In its 8th year, Capital Jazz Fest admirably held up its reputation for having a performance schedule that reads like a Who's Who of contemporary jazz. In 2000, as in prior years, this included some of the hottest up-and-coming artists (Nestor Torres, Gabriela Anders, Norman Brown, Marc Antoine, Walter Beasley, Maysa), a heavy portion of the current chart-toppers (Keiko Matsui, Bob James, Dave Koz, Patti Austin, Hiroshima, Spyro Gyra, Boney James, Rick Braun) and some rare performances by legendary performers who have been making great music since before contemporary jazz existed! (George Benson, Gato Barbieri, Jean-Luc Ponty).
Expect the unexpected is also becoming a tradition. This year, master guitarist-bassist Stanley Jordan was joined by a gentleman from India who added the mystical and unusual sounds of sitar and other native Indian instruments to create a set even more unique than Stanley usually provides. The uncontested most energetic and crowd-pleasing set had to be the Saturday night headliners: Rick Braun and Boney James playing together. Both have guested on the other's recent albums and they played some of the biggest hits from each, as well as tracks from their first collaborative CD (Shake It Up).
For those few people who have not heard about it or been there (it is justifiably the largest contemporary jazz event in the US) Capital Jazz is an astonishing event: 24 concerts in two days, and the whole thing goes off like clockwork. There are two stages, and when the show ends on one stage, a new act starts almost immediately on the other one. All you have to do is to sit back, relax, and enjoy music after music after music. If it is possible to overdose on excellent, diverse modern jazz, Capital Jazz would be the cause!
Capital Jazz Fest has become so popular, in fact, that this year they outgrew their regular venue, the Merriweather Post Pavilion and adjacent shady tree-lined city park, and moved the event to the football stadium of the U.S. Naval Academy. Whether or not this proves to be the best move, instead of limiting the seating and ticket sales remains to be seen. The two stages are further apart, making it harder to cover all the concerts. Of course, there is no shade in an outdoor football stadium except for the highest bleacher seats, and the first weekend in June turned out to be almost oppressively steamy this year.
Still, if you don't mind crowds and are looking for an absolutely action and talent-packed event, keep that first weekend of June 2001 clear and plan to be in Baltimore!
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