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The 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

"Real Jazz" lives with Harper, Haynes, Payton and others

“Jazz” festivals booking pop, rock and R&B acts is one of the most common gripes in jazz conversation. It’s now one of those old, futile complaints that just sort of pass the time; for jazz people, it’s on par with griping about winter weather or taxes. And it dovetails nicely with another, more complex grievance that has for the past couple decades been gaining steam: how even what is now defined as jazz sounds like pop or art music or something else decidedly non-swinging.

The third edition of the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, which took over a Hilton Hotel in the D.C. suburb of Rockville, Md., Feb. 17-20, touted the slogan, “Standing Up for Real Jazz,” and it mostly did. (This is as good a time as any to disclose that JT was a festival sponsor.) Mid-Atlantic featured jazz as it’s defined by core values you might associate with Jazz at Lincoln Center and the majority of current jazz radio: swing; head-solos-head arrangements; an idea of canonical repertory; the indomitable foundation of the blues and African-American culture in general; and, in the form of clinics and an ambitious school band competition, the need to instill the music in young people.

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