Three years ago this month, the District’s jazz scene received a true gift. The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra made its debut, giving the city its only regularly performing big band. Every Monday, 17 of the area’s most talented musicians hold court in the historic club, playing two sets of music and sometimes pulling in the occasional guest band or invited soloist. The audience, often standing-room-only, hears an eclectic book of music that includes classics by Count Basie and Duke Ellington alongside compositions by orchestra members. Not a bad deal for $10.
Pulling this off is no small feat, especially considering the previous big band that performed at the Caverns crumbled under less-than-amicable circumstances. BCJO co-directors and co-founders Brad Linde and Joe Herrera deserve a great deal of credit. First off, the gig is on an off-night, by necessity. These are working musicians, so finding a time slot between Thursday and Sunday would be all but impossible. Even on a Monday, putting together a roster of skilled musicians, and finding acceptable substitutes, takes effort. Nonetheless, a number of top-flight musicians such as Elijah Jamal Balbed, Sarah Hughes, Shannon Gunn and Brent Birckhead appear regularly with the band, despite the fact that it’s not a big money-maker.
“In a very short time, the BCJO has become like a family and an institution for those that come to listen and to play,” Linde said. “That means so much, to have everyone want to show up and play together each week, to work on our group sound, our reading, and to enjoy improvising and exploring new music together.” Continue reading →
The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, D.C.’s only resident big band, has been around for two-and-a-half years now; it’s good to see they’ve released their first album. But a Christmas record? Usually that’s comes later, as a way to cash in after you’ve used your first few CDs to establish a sound and an identity.
Selected as one of five discs on “CapitalBop’s Best Albums of 2012: Honorable Mention.” Click to view the full list.
But wait – in a lot of ways, it makes sense. The BCJO already has the reputation. It’s based on their live show, a reliable caffeine pill most every Monday night of the year. If you’re a District-area jazz fan, it’s stands to reason you’ve probably already heard this band, gotten to know it, enjoyed it. Plus, this is the third year that the orchestra has folded Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Nutcracker Suite” – plus other Christmas fare – into its December repertoire. It’s a sort of specialty product for them by now, and they know this material inside out. Continue reading →
Another month, another lofty locale for CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft. This time we’re back in the U Street Corridor, at the popular restaurant and bar Marvin on 14th Street. We’ll be presenting three bands upstairs in the new, cozy lounge area.
The space has a full bar and great acoustics. And most importantly, some amazing talent will hit the (makeshift) stage. We’re featuring two of the area’s top guitarists, and a fabulous bassist who just released a debut CD featuring some of the world’s best musicians. If you don’t know the names of the performers below, this is your chance to get hip to a handful of D.C.’s most adventurous rising talents.
As usual, we suggest a $15 donation to the musicians, but no one will be turned away if they can’t give that much. Come out and support this fiery music, before things get too cold to do anything but hibernate.
The bassist Blake Meister has for years been one of the strongest sidemen on the D.C. and Baltimore scenes, supporting a range of musicians from the Jolley Brothers to Warren Wolf. But it wasn’t until his debut album, Septagon, arrived earlier this year that we recognized his subtle kinetics as a composer. His songs have wit, soul and an organic-sounding complexity that only a master can pull off. And it doesn’t hurt that the backing band includes some of the world’s greatest musicians, including Gary Thomas on saxophone, Ralph Peterson on drums and Marc Copland on piano. Meister, who was recently named a faculty member at the prestigious Peabody Institute, will lead a combo at the loft.
I very clearly remember the moment – it happened during my sophomore year of college – when I decided not to pursue music as a full-time career. I was a biochemistry majorat the University of Maryland, but spent most of my spare time rehearsing with bands or in the practice rooms. One afternoon, after a jam session with some friends, I spent the rest of the day contemplating changing my major to music. By the time I went to bed that night, my decision was made, and I never revisited my choice: to have a more traditional 9-to-5 lifestyle while feeding my music habit during evenings and weekends.
I don’t regret that decision. But one can’t help contemplating the road not traveled, which has led me to thinking about the role of part-time musicians within the jazz community (to clarify: I consider musicians who teach during the day to be full-time, working players). The District has a rich artistic history, especially with respect to jazz, but so many of the musicians here are day giggers like me. To explore the issue further, I approached two friends who both are also in their 30s, and for whom I have the utmost respect as musicians. They come from similar backgrounds, having received a formal music education in college, but their professional lives differ greatly. In my interviews with them, I hoped to compare their experiences with mine while drawing out some broader themes about this intensely personal choice. Continue reading →
Before Christmas arrives on Sunday, you’ll have a chance to check out a handful of exciting shows from rarely seen local talent. Look to Blues Alley’s Christmas Eve gig featuring post-bop dynamic duo Rodney Richardson and Joe Herrera, or Twins Jazz’s show that night highlighting young gun Aaron Seeber. Both Friday and Saturday, the masterful and multifaceted Young Lions play at Bohemian Caverns. Find details on these performances and many more in this week’s edition of “Weekend in Jazz,” a listing of every D.C. jazz show on our radar. Our favorites have a label, and as always, you can read CapitalBop’s full listings directly at our D.C. jazz calendar, if you’d rather. Happy hunting!
Eric Byrd & the Brother Ray Band, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | It’s one of Washington’s greatest weekly traditions: Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Jazz Night.” And this week, as is often the case, an all-star band of local straight-ahead musicians is set to perform. Pianist Eric Byrd leads the so-called Brother Ray Band here in what’s sure to be a soul- and gospel-heavy jazz celebration. The rest of the band includes leading local saxophonists Paul Carr on tenor and Lyle Link on alto, as well as Chris Watling on baritone sax, Brad Clements on trumpet, Frank McCreary on guitar, Bhagwan Khalsa on bass and Alphonso Young, Jr. on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church websiteContinue reading →
Given Lena Seikaly’s firm grounding in harmony and composition, it’s no surprise that a musician sharing the bandstand with her once remarked on a harmonic progression she’d written: “Man, those are some lovely changes!” The phrase struck a chord and emerged as the title of her second recording.
On Seikaly’s new album, her second, there are Lovely Changes in more ways than one. The album presents a constantly shifting harmonic and rhythmic landscape in which familiar jazz classics by Cole Porter, Frank Loesser and Jerome Kern co-exist alongside Seikaly originals and unexpected arrangements of more contemporary songs by Elliot Smith, Brian Wilson and Amie Mann; a touch of 1967 Antonio Carlos Jobim bridges the gap. Seikaly’s cool, classic jazz voice breathes a cohesive beauty into the recording, the release of which she celebrates with a show this Sunday at Blues Alley. Her vocals are complemented by the savvy arrangements and sensitive musicianship that she and her band mates put forward; the group is comprised of Dan Roberts on piano, Tom Baldwin on bass and Dominic Smith on drums.
The opening ballad, “Amateur,” written by the rock musician Amie Mann, emerges as a swing waltz. With a slow tempo and sophisticated, world-worn lyric, the song could easily have been a Burt Bacharach/Dionne Warwick classic. Next, the brooding ballad, “Memento,” an original composition by Seikaly, takes us to an earlier era with the tenor sax of Elijah Jamal Balbed providing an appropriate after-hours ambience. Continue reading →
Our mission with CapitalBop has always been to build something new – a wider jazz audience, a scene where musicians have more places to play that encourage innovation – while drawing on the traditions of this legendary jazz town that is D.C.
That’s why we’re especially excited to announce our concert at Bayou on Friday, Apr. 22, featuring the U St. All-Stars.
Dig this: Any jazzbo who was in D.C. during the 1980s and ’90s will tell you the One Step Down was the place to be. National stars came through on weekends to play at the Pennsylvania Ave. club, and on weeknights local legends like Lawrence Wheatley led jam sessions. The spot had a jukebox stacked with the great hard-bop recordings – tunes by Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Pianist George Colligan recalls that in D.C., “the One Step was the REAL jazz club.” Continue reading →
Bohemian Caverns, left, is restarting its late-night "Hang" series, while Twins Jazz is losing the Sunday Jazz Lounge – for now. Giovanni Russonello/CapitalBop
by Giovanni Russonello
Why not keep a good thing going? And with a good idea that didn’t quite pan out, why not give it one more try?
As to the first point, guitarist Rodney Richardson and trumpeter Joe Herrera have decided to extend their Sunday Jazz Lounge indefinitely. This is great news, as the duo has found a groove with the simultaneously laid-back and innovation-oriented series. In terms of the second, Bohemian Caverns is re-launching its late-night “The Hang” series this Saturday.
The Sunday Jazz Lounge started up at the beginning of March and every week has drawn increasingly strong crowds to Twins Jazz. So if the next few Sundays at Twins are booked up by other acts, the duo isn’t about to let that limit them. Continue reading →
Saxophonist Charles McPherson visits Bohemian Caverns this weekend. Courtesy Ed Newman
by Giovanni Russonello
Welcome to this week’s installation of “Weekend in Jazz,” our list of every D.C. jazz show on our radar. Saxophonist Charles McPherson, a lesser-known legend who contributed mightily to some of Charles Mingus’ classic albums, is at Bohemian Caverns this weekend. We’ve also got a series of exciting shows at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and the debut of the Sunday Jazz Lounge at Twins Jazz. These and the rest of our favorite shows have a label. As always, you can read CapitalBop’s full listings directly at our monthly calendar, if you’d rather. Happy hunting! (Correction: This paragraph contained outdated information, and has been edited from its original form.)
FRIDAY, MAR. 4
Andrea Wood, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m.
Charles McPherson, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
Michael Thomas Quintet, Twins Jazz, 9 & 11 p.m.
Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
Collector’s Edition with Kristine Key, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6:30 p.m. | Trumpeter DeAndrey Howard leads his hard-bop group, Collector’s Edition, every Friday night late at Utopia. But this weekend, he’s bringing the band to Westminster Presbyterian for the church’s famous, weekly “Jazz Night.” Collector’s Edition is joined on this engagement by Kristine Key, a delicate-voiced and plaintive – but soulful – singer. The instrumentalists include Howard, Elijah Jamal Balbed on tenor saxophone, Vince Smith on piano, Emory Diggs on bass and Terrance Arnett on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website
Trumpeter Joe Herrera and guitarist Rodney Richardson have organized a Sunday Jazz Lounge series at Twins. Giovanni Russonello/CapitalBop
by Giovanni Russonello
Last night at Twins Jazz, the inaugural show in Amy K. Bormet’sWashington Women in Jazz Festival went off without so much as a hiccup. The righteous get-together highlighted some of the area’s all-too-underappreciated female musicians. It also packed the club full of musicians, critics and jazz fans.
The jollity was all the more impressive because at Twins, finding both straight-ahead jazz and a robust audience on a Wednesday night is rare. Very rare.
The same goes for Sunday nights at the club. But here to solve that problem are trumpeter Joe Herrera and guitarist Rodney Richardson, galloping in with a novel concept: the Sunday Jazz Lounge. They hope it will generate a buzz, a following and a bunch of creative energy. Continue reading →