Through Cats’ Eyes: D.C.’s jazz scene from the lens of drummer Keith Butler

Editor’s note: There is a long tradition of jazz musicians who double as serious photographers. As dual practitioners, these artists – including legends like Milt Hinton, Oscar Peterson and Sy Johnson – capture a cultural history of jazz music from up close. They convey the intimacy of someone living the same experiences as their subjects. They also serve as proof that artists can and often do chart multiple paths for self-expression.

In the D.C. area, we are blessed with a number of musicians who share the drive to thoughtfully document the moments around them through the lens, contextualizing the experiences and emotions that make up the often-grueling life of a contemporary creative musician in the mid-Atlantic area.

Today CapitalBop is excited to be debuting Through Cats’ Eyes, a recurring series highlighting recently taken photographs from the various musician photographers within our own community. Our aim is to provide a look at what has made the scene tick over the past few months, while adding more musicians’ perspectives to our archive of the ever-evolving state of our region’s music scene.

Keith Butler is a drummer, composer, photographer and magazine editor living and working in Washington, D.C. As both a bandleader and accompanist, he provides a sense of both lushness and care in all his music, while drawing deeply from his roots in North Carolina. Butler’s artistic direction is portrayed in the 14 images here, which reflect a life both busy and reflective, full of bustle, pause, interaction and introspection.

All photographs by Keith Butler, for CapitalBop.

Person with saxophone sits on a blue couch
Bobby Muncy at SaltmanKnowles rehearsal, Oct. 2, 2022.
Person with guitar sits in front of a back-lit orange wall
Nelson Dougherty at a Sea Change rehearsal, Aug. 30, 2022.
double bass leans against a white wall next to a music stand
Steve Arnold’s bass resting during a break, Aug. 30, 2022.
a drummer and bassist play in front of a white-washed brick wall
Dana Hawkins & Michael Bowie at St. Vincent Wine, early August 2022.
A drummer and guitarist play in front of three boarded up windows
Hannah Marks and Connor Parks at Rhizome, June 2, 2022.
A clarinetist plays in front of red curtains
Matt Rynes at Birkfest 2022 in Baltimore, Md., Aug. 14, 2022.
A sewing machine sits beneath a wall of thread and a florescent light
Cambridge Cleaners, September 2022. Keith Butler writes: “This cleaners is near the roastery where I work during the day. I thought the lady’s set up was so hip. Clean and analog!”
Clothes hang from a shower-curtain-rod next to some shower curtains.
Butler’s bathroom drying rack, September 2022. “I was working on capturing moments and objects at home. I chuckle a little bit every time I use the shower as a drying rack.”
A woman smiles next to a sign that says "New Apartments Coming Soon"
Krystal Butler, June 2022. “Krystal as we were on the way to the movie theater. One of my first shots on film.”
A group of people on the street looking at the same thing; a girl with a helmet on gives a thumbs up.
Kid giving thumbs up at Arts and Ales Fest, Sep. 17, 2022. “Struggle Magazine had a table set up at Hyattsville Arts and Ales Fest, and I caught this little kid mid-thumbs up.”
Light comes in from the upper windows of a church
After a christening, Sep. 18, 2022. “St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church after Sidney’s christening. Sidney is Nelson Dougherty’s little boy.”
Two children sit in a field with their backs to the camera, picking grass
Riya and her friend, Sep. 18, 2022. “Riya is the little sister of one of my drum students. Their mom invited me to the student’s baseball game and I was able to capture this cool moment with the sister and her new friend. They were plucking blades of grass.”
A drum set sits in front of a white wall next to a tall speaker
Rhizome’s drum kit before a performance, Aug. 10, 2022. “I took this photo to practice with flash. This is also my favorite drum set in town. It happened just before a duo set with Aperture Priority (featuring myself and Brian Settles).”



About Abram Mamet

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Abram Mamet, CapitalBop's assistant editor, is a musician and writer living in Mt. Rainier, MD. You can hear him on French horn leading a jam session every Wednesday at metrobar in NE D.C.

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