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Mary Lou Williams (photo courtesy Rutgers Institute for Jazz Studies)

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

The 17th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival features today's top female jazz artists in three evening concerts. The Washington Post says the festival "speaks volumes about the contributions women have made to jazz."

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The Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival marks its 17th thrilling year May 10–12 with three evenings hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater of star-studded performances in the Terrace Theater featuring the world's top female jazz artists. The Washington Post says the festival "speaks volumes about the contributions women have made to jazz--and continue to make--both here and abroad."

The May 10 concert opens with the Trio of pianist Chihiro Yamanaka, a double-threat jazz and classical piano sensation in her home country of Japan, where her celebrity status is marked by chart-topping jazz CDs, and classical engagements such as her recent appearance with the Tokyo Symphony in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. An alumnus of the Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead residency program (2000), Yamanaka's performance coincides with the May release of her new CD, Reminiscence (Verve Universal). In an intimate duo performance, Canadian saxophonist Jane Bunnett and Cuban pianist Hilario Duran mine the rich musical bounty of Cuba. Bunnett, who in 2012 marks her 30th year of exploration of the island's musical wealth, also offers a rare treat for Washington audiences: a special guest performance with Cuban native and NEA Jazz Master percussionist Candido. Following up on her show-stopping appearance at the November 2011 Jazz on the Elevens: A Tribute to Billy Taylor concert, Thursday night closes with Kennedy Center favorite vocalist Carmen Lundy and her quartet, with selections from Lundy's new CD Changes (Afrasia). The London Evening Standard says, "In a world of pretenders, she's a genuine jazz singer."

Friday, May 11 opens with Australian composer and bassist Linda Oh and her quartet. Oh, who has performed multiple times at the Center in different contexts (including Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead in 2006), debuts at the Kennedy Center as a leader. Of Oh's music, Ben Ratliff of the New York Times says, "[its] fearless energy seems self-generated. It's not airlessly virtuosic; it's smart and informed and hard-working, full of real improvisation, the committed, hard-won, lumpy, non-mechanical, go-for-broke kind." Raised in the DC area, New York–based percussionist Allison Miller returns to with her BOOM TIC BOOM project, named one of the top ten jazz albums of 2010 by the Los Angeles Times. Sought after by jazz and pop artists alike (Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Merchant, Marty Ehrlich, and Dr. Lonnie Smith, among others), Miller also has displayed her diplomatic talents touring internationally as a Kennedy Center–U.S. Department of State Jazz Ambassador. With her signature style and unique voice, vocalist Carla Cook brings an earthy sophistication to every song she sings, combining elements of jazz, R&B, Gospel, soul, and pop. This Detroit native has garnered much critical and popular attention, including a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album for It's All About Love (MAXJAZZ). In the words of John Murph of the Washington Post, "She has sass that enlivens her impeccable diction, and tremendous soul that lets her swagger with gutbucket finesse, but it's all buttressed with sparkling optimism and innocence."

The Festival closes Saturday, May 12, with an opening set by the violinist Diane Monroe, who wowed audiences in Steve Wilson's Bird with Strings project last September in the KC Jazz Club. Although she can swing with the best jazzers around--having toured for more than a decade as first violinist of the Max Roach Double Quartet and the Uptown String Quartet--Monroe is a classical violinist by training. "Her technique is impeccable and her improvisations rich and imaginative," says All About Jazz. "She and the group gave a performance equal to any. And it really swung." Fresh from her Grammy win in January for Best Jazz Vocal Album, percussionist and bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington brings the Grammy-winning Mosaic Project to the Kennedy Center to close the Festival, with an all-star line-up of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Tia Fuller on saxophone, Helen Sung on piano, Mimi Jones on bass, and special surprise vocal performances by unannounced guests.

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All events and artists subject to change without prior notice.

Group of 20 or more? Group Sales offers special terms and discounts for most performances.

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