Jazz Avenues July/August BLOG


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Captivating vocalist Akua Allrich, whose recent

CD “Soul Singer” has been drawing acclaim, appears

this weekend at Bohemian Caverns and Aug. 16 at

the DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton.


Rittenhouse, Allrich, Haynes, McCoy on tap,
with Hooker, Link, Muldoon, Whalen shows on way


Some top-shelf performers help us say goodbye to the sweltering days of July with some hot shows that also help us say hello to August this weekend.
Leading off virtuoso trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse leads his septet at 6 p.m. Friday July 31 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with Lyle Link, alto sax, Xavier Perez, tenor sax, and Reginald Cyntje, trombone to form a powerhouse frontline of brass with Rittenhouse. Dan Roberts, piano, Romeir Mendez, bass and Jay Jefferson, drums for the rest of the band.
Following the show, Jazz Night at the Movies at Westminster features “Keep on Keepin’ On,” the documentary about Clark Terry and young piano student Justin Kauflin.
Uptown, scintillating vocalist Akua Allrich opens a two-night stay Friday at Bohemian Caverns with her 7th annual Nina Simone/Miriam Makeba Tribute show. In Georgetown, ageless drummer legend Roy Haynes plays as part of his 90th birthday tour at Blues Alley Friday and Saturday with his Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band.
Sunday August 2, trumpeter Donvonte McCoy is featured at the DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton (see http://www.dcjazzjam.com); Tuesday Aug. 4 vocalist Integriti Reeves is at Blues Alley; Lyle Link Bon Voyage, with Link on sax, Allyn Johnson piano, Kris Funn, bass and special guests is scheduled for Westminster August 7; The DC Jazz Jam 6th anniversary show is at The Brixton Aug. 9, with vocalist Allrich the featured guest there the following week, Aug. 16.
In other highlights for August, Freddy Cole is at Blues Alley Aug. 6-9; Todd Marcus plays the Alley Aug. 12; The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is at The Birchmere Aug. 13; Guitarist Pete Muldoon is at the Westminster Aug. 14, with Johnson, piano, Elijah Balbed, sax, Reginald Cyntje, trombone, Eliot Seppa, bass and Sam Prather, drums; Tim Whalen visits Twins Jazz Aug. 14-15, with Bobby Muncy at Twins Aug. 30.




Pianist Tim Whalen performs at Twins Jazz Aug. 14-15




Hooker’s avant jazz coming to Twins Jazz Aug. 7-8

As the avant maestro, William Hooker says himself, “I will be playing at the classic and historic jazz club – TWINS on August 7th and 8th. For those who have never been to this DC home of jazz greats…come and check it out. I’m excited to play with Mark Hennen (piano), Luke Stewart (bass), Anthony Pirog (guitar) and guest-Joe Rigby (saxophone).”
Hooker’s body of work beginning in the mid-1970s “defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit,” according to his website, http://www.williamhooker.com.


William Hooker plays Twins Jazz Aug. 7-8



A listening to some of his works backs up this recommendation of Hooker as a force in the modern jazz world. He has “created works that range from jazz and “new” music to experimental genres. He has released over 60 CDs as a leader … [he] has received commissions and support from the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer … and colleges and universities such as Oberlin, Fordham, Columbia, New York University, Boston University, Princeton, Dartmouth and many more.” Hooker has played with many leading lights of the music, including Billy Bang, David Ware, William Parker, Roy Campbell, David Murray and others.



Best Wishes for the Jegna School of Music
“Hi, my name is Reginald Cyntje and I recently started a new music school. The program is great for young musicians and those young at heart.”
That’s trombonist and educator Cyntje talking about his new venture, the Jegna School of Music in Hyattsville, Md.
“The dream of creating a music school started when I was a summer student at Interlochen Arts Camp,” says Cyntje. “I loved the atmosphere and began dreaming of opening a music school one day. With your help, Jegna School of Music might one day have a similar summer arts program in the Virgin Islands. At Jegna, we offer private instruction, group instruction, monthly music industry workshops, monthly concerts, ensembles …”



Reginald Cyntje’s new venture: the Jegna School of Music
In enlisting the help of http://www.gofundme.com, Cyntje is appealing to all who value his goals to help his efforts. As he says, “… as you can imagine, starting a business is expensive. I’ve covered some of the basic startup costs but I need help with books, music stands, advertisement and other recurring bills. Every business has angel investors. I’m asking you to be an angel to Jegna School of Music. There are great rewards listed for your contribution.”
Cyntje is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia and received his master’s degree at the University of Maryland. He teaches trombone privately, conducts workshops nationally and is an adjunct professor at Montgomery College.
Best wishes to Cyntje, and see http://www.jegnamusic.com for more information and to donate.


“[Wayne] Shorter gave most recent evidence of his royalty during a stay at Blues Alley with a demonstration of elegant, bluesy lyricism and dramatic power on tenor and soprano saxophones … he honored his predecessors with shimmering soprano work on “I’ll Remember April” and led his band through avant garde territory with resonant, always melodic tenor work, often on his own originals. Shorter is a legend in the making …”
–Steve Monroe, The Capital Spotlight, circa 1980s.

Happy 50th to Blues Alley

We have heard some memorable music over the years at some fine venues in the city – remember One Step Down? The Kilamanjaro? Utopia? Jackie Lee’s? Moore’s Love and Peace? Les Nieces? Mr. Y’s? All those and others have passed on to the Venue Hall of Fame in the sky. Blues Alley in Georgetown lives on, now 50 years and counting, as one of the longest running and best music venues in the world.
Yours truly has enjoyed many memorable times at the Alley, an appropriately dimly lit space that discourages conversation during the music, and also features some fine cuisine … the red beans and rice dish, for example. Congratulations! to the Blues Alley founders and the current owner, Harry Schnipper who have presented great performers all these many years and hopefully many more to come.
Also from the personal Capital Spotlight archives:
“Master percussionist Art Blakey had just finished orchestrating a pulsating one-hour set of music by his band, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Now, with the applause still coming from the room full of listeners at Blues Alley in Georgetown, Blakey got out from behind his drums and went to the front of the bandstand to take the microphone. ‘We want to thank all of you for coming out tonight,’ said Blakey in his keep, strong, gravelly voice. ‘We want to remind you ladies and gentlemen to please buy an album by us, because we need the money.” He chuckled along with the audience at that line, then continued. ‘It doesn’t have to be an album by the Messengers, as long as it’s hard-core jazz, so that we know you know the difference. It’s an art form, the highest level of musical performance around and it’s American.”




Harry Schnipper of Blues Alley 


As for the next 50 years? Schnipper says what is most likely to happen is a continuance of his club’s global outreach. “What we have started is importing jazz from overseas, since jazz is everywhere now and there are so many countries, Israel, the Nordics, the Japanese, and others so into jazz … and what has happened is people are waking up to the fact that there are more and more prominent overseas performers … jazz is a global music.”

Speaking of venues …

Among the newer spots to enjoy the music include the Jazz and Cultural Society sets Wednesday nights on 12th Street in N.E. in D.C. Guitarist Tom Newman led his group through a smoking set there in late June and saxophonist Ron Pender blew the house down with some jamming sets there in July. (See http://www.facebook.com/jazzandculturalcsociety).
There are also now Wednesday night jams with host Herb Scott, the versatile saxophonist, at Mr. Henry’s on Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. (see http://www.mrhenrysdc.com). And the DC Jazz Jam Sunday sets are now at The Brixton at 901 U Street N.W. (see http://www.dcjazzjam.com).



“Lessons from the Streets” marks a critical moment of ascent for Balbed. His voice is poised and rooted beyond its years, and he has surrounded himself with an all-star cast of peers and mentors. D.C. has taught him that you don’t build anything on your own—and in any case it wouldn’t be much fun to try.”

–Giovanni Russonello


In Review… “Lessons From The Streets”

If a rumor circulating at press time that Elijah Jamal Balbed is planning to move to New York to further his career is true, bittersweet though it may be for us who have been spoiled to hear him often in many different venues in the area, it may be time for him to fully enter the cauldron of the NYC scene. The lessons he gets there would certainly make him even more of a rising force, more of a maturing artiste, as a musician and composer. Witness former area prodigies Kush Abadey, Benito Gonzalez and Marc Cary now, as just some examples, of those who left for the Apple and prospered.
Balbed is doing fine for now, no question. His performances with Inner Urge at the Nomadic Jazz show in May and his headlining jams for the Nomadic Jazz show in July were very on point, at times the young saxophonist showing off a dynamic solo voice, with wry, lyrical twists and turns and a golden tone.
His new CD, featuring top bandmates like trumpeter Alex Norris and vibraphonist Warren Wolf, has many high points, most notably for this listener his originals “Butch Warren” and “From the Streets to the Mansion.”

“Butch Warren,” a thoughtful, lively, jamming nod to the late bassist who Balbed lists as a mentor, features Balbed’s bluesy sax riffs, deep grooving and melodic work by bassist Romeir Mendez and pianist Mark Meadows, with spicy accents by guitarist Paul Bollenback and Carroll Dashiell III on drums. “From the Streets to the Mansion,” rocks and rolls with Balbed and Norris’s swinging frontline work on the horns over Kris Funn’s grooving bass work of his own, and then Balbed and Norris trading hot licks , with Wolf, guitarist Samir Moulay and pianist Alex Brown exchanging melodic licks of their own as well.
Other highlights include a lovely “Infant Eyes,” driven by Balbed’s haunting tenor sax musings, “Wolf’s crystal-like chimes on vibes, Funn’s bass, almost a show stealer here by the way, and Brown’s elegant touch on piano. “Sonny Suspended,” is an intriguing original spurred by Balbed’s colorfully winding and twisting soprano lines and Wolf’s expert melody making on vibes.
See http://www.elijahjamalbalbed.com. And Brown, with an incisive solo on piano, Norris and Wolf shine along with Balbed on “Green Dolphin Street.”

Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed at http://www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.


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