KEEPING THINGS FLOWING—Doug E. Fresh emceed the Capital Jazz Festival. “The Entertainer” also displayed his love for classic R&B and classic hip-hop. (Photo by Timothy Cox)


COLUMBIA, Md.—It’s estimated that more than 20,000 music lovers flocked to the annual Capital Jazz Festival in Maryland during the weekend of June 7-9.

The outdoor music confab featured jazz stars on a pavilion stage, the likes of Bob James, David Sanborn, Ledisi, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Atlanta violinist Ken Ford and Lalah Hathaway. An acre away in the hilly confines of the Merriweather Music Amphitheater, a “Soul Stage” featured Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Eric Benet, Ohio Players (minus the late Sugarfoot Bonner), SOS Band and Angie Stone.

The festival enjoyed its 21st year and is largely popular based on its location. The outdoor venue is perfectly located about half-way between metro Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

When emcee and hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh asked who hailed from New York, the loudest response was generated from the Empire State faithful. The rap legend energized the evening R&B crowd as his Get-Fresh Crew deejay played a non-stop buffet of ‘70s soul hits from legends like Luther Vandross, Teena Marie, Maze & Frankie Beverly, Stephanie Mills, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye and Pittsburgh’s late diva-crooner, Phyllis Hyman… “You Know How To Love Me.”

Doug E. Fresh ended the soul classics with a James Brown cut, “The Big Payback.” He then stated, “With­out James Brown, there is no hip-hop and there is no funk.”

Vocal legend Chaka Khan, was scheduled to perform at the Capital Jazz Fest, but, as she did for the Pittsburgh International Jazz Fest of the same weekend, she was also forced to cancel her appearance, due to what was described as required rest by her physician, giving her supreme vocals much-needed rest. Jeffrey Osborne of LTD fame was her welcomed replacement and filled-in admirably.

The North-Central Maryland-based festival is considered an annual reunion for many perennial attendees and attracts folks from Boston, NYC, Philly, Pittsburgh and Midwestern regions of Detroit, Akron-Canton, Indianapolis and southern states of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and of course, the “DMV” aka greater DC, Maryland and Virginia.

From several accounts, bass player legend Marcus Miller was a major highlight of the weekend and brought the house down with his funk-fusion style of bass mastery. Miller got his start with jazz legends Miles Davis and drummer Lenny White.

The Whispers were also crowd-pleasers during a masterful Sunday evening show on the Soul Stage. Hits like “Olivia,” “Lady,” “In The Raw,” “All The Way,” and “Butter” were timely, although original member Nicholas Caldwell was sorely missing, and has not toured with the group lately, reportedly due to an undisclosed illness. His choreographic genius was missed, to say the least.

As dusk turned to night, a comfortable evening breeze cooled the crowd—an appropriate way to end the three-day festival, to The Whispers’ “Rock Steady.”

While rain hampered the Friday night shows and wet, muddy fields kept many ladies from wearing their most stylish footwear —overall, the festival was again the expected marvelous late spring affair.

The fest is reminiscent of the HBO specials made popular by comedian/host Sinbad, during the 1990s. Though there were a limited number of children on the scene, for the most part, this event is attended by what’s typically described as ‘the Grown and Sexy” crowd—very mature music lovers.

It goes without question that many of this year’s attendees will find themselves a part of the jazzy-soulful crew who will return to Columbia, Md., in June 2014.


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