Two of D.C.’s greatest improvising talents at the DC Jazz Loft in January: Janel Leppin and Brian Settles

Last month’s comeback DC Jazz Loft was somethin’ else. (Apologies to Cannonball Adderley.) A packed room heard improvisers from scenes across the District — young lions and veterans alike — collectively creating, in the moment. And the results were fantastic. Anything goes at the loft, as we heard: There were wailing free improvisations, whispery communications between pairs of improvisers, and hard-hitting, deep-groove reinventions of jazz standards.

We’re keeping that momentum going this month, presenting two of D.C.’s most impressive improvisers leading bands of their own: tenor saxophonist Brian Settles and cellist Janel Leppin. If you’re familiar with CapitalBop, you’re familiar with these two. By now they’re widely known as important voices on their respective instruments, not only in D.C. but increasingly internationally.

On Sunday, Jan. 13, at Rhizome DC, Settles and Leppin will each lead bands. Then they’ll combine their ensembles in a series of rotating exchanges.

Leppin is one of the District’s finest bandleaders, harnessing a nuanced sensibility for both composition and improvisation that produces restless, complex sonic textures ranging from lush and beautiful to sharp and arresting. She’s widely respected in the DMV for her work leading her ensemble Volcanic Ash, and as half of the power duo Janel and Anthony (with guitarist Anthony Pirog).

Settles brings the same innovative bent to the jazz realm with his intense, deeply resonant sound on the tenor saxophone — a style that is at once heavenly and terrestrial, fey but familiar. He’s a member of internationally renowned ensembles led by Jonathan Finlayson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara and others.

Don’t miss this loft.

Like last time, things get going at 7 p.m. at Rhizome DC, right off the Takoma Metro stop. There are no tickets — just donations collected at the door, 100 percent of which go to the performing artists. The event is all-ages. And all musicians who come out are encouraged to bring their instruments; the night will end in an open jam, and anything can happen at the loft.


In case you’re new to the Loft’s long saga:

In 2010, CapitalBop founders Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart put on the first DC Jazz Loft at Red Door, an artist-run studio space tucked in an alley just north of Chinatown. As more artists joined in and audiences grew, the loft became not just a jazz show, but a reliable facet of the D.C. arts scene at large. Red Door was eventually demolished to make way for new construction (oh, D.C.) and the loft bounced around to other venues before landing at Union Arts in 2013, where it stayed for three years before again meeting its end at the hands of developers.

Part of the problem was that the CapitalBop team wasn’t sure where to take the loft after that. We couldn’t find a place that would allow us to maintain the spirit of insurgency and liberated expression that was so important to these shows. But now, D.C. again has such a place: Rhizome DC is a collectively run space in Takoma that has become a haven for creative artists of all stripes.

Thanks to Rhizome, the DC Jazz Loft has a home again, and it’s here to stay.

Want to give before you go? Make your donations to the artists below, online!


For a trip down memory lane and a preview of what’s to come, here’s Brian Settles playing at one of our early DC Jazz Lofts:



About Jamie Sandel

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Jamie is an organizer, musician and multimedia creative. He is a native of Silver Spring, MD, and returned to the D.C. area in 2018 after some time in Massachusetts, where he assisted the Amherst College Concert Office and the Amherst Symphony Orchestra. He graduated with a degree in music from Amherst College. Reach Jamie at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wjsandel.

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