by Giovanni Russonello
Over the spare backing of standup bass and conga drums, Akua Allrich was shrieking. “You’re makin’ me crazy! Can’t take it anymore! Crazy!” Her own original composition, “You Make Me Crazy” is half desperate plea, half parody of the lunacy of passion. A little later, she struck a solemn bearing, and dipped deeply into Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” a consciousness-raising tale of oppressed, tenacious women across the globe. With nothing more than a two-man rhythm section and the occasional solo from saxophonist Brian Settles, Allrich led the audience through a labyrinth of styles and emotions, earning an overjoyed ovation from the packed room at the end of the night.
Allrich’s set, performed with the help of the talented Kris Funn on bass and Agyei Osei Akoto Hargrove on percussion, was a metaphor for every one of CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Lofts, of which this was the seventh: On a bare-bones foundation, a range of sounds and spirits take hold. Preceding Allrich was the straight-ahead duo of bassist Herman Burney and trombonist Reginald Cyntje, playing a collection of original compositions before ending the set with a brisk take on Sonny Rollins’s “St. Thomas.” The first act was the avant-garde guitar player Anthony Pirog and his quartet, which sent a quavering, electric energy bouncing around the four walls at Red Door. Saxophonist Aaron Martin and trumpeter Ben Frock slid into spontaneous harmonies while Pirog’s full-fisted chords shuddered under the shifting effects of his pedals.
CapitalBop staff photographer Carlyle V. Smith was on hand to capture the vibe visually.
More of Carlyle V. Smith’s work can be seen at soulfotography.com.