DC Jazz Loft Series photo recap: When old meets new, fresh sounds emerge

CapitalBop’s DC Jazz Loft Series at the DC Jazz Festival was the old meeting the new—and on each of its three mind-bending nights, freshness and experimentation were the end result. Things got going on Thursday with a Three-Piano Cutting Contest, featuring some of the music’s greatest: Orrin Evans, Lafayette Gilchrist and Allyn Johnson. The cutting contest has a storied history in jazz, but it hasn’t enjoyed much of a life since the mid-20th century. This show, which was more of a collective invention than a sparring match, updated the all-piano format for the present day. Held at the Union Arts loft, things got started with all three pianists tinkling a soft drizzle of high notes onto the keyboard, feeling their way — three people working together to get the lantern lit — and the night ended with a burning workout: a couple dazzling, swinging solos brought the climax before one pianist threw up his hands in good-natured resignation.

The next evening, Marc Cary’s Rhodes Ahead, Butcher Brown and the Braxton Cook Quartet played to a relaxed but energized audience at the Atlantic Plumbing parking lot, just off U Street. On a perfectly crisp summer evening, with delicious food and drink provided by Union Kitchen, you could see conversations starting up spontaneously, and new fans being made during each band’s set. On the final night, Tarus Mateen’s fabulous new band, West Afro East, performed an opening set for Matana Roberts’ COIN COIN, which was making its D.C. debut. Playing to an enraptured crowd at the intimate Fridge art gallery in Barracks Row, both bands mined wells of folklore and healing traditions to make stirring, upward-circling wreaths of sound. The City Paper’s Michael J. West called Roberts’ set “perhaps the best thing in the festival.”

Photos of all the shows are below, courtesy of CapitalBop contributors Paul Bothwell and Jati Lindsay. And don’t forget that CapitalBop’s outside-the-box programming continues year-round. Our D.C. Jazz Lofts at Union Arts are always on the second Sunday of the month, so mark your calendar for July 13.

Three-Piano Cutting Contest at Union Arts, June 26

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Lafayette Gilchrist, Orrin Evans & Allyn Johnson. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

Lafayette Gilchrist. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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The audience applauds as the first set comes to an end at the Cutting Contest. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Allyn Johnson. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Orrin Evans, left, takes a solo while keeping both ears open to the maestros beside him. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Lafayette Gilchrist and Orrin Evans embrace after the final notes of the Cutting Contest. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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The three contestants chat after the performance. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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At Union Arts, all the cutting was cordial. Here Allyn Johnson welcomes a fellow pianist to the stage. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Orrin Evans. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Lafayette Gichrist. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Allyn Johnson and Lafayette Gilchrist. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Orrin Evans, Allyn Johnson & Lafayette Gilchrist. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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One of the three pianos at the contest, freshly tuned. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

Block Party at the Jazz Lot, June 27

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Marcus Tenney performs with Butcher Brown. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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CapitalBop’s luke Stewart, left, and Giovanni Russonello welcome the crowd to the Block Party. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Marc Cary prepares for his late-night set. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Marc Cary. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Brian Settles sits in with Marc Cary’s Rhodes Ahead. Jati Lindsay/CapitalBop

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Marc Cary. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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The percussionist Sameer Gupta prepares his tabla before Rhodes Ahead’s set. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Marcus Tenney. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Zach Brown of the Braxton Cook Quartet. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Braxton Cook. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Braxton Cook. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Samora Pinderhughes, left, takes a solo during the Braxton Cook Quartet’s performance. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Butcher Brown. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

Concert at the Fridge, June 28

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Tarus Mateen, left, and Pete Muldoon perform with West Afro East, Mateen’s new combo. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Pete Muldoon. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Uasuf Gueye. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Tarus Mateen. Paul Bothwell/CapitalBop

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Giovanni Russonello

About Giovanni Russonello

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Giovanni is the founder of CapitalBop, and a music critic for the New York Times. He previously served as a contributor to the Washington Post, the FADER, JazzTimes, NPR Music and others, and hosted “On the Margin,” a books show on WPFW-FM. As head of CapitalBop, he has covered the D.C. jazz scene since 2010. (He is no longer directly involved in the presenting of CapitalBop's concerts.) He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at editor@capitalbop.com. Read him at giovannirussonello.com or nytimes.com/by/giovanni-russonello. Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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