Last night at Twins Jazz, the inaugural show in Amy K. Bormet’s Washington Women in Jazz Festival went off without so much as a hiccup. The righteous get-together highlighted some of the area’s all-too-underappreciated female musicians. It also packed the club full of musicians, critics and jazz fans.
The jollity was all the more impressive because at Twins, finding both straight-ahead jazz and a robust audience on a Wednesday night is rare. Very rare.
The same goes for Sunday nights at the club. But here to solve that problem are trumpeter Joe Herrera and guitarist Rodney Richardson, galloping in with a novel concept: the Sunday Jazz Lounge. They hope it will generate a buzz, a following and a bunch of creative energy.
The lounge, which boasts a very un-Twins admission price of just $5, kicks off this weekend. The series is set to continue on each of the four Sundays in March, but if it catches, Richardson and Herrera might make it a regular gig. They’re considering expanding it to other venues.
Here’s the lowdown: There’s no spot on U Street that hosts a dependable, Sunday-night jazz “hang.” Besides, as Richardson and Herrera wrote to me in an email, “D.C. is in need of more venues where you know on at least one night a week there is going to be a hang, a steady band.” The Sunday Jazz Lounge kills those two birds with one stone.
But that’s not the half of it. The real crux of this idea is to bolster the creativity and originality of D.C. jazz. That’s the mission statement, and these two buddies – both of whom are members of the venerable Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra – have the plans to back it up.
Each show will begin with a short solo set from a guest musician. Solo, as in, one person standing up there onstage, performing alone. And we’re not talking some piano player running through jazz standards while you eat your food and ignore him. The musicians will range from a violinist to a trumpeter to a saxophonist to a vocalist singing a capella. And there’ll be an emphasis on having them play original music.
Each solo set will present “an intriguing challenge to the performer who may or may not be accustomed to solo performance,” Richardson and Herrera said. “It’s an opportunity for the listener to experience the artists on a more intimate level. We believe it will be a great way to kick off an evening of jazz.”
From there, Richardson and Herrera’s quartet will take over. The group, which features experts Eric Harper on bass and Dave McDonald on drums, will play compositions by the bandleaders and lesser-known hard-bop numbers that are rarely called from the bandstand.
All in all, this is a concept to be reckoned with. As Herrera and Richardson told me, “This event is simply falling in line with the current upwelling of jazz in D.C. There is a lot of great music being made and D.C. audiences are asking for more. This is our attempt to feed that hunger.”
The inaugural Sunday Jazz Lounge is this Sunday. Admission is $5, plus a $10 food and drink minimum. Here are the lounge dates and scheduled soloists: March 6, violinist Matvei Sigalov; March 13, trumpeter Donvonte McCoy; March 20, saxophonist Brian Settles; March 27, vocalist Lena Seikaly.