Guitarist and vocalist Jose Ramirez performs a style of modern blues that weds the kind of croon of ’90s R&B slow jams to rocking electric blues guitar work.
Steve Arnold is at the very start of his career, but he’s already a go-to sideman for many prominent leaders in the District. His original compositions suggest stories set in the open fields of his native Western Massachusetts, told through the complex language of modern jazz.
Vocalist Heidi Martin is one of D.C.’s treasures: She emits messages complex but clear, with an essence of mourning and resilience that hints at Billie Holiday and a quavering force not unlike Joni Mitchell’s. But as a poet, she’s most closely linked to Abbey Lincoln, that vocalist and composer whose ear was always turned toward the acridity of injustice—not just its effects, but the ways we push it aside by drilling down.
Guitarist James Benson leads a quartet mixing mid-century jazz, bossa nova and funk, often with the help of a guest vocalist.
While there are many formal and informal jams in and around the Beltway every week, the D.C. jazz jam is the flagship event for the city’s jazz scene. Organized by drummer Will Stephens, the jam becomes a hangout and classroom for cats of all levels of experience; anyone and everyone who plays jazz in the area passes through this Sunday bar-room bash.
Longtime Columbia Station house pianist Peter Edelman leads a straight-ahead jazz trio, which often expands into a larger band featuring horn players and guitarists. All musicians and vocalists are welcome to sit in an bring their favorites to the jam.
Every week at Petworth’s Homestead, the genre-blurring guitarist Dave Manley seeks to mix together people from various pockets of the D.C. music scene. Both those sitting in and the house band (which changes weekly) regularly include the D.C. scene’s most in-demand players.
Bee Boisseau performs a groove-based kind of jazz that often falls on the smooth side of things but the group can also veer into grooving electro-funk a la the Head Hunters. He sometimes devotes sets to reworkings of Coltrane and and other acoustic jazz titans in this funkier format. He holds forth at “The Stew” jam session Monday nights at Bin 1301.
Saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed was born and raised in Silver Spring and is a consummate student of the D.C. music scene: He’s equally comfortable blowing some burnished, buoyant hard-bop as he is grooving in the pocket of a go-go band. He can often be found leading groups of some of the other younger statesman of D.C. jazz through originals and standards that swing just right.
He hosts a jazz jam at Chi Cha Lounge on Mondays, welcoming musicians of all stripes on the bandstand.