A time-honored tradition in the DMV celebrates it’s 30th anniversary with legendary artists, great music and so much more! With three days of jazz, who could ask for anything more from one of the nation’s premiere music festivals, the 30th Annual Capital Jazz Fest!
I attended the third and final day of the fest and I am walking into with sheer anticipation for the day’s talent is immense with artists like Peabo Bryson, Loose Ends ft. Jane Eugene and Jonathan Butler with the mighty Isley Brothers closing it out. You can expect the audience to get their jazz fix for the season.
The first artist that I got to see is Matthew Whitaker. Although I had never heard of him, I was very impressed by him and his band. Performing since the age of ten, he has been killing it with his composition and his energy to engage the audience. I would say that he’s the Stevie Wonder of the 21st century and his skills are amazing. For his debut on Merriweather Post Pavilion, it was a damn good one. I am looking forward to seeing his budding career with great interest.
Lindsay Webster was the next performer and a couple of the songs she included in her set includes “Feels like Forever” and “Where Do You Want to Go”. With the quintet band behind her, she was able to give us a mellow vibe thru her words and music. She goes on to talk about “Reasons” an album she put out recently last year and included a song called I Didn’t Mean it and their drummer that they should do a remix of the song but infused with some Gogo into and it sounds much better! Lindsay loves to write about love and she wrote the song during COVID as she reflects on her life with “The Way”. She also did a mean cover of Chaka Khan’s “What’cha Gonna Do for Me?” which includes a kickin’ bass solo which blew our minds.
Lindsay told us about a song that she sung in karaoke back in 2009 with her keyboardist. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it until I finally heard some familiar words to it and it all became clear the famous “Over the Rainbow” with her jazz twist on it. It was beautiful and it felt like listening to a classic jazz take on the song.
Later in the day, I actually got to sit on a Q&A Session with Matthew Whitaker and his band at the 9:32 club. Questions asked included if he would go a gospel album, how does he find the time to do music and your plus being a Minister of Music at his church and what was his experience working with Stevie Wonder. He mentioned that he met Stevie when he was ten years old before he went on stage. A DC native asked bassist Liany Mateo about working with the band and she mentioned that she couldn’t have found a better band and loves working with Matthew. We even got to learn about musical that will make its debut in September in Pittsburgh.
After the Q&A session, I managed to catch some of the Can You Feel It: The MJ Tribute and let me tell that this is one of the best tributes to the King of Pop himself. Throughout the tribute, the band performed many of MJs greatest hits from his Jackson 5 days to his solo efforts. During the MJ Tribute, violinist Dr. Chelsey Green took it up a notch during the performance of This Place Hotel and the crowd gave a standing ovation.
Incognito’s own Maysa comes back on the stage to join with the Jacksons classic “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” which has the people dancing and singing along! This was a crowd pleaser as the horns and the percussion sections took the song the highest stratosphere. When you have a horn section as dedicated to the song, you have to bring your A-game and this band did it well!
What I enjoyed about the tribute is the guest vocals who helped bring MJs songs to life. Eric Roberson sung the 1991 classic “Remember the Time”. Kenny Lattimore gave his take on the Thriller hit “Human Nature” while Maysa returned to the stage with “You Rock My World”. The spirit of MJ lives in through this amazing tribute. Kenny brought those sensual falsetto vocals to “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”. At the end of this dynamic tribute, Eric stated that there was one song we didn’t do, and it was one of the songs that helped put them in the map, they did a snippet of “I Want You Back” with the slick choreography to boot!
Next it was finally time for the man of the evening to perform for us, the jovial Jonathan Butler came onto the stage and the way he handled the guitar is so sweet that you could hear him all week and never grow tired, he’s that amazing! And the way he connects with the band. “It’s so good to be back” he proclaims after the second song, and we are so glad that he’s back before he launches into singing one of his greatest hits.
He talked about his newest CD, Ubuntu, and it went to #1 recently. And he performs the song he sent to Stevie Wonder, a unique take on the classic “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” and to hear it live doesn’t do it justice. Next, he took us back to his R&B times of the 80s when I first got to know his music. From his self-titled album, “Take Good Care of Me”. He then goes into “Sara, Sara” and “Lies” which helped take the world by storm in the late 80s. I cannot believe I was very young when I first heard this CD and to hear it again live as an adult was circling back to this whole new world. Even the audience got to participate within the song Lies, loved it! At the end of the song, he complimented on the singing, and he loved it.
He asked if anyone liked Bob Marley and he sings “Three Little Birds” and it really tugs at the heartstrings especially with the violin and guitar solo towards the end. You feel a sense of joy and peace within yourself for the few precious moments. He told us about a song that he wrote a long time ago and the salvation he received from Jesus many years ago which he transitions into his timeless classic “Falling in Love with Jesus” in which he received a standing ovation from the audience. That was truly the way to end his set. Jonathan has that sound that’s so universal that you can love the message where who you are in the world, and it was such a joy to see him live. If there was a musician that I am proud to hear at the Capital Jazz Fest, it was definitely Mr. Butler.
At the tail end of my time on Sunday, I was listening to songstress Dianne Reeves doing a beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide and giving it its due. Long live the Capital Jazz Fest, may I wish it clear horizons for another thirty years!
FINAL GRADE: A++