Jackson Sinnenberg, Capitalbop
For the last decade, the D.C. jazz educator and saxophonist Paul Carr has run the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, a celebration of the sort of swinging, straight-ahead jazz that has been traditionally been the region’s jazz calling card. This year’s 10th anniversary incarnation, held this Friday through Sunday, Feb. 15-17 at the Hilton in Rockville, Md., continues to feature premier talent from the D.C. region — both elders and the new vanguard — as well as internationally renowned performers and instructors.
Carr believes that the festival’s continued survival in the current jazz landscape is a “testament to the programming,” he told CapitalBop in a recent interview. “The quality of what we do, the need for what we do and the hard work and commitment of the people working it.”
The festival offers educational programming and performance opportunities to high school and collegiate jazz ensembles, including workshops with local masters like bassist Herman Burney and trombonist Reginald Cyntje. But he also sees a need to present artists whose style has fallen out of contemporary favor.
“A lot of the artists that we feature in the festival — they’re kind of forgotten in the big jazz festivals,” Carr says. “Very seldom will you see a lot of our performers grace the DownBeats and the JazzTimes. … The type of jazz that we teach here, I call it ‘real jazz,’ but it starts with swing-based jazz and is a more social jazz.”
Drummer Ralph Peterson was Art Blakey’s last protege in the 1980s, and now carries on his mentor’s legacy as a bandleader-educator. Behind the kit, Peterson is vigorous and unrelenting, washing his entire band in polyrhythm in the manner of ‘60s and ‘70s greats like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. He performs with a sextet following the aforementioned Violin Summit on the bill.