News | Petworth Jazz Project kicks off new series of free monthly concerts

by Giovanni Russonello
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The Petworth and Brightwood area hasn’t had much live jazz to speak of since Twins Lounge departed a few years back. All it took to change that was one man’s stroll past the Petworth Recreation Center on 8th Street NW, the spark of an idea, and about six months’ worth of planning and organizing.

And voilà: The Petworth Jazz Project is in full swing. The exciting new venture, which features one show a month through the end of the summer, debuted this past Saturday at the rec center’s public park. A strong audience turned out to hear D.C.’s No. 1 hip-cat trumpeter Donvonte McCoy and his quartet pay tribute to history’s No. 1 hip-cat trumpeter, Miles Davis (who would have turned 85 yesterday). Specifically, the band focused on the funk-fusion of Davis’ electric period.

Thomas Pipkin, the man with the plan that started it all, is a Petworth resident and sometime drummer. He says the idea behind this series is “very simple really.” Pipkin explained via email: “To me, free outdoor music, as the sun sets, is one of the better things in life. The lawn at the corner of 8th and Taylor St. is a perfect setting for this kind of event.”

The Unknown deejays on Saturday. Courtesy Antoine Marcus

So he put in a few calls, enlisted Bohemian Caverns co-owner Omrao Brown to help with the booking, applied to D.C. for a permit and sought out some grant money. The Awesome Foundation, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4C and a handful of other organizations offered assistance, allowing the PJP to sign up top-notch local bands and a DJ (Richard Patterson, a.k.a. the Unknown) to spin records between the sets. Not to mention offering free blankets to audience members. That way, Pipkin says, “any passerby can just walk up and grab a piece of real estate. This makes it more welcoming.”

Pipkin, who’s not making any money off the operation, hasn’t quite arrived at the $4500 he needs to make sure the project lands in the black by the end of September. But he’s not worried. In addition to seeking out further grants, Pipkin is selling PJP t-shirts for $20 apiece (check out the slick design on DJ Unknown above), and he’s recording the concerts so that he can sell a best-of compilation at the end of the season.

There’s always Jazz in the Garden, but it can be near impossible to get a seat — let alone hear the music clearly. So are we ready to coronate the PJP as D.C.’s new leader in outdoor jazz programming?

Here’s a schedule of the rest of this year’s Saturday-evening performances:

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  1. Word…nice coverage. Look forward to hitting up one of these events, I’m sure they are on time, and snagging one of those dope shirts.

    Nate Lewis /

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