Jazz Avenues November/December Blog 2013 

…and follow @jazzavenues


by Steve Monroe


Bandleader, educator, ambassador of the music Bobby Felder

leads his big band Friday Nov. 29 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Felder, Crockett, Parker, Transparent Jazz and more on tap for music lovers

Bobby Felder’s Big Band, Antonio Parker, Alison Crockett and Julian Hipkins help swing us out of November and Lewis “Flip” Barnes helps us riff into December in upcoming highlights around the area.

Felder, the longtime area maestro, educator, bandleader and ambassador of the music who was featured at a forum at the University of the District of Columbia earlier this month, plays with his big band at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Jacques Johnson on sax, Vince Smith, piano and Michael Thomas, trumpet are only some of the top players expected to highlight the jamming sounds of Felder’s band, a bargain at twice the price (only $5 admission). Go to www.westminsterdc.org for more information on the music and the soul food menu available.

Crockett is the featured vocalist later that night, beginning at 8 p.m. in the Loews Madison Hotel Friday night jazz offering, with Chris Grasso on piano and James King, bass.


Antonio Parker plays his hot sax often at HR-57 on H Street in D.C.

Also Friday night the hot sax sounds of Antonio Parker are featured at HR-57 (www.HR57.org). Saturday night, the Nov 30th, vocalist Julian Hipkins holds forth in the Madison lounge, with Grasso on piano and Tommy Cecil, bass.  Check out the Madison’s offerings at http://www.chrisgrassomusic.com.

Sunday, Dec. 1 features Bobby Hill Jr.’s Transparent Jazz series of edgy, always forward-looking outside the box sounds, visits the restored (the venue was the victim of a car running into the building, canceling shows for a while) Bohemian Caverns with a group led by Lewis “Flip” Barnes.

Barnes, who attended Howard University and has worked with William Parker, Jemel Moodoc and Jean-Paul Bourelly, among others, brings his group, Nemesis, with Barnes, Roy Campbell, Ted Daniel and Matt Lavelle on trumpets, and Asim Barnes on guitar. See transparentproductions.org or bohemiancaverns.com for more information, or call 202-299-0800.

Also Sunday at Twins Jazz is the Anthony Pirog Trio, for more music with more than a few edges and abstract twists and turns. Heard during the DC Jazz Festival earlier this year, Pirog’s sounds, led by his often scintillating sonic wave guitar work, demand full attention. On Monday, Dec. 2, there is the Winter Big Band showcase at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. The event, at 7:30 p.m., features UMD Jazz Studies Program Director Chris Vadala conducting the UMD Jazz Ensemble, UMD Jazz Lab Band and the University Jazz Band. Go to claricesmithcenter.umd.edu or call 301-405-2787 for more information.

Other early December highlights include:

Veronneau-World –Jazz & Swing is at Bistrot Lepic & Wine Bar, 1736 Wisconsin Avenue N.W. in DC at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4, Call 202-2333-0111 for more information. The Jackie Hairston Trio with Wade Beach on piano is at Westminster Presbyterian Church Dec. 6. And the Veronneau-World-Jazz & Swing group also plays at Twins Jazz Dec. 6-7.

NPR’s “A Jazz Piano Christmas” Dec. 7 at the Kennedy Center features Andy Bey, Stanley Cowell, Sullivan Fortner and Michele Rosewoman. see www.kennedy-center.org for more information.

The UDC Annual Holiday Concert featuring the UDC Chorale, The Voices and the UDC Jazz Ensemble Is set for 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 10, a free event. See www.jazzaliveudc.org for more information.

That same night the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra with “Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite” plays at Blues Alley (www.bluesalley.com).


Our own Andrew White to be honored for his compositions Dec. 12 at the University of Maryland.

Two days later, Dec. 12, our imminent scholar and musician Andrew White is honored by having five of his compositions performed at the University of Maryland, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in a 5 p.m. event at Gilderhorn Hall. The players include Brian Perez, Roy Hakes, The University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Choir and pianist Veronica Knier. The event is free and open to the public. Go to www.claricesmithcenter.umd.edu for more information.

Ballin’ the Jack is here!

“ … in this lush life of sorrow drowned with kicks from champagne … “

…“The Great American Songbook,” by Thomas View, “Ballin’ the Jack”

It’s a fun ride, a ball, a throwback, a throw forward, connecting jazz and hip hop and jive talk and rap, and swing and scat, soul and gutbucket blues, all those things and more, that’s the dramatic new recording by The Greater U Street Jazz Collective, “Ballin’ the Jack.”

As esteemed writer and producer Bill Brower says on the liner notes:

“Lest today’s listeners be forgetful or uninformed, Ballin’ the Jack connects this great lineage of music to the very streets and venues, humble and glamorous, in which “The Great American Song Book” of life was nurtured and out of which it grew and continues to flower.”

Featuring original tunes written by Collective members Thomas View, Russell Carter, and Pete Frassrand, the group (www.greaterustreetjazzcollective.com), which has performed all over and most recently regularly at El Golfo Restaurant in Silver Spring on Wednesday evenings, is led by sax man Carter, the executive director and woodwind instructor of the DC Music Center.

Carter has a distinguished lineage of his own, having played with many luminaries in the music including  the Cab Calloway Orchestra, Doug Carn, Winard Harper, Webster Young and The O’Jays.


Enjoy this CD, from the historic rap of the opening “The Great American Song Book,” a jamming, boppish, swinging kickoff led by vocalist Ty Stephens, to Keren Sheffield’s own vocal instruction and rhythms on “Ballin’ the Jack” to the hilarious “Style Section” with its homespun, local humor, to the elegance of “Inner Thoughts” and to “The Angry Clown,” in its own appropriately ironic, the-other-side-of clowning-way a major highlight of the recording’s histrionics. It’s an inside-out look, even, at the joy and pain of the legacy of the music itself. It is all a provocative journey.

Which is all not to overlook the musicianship. Backing the history lessons and jokes and jive is some serious jamming.

Pianists Pete Frassrand and Allen Farnham tickle the ivories in swinging, bopping fashion appropriately throughout as does Carter leading the horn section mightily on tenor sax, Carl McIntyre on trumpet, Art Cobb on drums. For pure musical artistry, “Inner Thoughts” might be the hallmark, with Frassrand’s elegant pianism, Carter and McIntyre’s harmony over Thomas View’s melodic lyricisms on bass and Art Cobb’s accents on drums.

But all tracks have some worthy instrumentalism behind the “Shut your mouth!” humor.

Says Brower: “The narrative of this project is ingeniously rendered. Its compositions explore the Collective’s concerns with wit, with lyrical and musical craft, with respect for the mosaic of American music and the primary role that black vernacular styles have had in its elaboration.”

In Person … Lena Seikaly at the Madison

In the stylish setting of the Loews Madison Hotel in downtown D.C., the stylish offerings of vocalist Lena Seikaly were heard one Friday late last month. Thanks to pianist Chris Grasso, our own impresario of vocalists in particular, for bringing back jazz to the Madison, with Seikaly one of his top talents.


Sylish with a song is Lena Seikaly.

That night Grasso’s fine work on piano and bassist Tommy Cecil provided fine support and framing for the vocal talents of Seikaly. She honors legendary songwriters on her recent CD, “Looking Back,” and that night in particular did justice to tunes by D.C.’s own legend Duke Ellington before a crowded room of appreciative listeners.

Her “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” and “In A Mellow Tone” featured her swinging sweet phrasing and elegant sensuality and “Beginning to See the Light,” among other tunes, was also highlighted by some entertaining cabaret touches.

To catch up with Seikaly, see www.lenaseikaly.com


In Person … Hill Center Jazz

The Hill Center Jazz Ensemble returned for the 2013-14 season in November with Eric Wheeler on double bass leading his group through some swinging numbers devoted to “the music of Washingtonians, or those who spent considerable parts of their lives here.”  D.C. native Wheeler was backed by Allyn Johnson on piano, Brian Settles, tenor sax and Jeremy Carlstedt, drums.

The group began with some Jelly Roll Morton, turning his “Whinin’ Boy Blues” into a rolling, romping, squawking — thanks to Settles on tenor sax — ride kick off a fun set. Washington pianist Dick Morgan, who had just passed away recently, was honored by the group’s moving, elegant waltz like treatise on Morgan’s “Morning Meditation,” highlighted by Wheeler.s throbbing bass. Billy Taylor’s tune “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” turned in toa gospel-like anthem that drew shouts and cheers. “Little Sherri,” by Charlie Rouse featured Settles and Johnson ripping and roaring through a vintage bop jam.

Other tunes on the program that night included Keter Betts’ “Some Kinda Mean,” Buck Hill’s “Jasing,” Johnson’s “The Soulful Mr. James Williams,” Settles’ “Gardenia” and Wheeler’s “Just for You.”



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