Chaka subs for ill Natalie at Capital Jazz Fest

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    Chaka KhanWashington/Baltimore's Premier Contemporary Jazz & Soul Event just got a little funkier and jazzier with the addition of the one and only Chaka Khan, filling in for a recuperating Natalie Cole who in May had the good fortune to receive a much-needed kidney. Ms. Cole, who will hopefully return for Capital Jazz Fest 2009, shall recuperate while Chaka dazzles the crowd with four decades of hits, a generous helping of her jazzier material, plus songs from her acclaimed double-Grammy-winning latest CD, Funk This.

    The 17th annual Capital Jazz Fest - which is nearly sold out - is happening June 5-7, 2009 in the lovely wooded setting of Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. A thrilling line-up of vibrant contemporary jazz and R&B is coming on two big stages where music is certain to materialize. The Pavilion Jazz Stage will be graced by Chaka Khan as well as S.M.V. (bass virtuosos Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten), George Duke, Al Jarreau, Lalah Hathaway, Fourplay, Norman Brown, Roy Ayers, Will Downing, Kirk Whalum, Pieces of a Dream with special guest Phil Perry, Guitars & Saxes (f/ Jeff Lorber, Euge Groove, Jeff Golub and lady saxophone newcomer Jessy J), Regina Belle, Marion Meadows and trumpeter Joey Sommerville.

    Meanwhile on The Soul Stage at Symphony Woods (a.k.a. "The Party Stage"), R&B lovers will be treated to a double dose of divas: the 20th anniversary reunion of "The Funky Divas" - all four original members of En Vogue (Terry Ellis, Cindy Heron, Maxine Jones and the returning Dawn Robinson) - as well as the soulful new all-star trio "The Underground Divas" (Maysa of Incognito, N'Dea Davenport of The Brand New Heavies and Caron Wheeler from the original Soul II Soul). Also sprinkling the smooth R&B flavor will be Peabo Bryson, Angie Stone, Rahsaan Patterson, Leela James, Gary Taylor, Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony David & Mike Phillips, singer/saxophonist Pete Belasco, English duo Swing Out Sister, and Atlanta duo Daysahead.

    Another exciting component of the festival will be the "6th Annual Capital Jazz Challenge," hosted by Natalie Case from WHUR-FM and held at the Hilton Columbia Hotel. This competition - free and open to the public - gives an aspiring contemporary jazz instrumentalist the opportunity to win $5,000 and perform at the Capital Jazz Fest.  This year's finalists are Marcus Anderson (from Durham, N.C.), Earl Johnson, Jr. (from Los Angeles), Eric Marner (from Baltimore), Michael Parlett (from Los Angeles), Skinny Williams (from Chicago) and Deon Yates (from Detroit).  Each player will perform a 15-minute set with the house band, Washington D.C.'s Phaze II (which won this competition in 2005). The winner will be selected by a panel of judges and perform again with Phaze II, this time on the festival's Pavilion Jazz Stage as the opening act on Sunday, June 7th.

    Capital Jazz Fest has become such an integral component of the Mid-Atlantic jazz community that it has spawned a spin-off. The Capital Jazz SuperCruise is now enjoying its third year in partnership with Royal Caribbean International. On-deck for "SuperCruise III" - a 7-day, full-ship charter jazz cruise from Baltimore to the Bahamas, October 10-17, 2009 - are David Sanborn, Kem, Jonathan Butler, Brian Culbertson, Hidden Beach Unwrapped Band, Candy Dulfer, Joe Sample, Rick Braun, Patti Austin, Najee, War, special jam sessions hosted by Mike Phillips, special guest comedian A.J. Jamal, special guest DJ Spinderella , plus even more to be announced!

    Tickets are still on sale for Capital Jazz Fest - "The Woodstock of Jazz Festivals (as proclaimed by smooth jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb) - and the Capital Jazz SuperCruise III, "The Jazz Vacation of a Lifetime!"