Over the course of the evening, Cary proved himself a fitting disciple, his artistic forays mirroring Lincoln's distinctive blend of soul wrenching honesty and intellectual depth. And though clearly bound to Lincoln's work, Cary's embrasure of this legacy approached the music less in the vein of obvious tribute and more like Dostoevsky visiting Gogol. The pianist began with a graceful, mid-tempo piece anchored by firm rhythmic figures in the lower registeralmost pastoral- tinged and augmented by a rich dynamic texture. It was immediately clear that the solo format, aided by the familial, intimate setting, functioned to magnify the emotive resonance of Cary's playing without obscuring the rhythmic dynamism or intellectual acuity that has been his signature.
Next, Cary was joined by surprise local guest, Jabari Exum, on djembe, converting the solo performance into an unusual, improvised duet. The interplay and additional pulsating energy only accentuated the structural clarity and sensitivity of Cary's approach to Lincoln's music as he presented one insightful tune after another, closing appropriately with a transportive rendition of "Music is the Magic."
Just as the Bohemian Caverns has been an anchor for the festival, the Atlas Theater is fast proving an important new venue not just for the festival, but for D.C.'s jazz scene overall. Under the guidance of Brad Linde, the Atlas has added a jazz series to its theater, dance and other offerings. This year, Linde closed the Atlas' season by hosting a performance by his mentor, the venerable West Coast legend Lee Konitz
Playing with a new 18-piece big band, Konitz quickly established an atmosphere of good-natured openness, drawing the audience in with his repartee and relaxed demeanor. In fact, it felt as if the audience had been invited to participate in a workshop, not a polished concert, and the sense of witnessing the music evolving before your eyes made the evening all the more appealingand certainly no less moving. Under the guiding voice of Konitz and joined by guest drummer Matt Wilson
, the band delivered a series of cool, ultra-mellow tunes that carved out a portrait of subtle, barely exposed emotions, abstract vistas, and truncated, implied narratives. The band hit a high point with Konitz's "Cary's Trance," a taut original of half-submerged themes and hypnotic lines, the notes emerging like hushed recollections of a lost cityscape, raising afterimages of late night trysts, mournful alley encounters, all illumed in watery light and the pulse of spent, unseen traffic.
Completing its eighth year, the DC Jazz Festival once again put forward a satisfying buffet of music, with more on offer than any individual could possibly consume. While some of that fare represented staples of the D.C. jazz scene and some tried and true material, plenty of unique and surprising music could be found. An obvious danger is that the festival may become complacent and overly patterned. Hopefully it will continue to stretch its limits, to build on its brand to invite experiment and inspire innovationand, in doing, so take full advantage of Washington's renewed enthusiasm for jazz in the kinetic manner with which the festival has interacted with the city from its inception.