18th Annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at The Kennedy Center by Francine Schwartz

Dee Dee Bridgewater, the host of NPR’s award winning weekly syndicated show, JazzSet, was the celebrant of the 18th Annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater last night.  Featured were groups headed by three women, the Tineke Postma Quartet, Amina Claudine Myers Trio, and a group headed by Sheila Jordan and Jay Clayton.

Sheila Jordan. Photo by Ed Cohen.
Sheila Jordan. Photo by Ed Cohen.

Sheila Jordan brought the crowd to its feet with her renditions of “We Thought About You ,”So In Love”, “Little Willie Leaps,” and “Ballad For Miles,” which included “My Funny Valentine and “Lament.” Jordan has an infectious, droll style, and has developed into a superb scat singer and improviser, often compared to Blossom Dearie.  Like Blossom Dearie, she has received well-deserved recognition for her unique talent late in life.  She has also produced many critically successful recordings, and has appeared with many prominent jazz musicians during a 40 year career  in and out  of the music industry, as well as being a notable jazz educator.Jack Wilkins, a well-known accompanist on the guitar, collaborated and provided standout accompaniment.

Cameron Brown on double bass added rhythmic depth to these showpieces of Bop. Jay Clayton regularly performs as a singing duo with Ms. Jordon all over the world. Both Clayton and Jordan specialize in wordless improvisation, a facet of free jazz, which uses the wordless voice as a powerful instrument rather than  the usual emphasis on lyrics and narrative. Through the use of innovative mixing, Clayton speaks and sings over a percussive background of her own voice on tape, which showed off the bluesy talents of Wilkins as well as the two scat singers.

Amina Claudine Myers. Photo by Carolyn McClair.

Amina Claudine Myers, who first performed at the 1998 Mary Lou Williams Annual Concert, delivered strong gospel roots she started out with a song called “God/Ritual.” This allowed her to display talking in tongues, ecumenical mantras incorporating references to Christian and Muslim deities, and scat singing,. An appreciative audience enjoyed sharing increasingly melodic pieces verging on rhythms and blues, such as “Sensuous.” My favorites were original compositions “Jumping in the Sugar Bowl” and “Have Mercy Up On Us (organ) which evoked gospel tunes, and call and response patterns These offerings were very melodic and showed off Ms. Myers virtuoso piano and organ skills.

Tineke Postma. Photo by Jeroen Jansen.
Tineke Postma. Photo by Jeroen Jansen.

Tineke Postma, jazz saxophonist, Marc Van Roon, Pianist, Clemens Van Der Feen, Bassist and Martijn Vink, Drummer, comprise the Dutch group Tineke Postma Quartet. Playing many original compositions, sometimes inspired by poetry, her distinctive soft and airy sound was the centerpiece of the group, demonstrating a technique which involves frequent twists and alternative tempos not always easy to follow. Starting off with “Cancon D’Amor” (theme by Hector Villa Lobos) pianist Marc Van Roon had several solos, which provided diversity in the program.

Composing is an important interest of Postma, demonstrated in her beautiful renditions of “Searching & Finding,” “Before the Snow,” and “Pleasant Friction.” “Before the Snow” was the most melodic, with bird noises and other special sound effects.

Running Time: Three hours with two 10-minute breaks.

The 18th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival plays through Saturday, May 18, 2013 at The Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.

There is a free Millennium Stage concert on TOMORROW  at 6 PM. The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quintet performs as part of the 18th Annual Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, featuring Leigh Pilzer (saxophonist), Jennifer Krupa (trombonist), James King (bassist), Kenneth Kimery (drums), and Tony Nalker (pianist).



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