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DC Jazz Festival NEA Jazz Masters Concert

Paquito D'Rivera
Roberta Gambarini

The District of Columbia is a land of institutions, so it makes sense that the city’s annual jazz fete is one that emphasizes the music’s history and presents the art form at its most coherent and formalist. The event-now billed as the DC Jazz Festival, formerly the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival-began on June 1 and continues through Sunday, and works as both a community-building exercise and a glossier showcase for traditional jazz virtues. Few events at the festival mingle with the past in a more candescent way than the annual NEA Jazz Masters concert, which on Thursday night was to pay tribute to saxophonist James Moody. It did this, sort of, mostly by default.

The 85-year-old NEA Master, revealed festival founder Charles Fishman, had recently undergone surgery and was advised by his doctors not to travel. But he was listening via a simulcast, and what Moody heard had less to do with him and more to do with his employer and collaborator of half a century, Dizzy Gillespie, and the modern jazz Diz innovated.

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Originally Published