’m a jazz aficionado,’ and to be able to see so much great talent over a span of 10 days is absolutely glorious. Newcomers say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was jazz, I didn’t know that artist was part of the jazz umbrella,’ and I say, ‘Oh yeah.'”

Find out more on the festival website. Hear our full conversation with Sunny Sumter below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Sunny Sumter (Full Interview) (Jason Fraley)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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