Publication: DCist 
Author: Sriram Gopal
Date: June 10, 2011
Jazz on the National Mall, taking place on Sunday, is the DC Jazz Festival’s showcase event. The concert was left out of last year’s program due to budget shortfalls caused by the recent economic downturn, but two years ago the festival held a two-day affair featuring musicians from New Orleans which drew 80,000 people. This year’s show is limited to a single day, but nonetheless features an all-star lineup, including Toby Foyeh & Orchestra Africa, Frédéric Yonnet, Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor, headliner Eddie Palmieri’s All-Star Salsa Orchestra and rising Latin jazz vocalist Claudia Acuña.
“You get a chance to hang out with artists you admire and respect. I love that part of it,” Acuña said of playing festivals like this. “And there’s always a great energy and everyone’s so sweet.”
Acuña’s career has reached the point where she performs regularly in front of large audiences, such as the one that will likely be hearing her on Sunday. However, she does not alter her approach, whether she is performing on a large outdoor stage or in a small club.
“I try to put my mind and energy more in the performance than in the room,” Acuña said. “The intimacy of a small club is very different from and open space with many people, but it’s amazing the intimacy you can create in an open space.”
A native of Chile, Acuña started to pursue jazz after seeing Dizzy Gillespie perform, thinking that if he could play Latin music, she would be able to bring her sensibilities to jazz. She made the move to New York in the mid-1990s, where her talent led to regular gigs at clubs like Smalls and Zinc Bar. She released her first album in 2000 and put out four more over the next several years, with the latest being 2009’s En Este Momento. Citing her recent step into motherhood as a major source of inspiration, Acuña is working on a new recording for which she is, for the first time, bringing in an outside producer to help create a shift in her sound.
“The past three records have been like Harry Potter 1, Harry Potter 2 and Harry Potter 3,” Acuña explained. “This record will bring a different shape and approach. It’s like going to a salon to get a new haircut.”
Acuña will be leading a quintet on Sunday that will include her regular bassist and guitarist, Mark Kelley and Juancho Herrera. The band will also feature pianist Marc Cary and drummer Daniel Freedman. Acuña’s set will draw heavily from her most recent album, but will also include some older songs and unrecorded material.
“Artistically, I’m revisting projects I’ve done before so that I can do a collage of the journey up until now,” she said.