by Giovanni Russonello
This past Sunday, Sep. 11, while the nation honored a sorrowful anniversary, CapitalBop was celebrating a landmark of our own. That day, as we hosted another of our D.C. Jazz Lofts at Red Door, this website was turning one year old.
Over the past year, we’ve watched a lot of encouraging occurrences on the D.C. jazz scene; while we mourned the closing of one club that was crucial to the resurgence of jazz in this city, we also saw two other promising venues open, in Black Fox Lounge and Bayou.
D.C.’s only resident big band, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, came into its own in the past 12 months, as did Bohemian, which now books the nation’s top acts when it’s not spotlighting formidable District-area talent. The club also reinstated the Hang jam session late every Saturday night. Twins Jazz has opened itself up to innovative, artist-originated programming, from the splendid but short-lived Sunday Jazz Lounge to the current series of Lyle Link Tuesdays.
HR-57 survived a move to the other side of town, and it seems to be thriving in its new location on H Street NE. Also along that corridor, the Atlas Performing Arts Center made its firmest commitment to jazz yet by announcing the Jazz at the Atlas series, which kicks off tomorrow.
Early on, we sensed that we could be doing more than just writing articles and compiling the D.C. jazz calendar in order to fulfill our mission to promote the enjoyment of jazz in this town. On Dec. 5, we embarked on an underground journey one floor up at the Red Door, bringing together five talented acts that all possessed only a tangential relationship to each other’s styles. The blend of audience members and musicians in that ruddy Chinatown studio for our first D.C. Jazz Loft was mesmerizing.
Since then, we have compiled what the Washington City Paper is calling “CapitalBop’s ongoing winning streak,” a concatenation of jazz lofts that included our four-show D.C. Jazz Loft Series at the DC Jazz Festival. At those shows, all of which featured burning music and some of which sweltered under the oppressive hand of the mid-June heatwave, we paired local musicians and national acts. In the process, we demonstrated that the differences in geographical origin or style outweighed those in the level of musicianship.
Aside from the lofts, we have partnered with other venues to bring jazz into neighborhoods where the music is scarce. Both our U St. All-Stars show at Bayou and the hip-hop-infused Herb Spice & Cinnamonstix performance at Acre 121 were major successes. There will surely be more such programming to come.
As this past Sunday’s loft underlined, there is an abundance of far-ranging musical thought in this town, and there are so many listeners (both young and not so young) who are eager to stretch their minds and feed their souls with the improvised sounds of jazz. One year in, we couldn’t be more excited about our job: working to bring those two pieces together.