Photos | Searing combos and a stunning solo set at the third D.C. Jazz Loft

At the D.C. Jazz Loft's night-capping jam, Hope Udobi, Blake Meister, Brad Linde and Allen Jones took a moment to decide on a song. Carlyle V. Smith/CapitalBop.

by Carlyle V. Smith and Giovanni Russonello
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Another jazz loft, another chance to hear a range of improvisers dive into fiery, energetic conversations. The Braxton Cook Trio, the night’s sleeper pick, started things off at Red Door on Sunday with a series of stripped-down jazz classics. The 20-year-old Cook’s alto saxophone — which few in the audience had ever heard — punched and glided over the brawny foundation of Eliot Seppa on bass and Warren “Trae” Crudup III on drums. Drummer Tiacoh Sadia’s quartet was up next. The Ivory Coast native told the audience of the first time he’d heard bebop drumming — how he had thought Art Blakey must have been five separate drummers — and proceeded to do his best to match Blakey’s intensity in long solos replete with astounding double- and triple-hits on the bass drum.

Then came Brian Settles, who had led a trio featuring Sadia at the previous loft, this time performing an unaccompanied set. He began with the horn out of his mouth, playing his soprano saxophone as a percussion instrument. He tapped the keys, and a rhythmic pattern of tones bubbled out of the horn’s body. Settles went on to explore the tonal and harmonic depths of the soprano and tenor saxophones, staying mostly free of form — but for a few points of contact with Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation” — even as his dexterity and wealth of ideas made it clear he had prepared specifically for this performance. (Settles’ first solo-sax outing came last month, at the Sunday Jazz Lounge, a gig that he said inspired a specialized practice routine.)

As usual, the night ended with a swingin’ set from the U St. All-Stars that quickly evolved into a jam. The group was whittled down to its core this time, with Hope Udobi on piano, Blake Meister on bass and Allen Jones on drums, but as usual, an arrray of cats sat in. Only musicians were left by the point — right around midnight — when the world-class bassist Tarus Mateen joined the jam. Then again, there will be other opportunities to hear him play a loft show.

The audience was so enthralled by Brian Settles' set, you could hear a pin drop – but instead his tonal and harmonic explorations filled the room.

Drummer Tiacoh Sadia, who performed at the previous loft with Settles and has played around the world, led his own quartet.

20-year-old saxophone phenom Braxton Cook led a bass-drums trio and wowed the audience with hot, lyrical renditions of standards.

As the night wore on, the U St. All-Stars' jam charged ahead. Here, pianist Hope Udobi, saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed and bassist Blake Meister play.

Photos by Carlyle V. Smith. More of Carlyle’s work can be viewed at



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