Print options

November 01, 2009

3rd Annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival Celebrates America's Jazz Greats

The mid-year tourist season in Washington for 2007 has ended. That means it's once again time for the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. VOA's Doug Levine runs down some of this year's highlights.

Washington native Duke Ellington took his music far and wide, so it's not unusual that the festival named in his honor features groups from seven different countries. The nightly International Jazz Showcase has quickly become one of the week's biggest draws, with acts from Japan, Rwanda, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia and Cuba among those performing at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Duke was ahead of his time in terms of musical innovation, often going beyond jazz and defying categories altogether. Duke would be the first to applaud a schedule that had a hip-hop concert one day, followed the next by 'bring your family for a day of jazz.'

Several concerts paid tribute to another jazz pioneer, Dizzy Gillespie, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday next month. Jazz on the Mall: "To Diz With Love" featured Dizzy Gillepie's All-Star Big Band, and the Danilo Perez Trio and Guests will perform "In The Footsteps of Dizzy" at the 85-year-old Lincoln Theatre.

In addition, The Library of Congress sponsored an afternoon of "Dizzy on Film", and, at George Washington University, distinguished panelists convened to discuss the role of jazz around the world in a forum titled "Duke, Dizzy and Diplomacy."

Nightly jazz happenings at clubs around town gave way to the festival's finale, "The Willis Conover Jazz Tribute." An all-star group led by Grammy-winning saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera honored Voice of America's longtime jazz host with a concert at VOA on September 17.