After a series of shows last month presented in conjunction with the DC Jazz Festival, CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft returned to its roots at Red Door on Sunday evening, offering a program of the District’s top guns doing what they do best: communal invention.
This time, instead of the compact rehearsal studio used in previous lofts, the show was presented in Red Door’s larger, more accommodating common space. The audience had more room to relax, and the musicians performed on a makeshift stage in front of a pair of iconic French red doors, providing some great photo opportunities for CapitalBop’s official sharpshooter, Carlyle V. Smith. Some samples are below.
The Jolley Brothers, drummer Nate and pianist Noble, opened the performance with their own unique brand of jazz, fusing straight-ahead stylings with hip-hop and instrumental soul. Their music lured the crowd, which grew exponentially during their set. Heavyweight D.C. jazz musicians such as bassist Michael Bowie peeked in briefly, attracted by the chance to see their former students – now peers – perform in the intimate, throwback space. By the time the Jolleys’ set ended, the room was full of fans and musicians, all eager to hear what the night would bring.
The Reginald Cyntje Group stepped up next, rife with some of D.C.’s most creative jazz musicians – each sporting his own unique musical focus. On bass was Herman Burney, fresh from his own new release as a leader.
On drums was Amin Gumbs, and on steel pan Victor Provost. Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, trombonist Cyntje projected his strong vision and Caribbean identity through the music. This group’s performance was unlike any the loft had heard before. The set took on the persona of a man reaching back to his roots, then moving forward and presenting a new creative statement; all of Cyntje’s original tunes were strung seamlessly together. The first featured a strong, second-line backbeat, immediately setting the tone of an island Carnival. Suddenly, the ensemble flowed into a tune featuring the ferocious West African rhythm so prominent in many jazz tunes. All of a sudden, the iconic Nyabinghi groove of the Caribbean was set, with its upbeat skank handled by the steel pan. From New Orleans and the Caribbean to Africa and back again, the set put forth an intense musical statement. Cyntje’s debut album as a leader is due next month, and I personally cannot wait for its formal release.
Stalwart saxophonist Brian Settles returned to the loft for the evening’s third set: the D.C. premier of his duo with longtime friend and drummer Jeremy Carlstedt. By this time, some of the audience had departed, but the vibe was still thick – not only with July’s heat and humidity, but with anticipation to hear what Settles would do next. With each of his D.C. Jazz Loft performances, he has offered something different, from the premier of his District-based trio in February to a chilling solo performance in April. Settles surprised the audience once again with a furious set, mixing intense and subtle free improvisation with meticulous compositions. He and Carlstedt have clearly played together a great deal, if never in the nation’s capital. The night ended with a set by … you. Settles led an open free jazz jam, the first time the loft’s signature closing jam session has been unequivocally free of formula.
As Settles noted, the night was special for a number of reasons. It marked the birthdays of both Carlstedt and Red Door veteran Amy K. Bormet, not to mention trumpet legend Lee Morgan. It was also the birthday of Settels and Carlstedt’s mentor, the late saxophonist Arnie Lawrence,who founded the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City and instructed an entire generation of creative musicians.
Sunday also marked the launch of the D.C. Jazz Loft as a monthly occurrence; from here on out, it will be presented every second Sunday. Settles will be back next month to lead another free jazz jam – what we at CapitalBop hope will become a long-running tradition.
July’s loft was a momentous occasion indeed. Aside from the beginnings mentioned above, it marked the continuation of what has been a year of forward-bounding growth in D.C.’s creative music community. The destination? Out, and upward.