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Local Jazz Festival Attracts Contemporary Greats

The Washington, D.C. area was treated to a jazz extravaganza described as "the biggest celebration in the history of contemporary jazz." As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, even steady rain on closing day couldn't drive anyone away from the 15th Annual Capital Jazz Festival, held between May 30 and June 3.

There were no chants of "rain, rain, go away"; no hiding under the closest available shelter; or cancellation of one single concert due to rain. After all, it's a fact of life that suburban Washington can get wet in springtime. The rain was of no consequence to the thousands who braved remnants of a tropical storm on the festival finale June 3 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Rain gear, dry ground cover and perhaps an umbrella were all that were needed to enjoy a star-filled day of contemporary jazz, hip-hop and R&B.

Producers of the Capital Jazz Festival never imagined just how fast Washington's premier jazz celebration would grow. From its humble beginnings as a two-day jazz festival on one stage, to the ambitious 15th anniversary bash that included five nights and two weekend days of music on three stages, a jazz competition for new artists, a workshop pavilion, a jazz lounge, a poetry competition, after-hours parties and the announcement of a jazz cruise later this year; it's no wonder the festival attracts fans from up and down the Atlantic coast and beyond.

Nostalgia reigned supreme at the Capital Jazz Festival, with performers from the '60s and '70s making their presence known: War, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, David Sanborn, Issac Hayes and Ray Parker, Jr. among the headliners. Local acts were showcased on two of the smaller outdoor stages.

A lineup of ever-popular jazz and soul divas were in fine form: Brenda Russell, Diane Schuur, Anita Baker, Ledisi and Vivian Green. One of the highlights was the long-awaited reunion of the Grammy-Award winning duo Bob James and Earl Klugh.