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This year marks the 21st Annual Capital Jazz Festival, a musical feast of Jazz, Smooth Jazz and R&B artists over a 3 day period.

The festivities began on Friday night with a concert by Will Downing, celebrating his 25 years in the industry with special guests including Angela Bofill, Lalah Hathaway and Chante Moore.

This review covers some of the artists appearing on Saturday and Sunday. The difficult aspect of the event is that there are two stages running simultaneously.


On Saturday, the Soul Stage was the prime location, starting off with Bilal, the Philadelphia phenom who opened with tremendous energy and impressive vocals. His hits, including his latest, "Back to Love" from his fine SURREAL CD were well received by the crowd that was already well attended by his 12:30PM start time. His first release "Soul Sista" was another of his best selections.

He was followed by the very lovely Vivian Green, another Philadelphia native, who brought the sunshine with her new blonde short haircut. Ms. Green packs tremendous vocal power in her petite frame. Backed by a tight band and sweet background singers, she sang "Ain't Nothin ' But Love" and surprised the crowd with a heartfelt and capable version of Sade's "Is It A Crime" which she introduced saying "I didn't write it, but I love it." Her closing was the crowd favorite "Emotional Rollercoaster" which had audience members testifying in agreement.

Completing the Philly triple play was Kindred, the Family Soul, who brought their 15 year marital love to the stage to the JBs "Funky Good Time" and yes, they did take us "Hiiiiiiiigh - er." Their biggest hits "Stars" and "Where Would I Be" kept the crowd rocking as did their inspiring version of William Devaughn 's Philly classic "Be Thankful For What You Got."

The MC for the week-end was Eric Roberson, Indie Soul superstar who kept the audience entertained between acts with impromptu songs and a steady stream of off the cuff commentary on the activities. His co-host Doug E. Fresh bought his Get Fresh Crew and kept us dancing with hits from the 70s through hip-hop, and of course, a Go-Go tribute to Chuck Brown.

Once the Ohio Players took the stage, the audience was in full celebration mode and showing their true age, partying with abandon to "Pain" "Funky Worm" and "Rollercoaster of Love." There was a collective swoon when "Heaven Must Be Like This" started playing and by the time they got to "Fire," it was like we were back in 1975.

Babyface had the unenviable task of following them, but he fared well with his hits "Soon As I Get Home" and "Never Keeping Secrets." "Whip Appeal" became an automatic audience sing-along that was supreme. But things really got hot when he ran through the hits he has written and produced like "Every Little Step," "My, My, My," "Can We Talk," "I'll Make Love To You" and finally, "End of the Road." He definitely solidified the impact he has had on R&B music in the last 25 years.

The last act of the day was a last minute substitution for Chaka Khan, who was on doctor-ordered vocal rest for the month of June. Jeffrey Osborne was more than capable of filling the void and brought 35 years of hits along with him, starting with his solo hits "I Really Don't Need No Light," "Only Human," and "On The Wings of Love." His latest project is a jazz recording produced by George Duke. From that set he did Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World." He finished up giving us a taste of LTD with "Concentrate on You" and "Love Ballad" of course "Back In Love." A fine conclusion to a great day of music.


For those of us who arrived for the start of the Pavilion Stage show, we had the great pleasure of catching the "Rising Star" Gretchen Parlato. Ms. Parlato is an innovative vocalist who has established her own distinct vocal style, rooted in rhythm and charm. She started her set with a cool version of Mary J. Blige's "All That I Can Say." Her show is a combination of unique covers of songs like Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years," SWV's "Weak" and stand out originals like "Still," which was co-written with her guitarist Alan Hampton. All told it was an impressive performance.

Over at the Soul Stage, Atlanta native Algebra Blessett was finishing her set which combined some amazing aerial fabric acrobatics and her hit "U Do It For Me." Up next was the dynamic Chante Moore, who took the stage by storm with a song from her forthcoming CD called "Doctor, Doctor." With a 20-year deep catalog, she put together a show combining some of her new music with reworked versions of her hits "I Wanna Love Like That" and "Precious" which she sang to a very willing young man who competed to be the object of her devotion by singing the chorus "Baby Can I Touch Your Body" from one of her new songs. The highlights were the high notes on "It's Alright" and her crowd pleasing anthem "Chante's Got a Man" which closed out her set.

Back at the Pavilion, Jazz In Pink was in full effect - an all-star, all-woman jazz ensemble. This group gave a spotlight to individual soloists including flutist Althea Rene, vocalist Lisa Deveaux and violinist Karen Briggs. Ms. Briggs in particular displayed tremendous virtuosity and imagination in her playing and received a well deserved standing ovation for her "Pastime Paradise."

Next up were legends Bob James and David Sanborn who have recently reunited to record a new CD called QUARTETTE HUMAINE. They played several selections from that recording, including the intricate James composition "Follow Me." But the best reaction came when they performed songs from their classic 1986 album DOUBLE VISION, "Maputo" and "More Than Friends." James' original "Taxi" was also a big hit with the audience.

Gerald Albright and Norman Brown, two of the most popular artists in contemporary jazz, who also recently released a collaboration called 24/7, made their Capital Jazz debut as a duo. Performing songs from this record, including "Buenos Amigos," "In The Moment," and the infectious "Champagne Life" (by Ne-yo) they proved to be the perfect early evening soundtrack for this festival audience. In addition, each had the opportunity to spotlight their individual careers, with Albright playing his hit "So Amazing" and Brown playing a rapturous "After The Storm."

Completing the evening, and the festival was the dynamo called Ledisi! She blazed the stage with a fiery "Raise Up" that got everybody on their feet from the jump. In her usual fashion, she gave a first rate show featuring her songs of empowerment and inspiration like "Bravo," "Higher Than This" and "Pieces of Me". The highlights were her biggest hits "In The Morning" and the closer, where she imparted the ultimate advice to her fans, "It's Alright." On this song, she delivered what can only be called a scat clinic, which has to be seen to be believed (see attached video playlist!). This is a woman who has come into her own as a performer and is securely lodged in the upper echelon of entertainers today. If only the curfew hadn't arrived so soon, certainly she had even more to give.

About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.

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