I think opportunities for audiences to meet and interact with jazz artists off the bandstand are very important keys to audience development, to increasing the audience for jazz. Such opportunities help to “demystify” this music we call jazz. For so many, how this music is made remains a bit of a mystery: How do they improvise? What’s on their minds when they improvise? Do they merely come up with notes and chords just out of thin air? How did they choose their particular instrument(s)? What made them decide to play jazz in the first place? How did they put together their band? When they’re playing, how do they make the choices they do? How do they compose? What is this thing called jazz? These and many more questions are the kinds of inquiries audiences often have of jazz musicians.
One of the cornerstones of our annual DC Jazz Festival is our Meet The Artist series. That’s a series of interviews for our audiences, either pre- or post-performance, where we not only interview our featured artists, we also provide opportunities for audience Q&As. For our 2016 DC Jazz Festival, “Meet The Artist” sessions were moderated by jazz historian Bill Brower with Steve Coleman, Kimberley Washington with Meghan Stablie and Igmar Thomas of Revive Music, Jim Byers with NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmierif, and myself with Kamasi Washington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and Orrin Evans.
Just to give you a taste of our Meet The Artist series, here’s a segment of our session with pianist-composer-bandleader Orrin Evans on the afternoon prior to his late night performance with his Captain Black Big Band as part of CapitalBop’s jazz loft series on our festival. Special thanks to the intrepid vocalese artist George V. Johnson, Jr. for capturing this from the audience.