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World Music Festival brings jazz and Ghanian drums to Silver Spring

  • Published in Music

Trumpet Silhouette in Kente patternSILVER SPRING — Jazz bands shared the stage with African percussionists and Japanese dance troupes, while artisans displayed work that traveled across the Atlantic, at the World Music Festival Sunday in Silver Spring.

The festival highlighted the diverse culture of the D.C. area, with musical performances, food, and artisans. One vendor, Jean-Jacques from GlobalBatik.com, specialized in African art and clothing imported from the West African country of Togo. His wares are handmade by ten different artists in Togo with local fabrics and dyes, according to Jacques.

A popular product in GlobalBatik’s catalog is Batik shirts, according to Jacques. Many of his shirts feature bright, vibrant colors and West African themes and symbols.

“You can fit any kind of story that is related to Africa. In this case, I used an Adrinka symbol, which are visual symbols that usually represent words of wisdom,” said Jacques. “Or this T-shirt here, I put a map of the continent with all the lines representing the main rivers.”

Modern symbols, such as imagery from the Marvel movie “Black Panther,” had a presence among Jacques’s shirts as well. The designs being placed on non-traditional items, such as tank tops, further showed the mix of old and new that Jacques cultivated.

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Singers link Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday in Strathmore concert

  • Published in Music

Catherine Russell 16 Print 1 copyCatherine Russell, jazz singer to perform with John Pizzarelli. COURTESY PHOTOFor Grammy Award-nominated jazz singer Catherine Russell, juxtaposing the music of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday in her upcoming Strathmore concert was a given, as was performing with jazz guitarist and bandleader and vocalist John Pizzarelli.

It is to Pizzarelli who Russell attributes the idea of blending those world-class vocalists in one program. 

 “It's a natural fit since Sinatra was a great admirer of Billie Holiday and her unique singing style,” said Russell. “Both singers came up working as vocalists during the Swing Era, with big bands, before leading their own groups.”

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Chopteeth brings Afro-Funk to Glen Echo stage

As the horn section blared out melodies over dense layers of percussion, the keyboardist for West African big band Chopteeth, Bill Dempsey, found a small place between the noise for an organ solo. The band headlined the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park on Saturday night, and Dempsey was able to fulfill one of his dreams.

“I’ve been listening to this style of music for a long time; I’ve always dreamed of finding others to play it with. In Milwaukee, I thought it would never happen; in DC it did,” said Dempsey. “It’s a tribute to DC that you can find Ghanaian musicians, Nigerian musicians, and American musicians, all coming together.”

Chopteeth was the brain child of singer/guitarist Michael Shereikis and bassist Robert Fox. Inspired by New York based band Antibalas; Fox asked Shereikis if he would be interested in starting an African big band. Shereikis, who was exposed to African music when he lived in the Ivory Coast as a member of the Peace Corps, agreed, and Chopteeth was born.

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A Renaissance man turns 83

As a child, Mike Ritter was drawn to the sound of classic big bands. Now at the age of 83, the Oscar-winning filmmaker leads The Not So Modern Jazz Quartet, a band dedicated to preserving the big-band music he first fell in love with.

Ritter first achieved fame when he placed second in the 1957 National All-Army talent competition. Ritter’s act for the initial round was a one-band act to show off his command of different instruments.

“What I did was, I played piano, then called a friend to take over on piano. Then I played bass and called a friend out to play bass, then played horn and asked a friend to play the horn,” Ritter said.

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Local artist Raul Midón captures all that jazz

Raul MidonBlind musician Rául Mídon performs at Bethesda Blues and Jazz. PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  BETHESDA — Raul Midón, midway through his concert Thursday night at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, showed off his ability to play bongos, guitar, and sing at the same time.  The crowd erupted in applause, and people grabbed their phones to record the feat.  Raul, however, didn’t see the flashing of cameras, or the cheering faces of his audience, because he is blind.  

Midón has been blind since birth. However, despite this he picked up music at a young age, playing drums at age four, guitar at age six.

“It gives me a different perspective,” Midón said when asked about his blindness, “People look at a crowd and think it’s this type of crowd or that type of crowd, but I just feel it.”

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Takoma Park lights it up with Jazz Festival

Takoma Jazz FestivalThe Chuck Redd Quartet performing at the Takoma Park Jazz Festival.   PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  TAKOMA PARK – On Sunday Takoma Park hosted its 22nd annual jazz festival. The two-stage, 12-act event showcased representatives from multiple genres, from traditional dixieland and bossa nova to modern go-go interpretations.

“We are promoting America’s unique music: music that connects people from around the world,” said Bruce Kohner, the president of Takoma Jazz Inc.

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Soulful blues light up Bethesda

  • Published in Local

coco montoya

It was a night of soulful blues in Bethesda Wednesday night with local band Bad Influence opening up for famed vocalist and guitar player Coco Montoya. The show was held at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club on Wisconsin Avenue.

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