1. You need to book tickets. Free tickets will be available on the gallery’s website at noon one week before the scheduled concert. For example, if you want to see jazz violinist Nataly Merezhuk on opening night, you need to tune in by noon on May 13.
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2. Up to 5,000 tickets are available for each show. While that’s half the gallery’s claimed pre-pandemic average crowd size, it’s still higher than what you’ll find at most DC concert venues. Plus, while doors open at 5 p.m. and concerts start at 6 p.m., ticket holders can show up at any time during the event. Organizers expect the crowd to fluctuate throughout the evening as people come and go, so it shouldn’t feel as crowded as in previous years – but if you have a favorite spot in the grass near Roy Lichtenstein’s “House I” or around the fountain, you might want to get there early.
3. There is no waiting list or queue. You might as well decide spontaneously to take advantage of the good weather on a Friday evening.
4. It’s not just jazz in this garden. On the program, Martha Redbone, who fuses blues and Native American music (May 27); Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Daniel Ho (June 10); Bombay Rickey’s mix of Latin, Bollywood and swing psychedelia (June 17); and bluegrass band Sideline (July 22). “I think the name goes beyond the music itself and sets the stage for a lived experience for people,” says Damon Reaves, education manager at the gallery. “It gives us an opportunity to shine a light on jazz, and there’s definitely a focus in that space. But we also allow ourselves to branch out into some of these connected roots and forms, as well as other styles of music. Yet jazz remains at the heart of it all, with a concert on July 1 by the Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet one of the highlights of the entire series.
5. It will be easier to watch the band. Regulars will notice that the setup is being reconfigured, with the stage turned 180 degrees to face the fountain instead of the crowd sitting outside the cafe. Organizers say this means more people will be able to see the performers. Speaking of coffee, pop-up bars will return throughout the garden to help reduce queues.
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6. Concerts can always be canceled due to heat advisories and threats of thunderstorms. Reaves says that by moving the end of the series to July instead of stretching into August, organizers hope to have fewer weather-related cancellations. “One thing we did this time around was go back through the concert history, look at the schedule and see when we tended to see most of our weather cancellations, whether it was due to rain or excessive heat,” he says. By ending before the August heatwaves, he says, “hopefully it will get us into that nice climate and hopefully not have to deal with any cancellations.”
From May 20 to July 22. Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. nga.gov. Free. The full program is below:
Nataly Merezhuk, jazz violin
Registration opens May 13 at noon
Registration opens May 20 at noon
Pedrito Martinez, Afro-Cuban
Registration opens on May 27 at noon
Daniel Ho, new Hawaiian and contemporary instrument
Registration opens June 3 at noon
Bombay Rickey, global psychedelia
Registration opens on June 10 at noon
Caique Vidal & Batuque, Afro-Brazilian
Registration opens on June 17 at noon
Delfeayo Marsalis Sextet, funky fun
Registration opens on June 24 at noon
Althea Rene, soul-jazz flute
Registration opens July 1 at noon
Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra, jazz
Registration opens on July 8 at noon
Registration opens July 15 at noon