Jazz Avenues October/November BLOG 2015

Jazz Avenues October/November BLOG 2015
By Steve Monroe


… follow @jazzavenues



As George V. Johnson Jr. of the Washington DC Jazz Network (http://washingtondcjazznetwork.ning.com) reminds us, we first wish a Happy Happy Nov. 1 birthday to National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Lou Donaldson.
” … Alfred Lion, co-founder of Blue Note Records, heard [Lou] Donaldson playing at Minton’s Playhouse and invited him to record for his label. First as a sideman with the Milt Jackson Quartet (later the Modern Jazz Quartet), Donaldson was instrumental in bringing Clifford Brown and Horace Silver to Blue Note, and made the recording with Art Blakey, Night at Birdland, considered one of the first in the hard bop genre. Donaldson was also instrumental in getting many legendary musicians their debut sessions with Blue Note, including Grant Green, Blue Mitchell, John Patton, Ray Barretto, Curtis Fuller, and Donald Byrd.”
–www.arts.govhonors/jazz/lou-donaldson, 2013




Carl Grubbs, shown performing at Oct. 14 Baker Awards  show in Baltimore, appears with his ensemble for a Celebrating Strayhorn   show Nov. 14 at the Anacostia Community Museum in D.C.




Thanks! Vernard – for Celebrating Strayhorn shows

Area music fans have had a special treat this year with the treats Strayhorn Centennial Celebration series of concerts presented by East River Jazz.
“Celebrating Strayhorn!” a CA-FAM III, Inc. and East River Jazz? yearlong series of performances, public conversations, and dramatic readings culminates with events this month ending on Strayhorn’s birthdate, Nov. 29.
Vernard Gray of East River Jazz, quoted in the Baltimore Jazz Alliance September newsletter, says, “Since February 2nd, 2015, we have presented more than twenty-five conversations and performances celebrating the legacy of Billy Strayhorn. Although he composed such classic pieces as “Lush Life,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Something to Live For” on his own, Strayhorn is best known as the composing partner of Duke Ellington; they co-composed some of the Ellington orchestra’s most famous songs, like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Satin Doll,” and the pieces in Ellington’s “Far East Suite.”
On Sunday, Nov. 1, there is a “Strayhorn and Beyond Rooftop Jazz Brunch” featuring saxophonist Craig Alston’s ensemble at the Inn at the Black Olive restaurant, 803 S. Caroline St. in Baltimore. On Nov. 10 there is the “Gill/Dunn Exploring Strayhorn: East & West of the Blues” show at 7 p.m. at the Anacostia Playhouse in Southeast D.C. The concert features pianist Janelle Gill and her group, with Marshall Keys, saxophones, James King, bass, Adia Gill, cello and Savannah Harris, percussion; and trumpeter Freddie Dunn and his group, with Lionel Lyles, reeds, Todd Simon, piano, Ethan Philion, bass and John Lamkin III, drums. their respective ensembles.
The groups will “explore rarely performed Billy Strayhorn compositions along with familiar songs – Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge, Blood Count and Take the A Train – that most are familiar with,” according to East River Jazz information. A “Come Dance to Strayhorn” show at 2 p.m., Nov. 11; “Paris Blues: A Viewing and Conversation” at 7 p.m., Nov. 12 and “Day Dream,” a dramatic reading about the life of Strayhorn, written by jazz vocalist Barry Moton and HIV activist Roderick Sheppard on Nov. 13, are all to be presented at the Anacostia Playhouse. On Nov. 14, a “Strayhorn and Hodges/Coltrane” show features the Carl Grubbs Ensemble at 2 p.m. at the Anacostia Community Museum.


KLstrayhorn pic

Karen Lovejoy appears with her Lovejo0y Group

for a Celebrating Strayhorn show Nov. 27

at the Kennedy Center

Other events in the series this month around the city include “Strayhorn Inspired: The Rick Henderson Catalogue” with the Bowie State University Community Jazz Band on Nov. 21 at Faith United Presbyterian Church in Southwest; “A Conversation with Freddie Dunn,” Nov. 21 at the Dorothy I. Height Benning Neighborhood Library; “Strayhorn, The Giant Who Lived in the Shadows,” with Karen Lovejoy and The Lovejoy Group Nov. 27 at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage; and “A Strayhorn Centennial Celebration” Nov. 29 at a site to be determined.
For complete information, see http://www.eastriverjazz.net.



More Strayhorn with Charles Rahmat Woods at Vicino’s

Another “Celebrating Strayhorn” event is slated for 7 p.m., Monday, Nov.16 at Vicino’s featuring The Charles Rahmat Woods’ Trio Plus, presenting “A Tribute to Strayhorn: Avant Garde Interpretations”.
“Fresh out of a recent recording session,” according to Woods, “ the eclectic and fluid Trio Plus will consist of Rahmat on flute/saxophone, David Ornette Cherry (son of the late great trumpeter Don Cherry) on melodica and piano, Derek Gasque on organ keyboard, and Roger Stewart on drums.”


Charles Rahmat Woods
Vicino’s Restaurante Italiano is at 959 Sligo Ave, Silver Spring MD, 20910. Tickets can be purchased in advance ($20) via Blackberry Jazz and the JazzKnights, call (202) 670 0095.
For more information see http://www.blackberryjazz.com.


Chad Carter

Vocalist Chad Carter performs

Nov. 1 at Bohemian Caverns



No tricks, just jazzy treats with Conover tribute,
Meadows, Norris, Sun Ra and more for weekend

“Remembering Willis Conover,” a show in tribute to the longtime Voice of America jazz broadcast, features a group with saxophonist Paul Carr and bassist Victor Dvoskin at Westminster Presbyterian Church tonight, Friday, Oct. 30, followed by a Thinking About Jazz show tomorrow at Westminster honoring Conover with programmer and historian Larry Appelbaum.
Tonight at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel is the show “Remembering Ron Elliston and Ronnie Wells.” Also tonight is the Sun Ra Arkestra at Liv, above the Bohemian Caverns, while keyboard wiz Mark Meadows begins a two-night stay downstairs at the Caverns, and trumpeter Alex Norris opens a two-night gig up the street at Twins Jazz.
And at the Kennedy Center Friday Oct. 30, is the final night for “Collaborating for Jason+, a new multidisciplinary series, Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Jazz Jason Moran and celebrated choreographer Ronald K. Brown bring together their respective ensembles for a night of jazz and dance.”




Danielle Wertz appears Nov. 1

at Bethesda Blues & Jazz

Sunday Nov. 1, the Elijah Jamal Balbed Quintet is at the Jazz and Cultural Society in Northeast D.C.; vocalist Lena Seikaly headlines the DC Jazz Jam session at The Brixton; vocalist Chad Carter appears at Bohemian Caverns, with Frank Owens, piano, Herman Burney, bass, Nasar Abadey, drums and Paul Carr on saxophone; and the same night vocalist Danielle Wertz and Shacara Rogers appear with pianist Chris Grasso’s Trio at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda.
Monday night Nov. 2 features pianist Dan Tepfer in the Piano Jazz Series at the Arts Club of Washington. If you are up for traveling up north a bit, D.C.’s queen of song Sharon Clark appears Tuesday Nov. 3 at The Iridium in New York City, with pianist Grasso, Matthew Parish on bass, and Lenny Robinson, drums.
Golden toned saxophonist Marshall Keys holds forth at the Hill Center Nov. 5, the Twins Jazz Orchestra is at Twins Jazz Nov. 5, with John Lamkin’s “Favorites” Jazz Quintet at Twins Nov. 6-7. Saturday Nov. 7 Lafayette Gilchrist and the Composer Collective play at Caton Castle in Baltimore. The next Transparent Productions show Nov. 8 at Bohemian Caverns features dynamic guitarist Mary Halvorson with bassist Stephan Crump, with saxophonist Don Braden performing up the road at the Baltimore Museum of art that night.





Pianist Tim Whalen performs with a septet

Nov. 27-28 at Twins Jazz



Other November highlights include vocalist Karen Gray at Vicino’s Nov. 9; the Vocal Workshop at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club Nov. 9, with pianist Grasso and friends; the “Celebrating Great Women of Jazz” show at the Kennedy Center Nov. 14; Chris Grasso’s fundraising event for the Jazz and Cultural Society Nov. 17 at JACS with Grasso, piano, Lyle Link, sax, Herman Burney, bass and Samuel Prather, drums; the Howard University Jazz Ensemble’s fall concert, featuring trombonist Andre Heyward Nov. 19 at Rankin Memorial Chapel; Roberta Gambarini Nov. 19-22 at Blues Alley; the Abbey Lincoln Story with vocalist Heidi Martin Nov. 20 at Westminster; Bobby Felder’s Big Band the next week, Nov. 27 at Westminster, and the Tim Whalen Septet Nov. 27-28 at Twins Jazz.

InPerson … Tim Whalen/C.V. Dashiell

Pianist Tim Whalen and drummer C.V. Dashiell led a group that stormed through several hot numbers at Westminster Presbyterian Church in early October, featuring the music of Art Blakey. Tenor saxist Tedd Baker and alto sax guru Marty Nau helped highlight the opening “One by One” with bluesy riffs; “Crisis” was a rocker speared by trumpeter Joe Herrera and Whalen’s piano runs; and “Split Kick” soared with the horns leading the way, with Reginald Cyntje on trombone; and Cyntje added more sizzle on “Plexus,” also powered by Baker’s hot sax and Whalen’s rippling melodies on piano. (And check out The Living Room Sessions at http://www.timothywhalen.com)


InPerson/InReview….Shannon Gunn & Bullettes/New CD

The Nomadic Jazz show in October at the Durant Arts Center in Alexandria, Va., served to again display the polished, varied artistry of trombonist Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes ensemble, with solid renderings of big band and other standards and originals. One highlight was “Blue Moo,” by Leigh Pilzer, one of our well known Washington Women In Jazz all-stars, turned into a sweetly lyrical, swaying gem, Gunn and alto saxophonist Halley Shoenberg leading the horns, including young Ingrid Winkler on baritone sax, with Dan Roberts on piano and Cyndy Elliott on bass. Other highlights included the jamming “Simon Sez,” and “Nigeria,” a Gunn composition notable for its edgy, avant arrangement.

The concert highlighted several tunes from the new CD by Gunn, “Bullettes and Friends.” Gunn, the area resident who earned a master’s degree from George Mason University and also studied at Michigan State University, has become known for leading her all-women’s big bands and playing with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. With only six pieces on her latest CD, the recording makes you wish for more but what is here is tasty, beginning with “Australian Mood,” by Bullettes tenor saxophonist Anita Thomas, a free-flowing melody highlighted by the harmonic sax, trumpet and trombone sections, over the solid rhythm section of Elliott, bass, Lewis, drums and pianist Miki Yamanaka with her lyrical, clear crystal touch. “Simon Sez” on the CD turns into a whipping jam behind Miki Yamanaka’s rippling piano and Elliott’s grooves on bass under the swinging horns, including Alex Flanagan’s eloquent baritone sax lines. A deeply bluesy “Stormy Monday” with vocals by Taylar Lee, and Carter Stevens’ rumbling organ, and a sweetly melancholy “Embraceable You” with Lee again on vocals and Jerry Bresee, guitar, provide an interlude from the big band sounds, that return on “Nigeria.”
The tune takes its edgy cue from Elliott’s opening bass solo, which smoothly segues into a rising horn harmonies forming a haunting melody, powered by Lewis’ raps and rolls and intermittent horn riffs, squeals and sighs, moans and cries, the tension tightening with Elliott’s insistent bass work. Gunn’s urgent trombone riffs and the other horns free form riffs over Lewis’ rapping and then pounding, provide a starkly visual musical tone poem, brightened by Yamanaka’s piano accents, and then her fluid, whipping solo—and then more of Lewis’ percussive melodies.
See http://www.bullettesjazz.com for more on Gunn and the Bullettes.


InReview … Romain Collin’s “Press Enter”

Insistently intriguing with a melodic flair may be the best way to describe the flowing sounds of pianist Romain Collin’s latest recording, “Press Enter.” Multi-faceted without being overly complex, Collin’s compositional prowess is on full display here, with the CD’s title ironically emanating from one of the music’s most formidable purveyors of complex rhythms presented in always starkly entertaining formats: Wayne Shorter.
As the recording’s publicity reveals, Shorter, on tour with Collin and Herbie Hancock, mused to Collin one day that “people who spend their whole lives talking about plans, ideas, or dreams without ever seeming to take action …” … then Shorter went silent “before bursting out with an urgent commandment: ‘Press enter!’ ”
Collin said, “I started laughing, but I thought the wording was genius.”
So “Press Enter,” was released last month, presenting a session with Collin, Luques Curtis, double bass, Kendrick Scott, drums as the core group, with guest artists adding vocals, percussion and other elements. Recorded two years ago, Collin’s third release as a leader is highlighted early by the rolling “Clockwork,” with Collin’s edgy melody on piano alternately rumbling and singing, over Scott’s cascading drum work and the sizzling percussion. “Raw, Scorched and Untethered” lives up to its title with more insistent pianist rumbling, accented by Curtis’ grooves on bass, and the whipping percussion. “Holocene” is a graceful, spacey, spiraling interlude, before “Kids” becomes a romping jam, that stops and starts, meanders and sets off again — seemingly, appropriately, as kids do — augmented by pianist Jean-Michel-Pilc’s whistles.


“Event Horizon” is a dramatic turn on the “stories of prisoners freed from decades-long jail terms or death sentences” followed by the equally dramatic “The Line [Dividing Good And Evil Cuts Through The Heart of Every Human Being” and Collin’s take on Thelonius Monk’s ” ‘Round Midnight” eloquently closes an emotional journey.
The French native Collin, who came over the water to attend the Berklee College of Music, again provides music that lifts, soothes and also provokes and prods, with a visual effect that reflects his talents as “an experienced composer of film music with multiple orchestra soundtrack credits to his name.”
See http://www.romaincollin.com for more information.



Christie Dashiell

Christie Dashiell is a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Vocals Competition


Congrats Monk semifinalists!

Way to go and best of luck to area vocalists Lena Seikaly, Christie Dashiell and Danielle Wertz who are among 11 semifinalists for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition to be held Nov. 14-15 in Los Angeles. Winner receives a $25,000 music scholarship, a recording contract with Concord Music Group, and the prestige of winning a Monk competition. See http://www.monkinstitute.org for more information.

Steve Monroe is a Washington, D.C. writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed atwww.twitter.com/jazzavenues.

Jazz Avenues July/August 2014 BLOG

JazzAvenues JULY/AUGUST 2014 BLOG

by Steve Monroe

… follow @jazzavenues



 Reginald Cyntje’s “Elements of Life” CD shows

 continue Friday Aug. 1 at Westminster Presbyterian Church


Matheny-Katz at the Alley, Coniece in Bethesda, “Elements” jazz at the Church and Akua

Performance highlights this week include Baltimore vocalist Marianne Matheny-Katz, a former Billie Holiday competition winner, celebrating her CD release tonight, Wed. July 30 with shows at Blues Alley; vocalist Coniece Washington at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, tomorrow night, Thursday, July 31, and Reginald Cyntje’s “Elements of Life” CD series show Friday, Aug. 1 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Matheny-Katz has some top Baltimore-Washington players on her recently released CD, “Somewhere In Paradise” – with many of them performing with her tonight at Blues Alley — including reed men Todd Marcus, Tim Green and Craig Alston, bassist Eric Wheeler, pianist Vince Evans, drummer Eric Kennedy, and vibraphone specialist Warren Wolf. See www.m2kjazz.com for more information.

The show at Bethesda Blues & Jazz headlining songstress Washington, who has won acclaim as an entertainer for her talents fashioning jazz, pop, soul or gospel favorites, will be opened by Sharon Raquel. See http://www.bethesdabluesjazz.com.

Friday’s show at Westminster has trombonist and composer Cyntje continuing his “Elements of Life” CD tour with Christie Dashiell, vocals, Brian Settles, sax, Allyn Johnson, piano, Herman Burney, bass and Amin Gumbs, drums. See www.reginaldcyntje.com.

The inimitable vocalist Akua Allrich has a stop on her Red Bark Tour, a product of her collaboration with Red Bark Productions, at Blues Alley Sunday, Aug. 3., with a sneak peek promised of sounds from her new CD. See www.akuallrich.com. Allrich, a busy lady, has her Nina Simone/Miriam Makeba shows later in August at Bohemian Caverns.


Akua Allrich performs at Blues Alley Sunday Aug. 3


Burnett Thompson Music tells us the White House Historical Association will present tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt Aug. 7 for its final Jazz on Jackson Place performance of the season, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, at the Decatur House at Lafayette Square, 748 Jackson Place N.W. in D.C. Call 202-218-4338 or email Burnett@PianoJazz.com for ticket information. The New York-based Wyatt has appeared with Branford Marsalis, Benito Gonzalez, Roy Hargrove and other luminaries of the music.

Also in early August, Kathy Sledge presents “The Brighter Side of Billie Holiday” at Blues Alley Aug. 8-9; Christie Dashiell is at the Caverns Aug. 8-9; the Freddy Cole Quartet is at the Alley Aug. 14-17 and pianist of the moment Orrin Evans is at the Caverns Aug. 15-16.

Vocalists coming up at Loew’s Madison Hotel include Elin, Aug. 7, Todd Googins Aug. 8, Steve Washington Aug. 9, with other performers including Trio Caliente Aug. 14, the Eric Byrd Trio Aug. 15 and Veronneau Aug. 16.

B.J. Simmons’ sax sounds off on “Acronyms”

Saxophonist B.J. Simmons, heard recently at Bohemian Caverns, is promoting his debut CD, “Acronyms,” which has some hot and also mellow sax sounds and some fine musicianship all around. The recording, on the Jimmy Mac Music label, is available through ITunes, GooglePlay, CDBaby and other outlets.

Simmons, to be interviewed on WPFW – 89.3FM tomorrow, Thursday, July 31 at 5pm, says “Acronyms” is “an original body of work … created from the simple text abbreviations that people send to each other on a daily basis via text messaging and online instant messaging.” One highlight is the melancholy, waltz-like “SMH.”


Allyn Johnson is a featured pianist on B. J. Simmons’

new recording “Acronyms.”


Simmons plays soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, AKAI EWI, and flute on the recording. His bandmates include pianists Allyn Johnson and Hope Udobi, drummers Howard Franklin, Greg Clark and the late Jimmy “Junebug” Jackson, bassists Eliot Seppa, Eric Wheeler and Frank Javois,  guitarist Peter Muldoon, organist Terrence Cunningham, flugelhornist Doug Pierce, vocalist Mariah Maxwell and rapper Khemist.

Simmons (www.bjonsax.tv) is based here in D.C. and has more than 15 years of experience, working with artists such as Grammy nominated hip-hop artist Wale, Millie Jackson, Ray Goodman & Brown and others.


InPerson …DCJF

Oh what a week it was, coming just after presstime so we couldn’t tell you how great it was in the June Blog, but congratulations on all those who made the DC Jazz Festival’s 10th anniversary a big success.

Starting the week with a showy event featuring Sadao Watanabe at the Japanese ambassador’s swank digs in upper Northwest, the 10th annual DC Jazz Festival went on from there with many superb performances that last week in June, including pianist Cyrus Chestnut’s stunning, pulsating show that night at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue downtown; more piano wonders at Union Arts with Orrin Evans, Allyn Johnson and

OrrinEvans_cred_Govert Driessen

Photo by Govert Driessen

Pianist Orrin Evans starred during the DC Jazz Festival at Union Arts.


Lafayette Gilchrist’s three piano symphonies; Marc Cary’s own jazzy, funky ultra-hip keyboard stylings for the outdoor crowd at the CapitalBop show off Florida Avenue NW; and Gary Bartz’ classic saxophone riffs at Bohemian Caverns, among many other top shows. Well done Charlie Fishman and crew.


Here’s to You, George Coleman

Congratulations to George Coleman – whose sax sounds on Jimmy Smith’s 1958 Blue Note album “House Party” started this listener on his addiction for saxophonists — and to the others named this summer as National Endowment for the Arts 2015 Jazz Masters, Carla Bley, Charles Lloyd and Joe Segal. They will all be honored at Jazz at Lincoln Center in April. See www.arts.gov/honors/jazz for more information.

Steve Monroe, steve@jazzavenues.com, is based in Washington, D.C.



Jazz Avenues May 2014 BLOG


 by Steve Monroe

… and follow @jazzavenues




Vocalist Kristine Key performs May 30 

at Westminster Presbyterian Church


Kristine Key, Jazz Samba, Kevin Norton on tap

Engaging vocalist Kristine Key entertains with the Collector’s Edition, featuring trumpet star DeAndrey Howard Friday, May 30 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, the same night The Jazz Samba project opens with a sold-out performance by the Ron Kearns Quartet, with special guest Michael Thomas at The Strathmore Mansion in North Bethesda. Sunday June 1 provides another highlight for the weekend when Kevin Norton’s Breakfast Of Champignon(s) visits Bohemian Caverns.

Key, who released her debut CD, “Nice … As Can Be” last year, is to appear at Westminster with Howard, Vince Smith on piano, Tracey Cutler, sax, Ron Compton, drums and Nathan Kawaller, bass. The concert is to be followed by Jazz Night at the Movies featuring “Mingus in Greenwich Village.” Also May 30, Marshall Keys is at The Loew’s Madison Hotel, followed by vocalist Lena Seikaly there May 31.



Sax maestro Marshall Keys


The Jazz Samba Project is a festival that explores how the bossa nova craze started with the Jazz Samba album recorded in D.C. and drew worldwide attention to Brazilian music. The festival includes concerts, films, an exhibit featuring a collection from the Felix E. Grant Archives of the University of the District of Columbia and other treats at various locations until June 15. For more information and tickets, go to www.strathmore.org.

Transparent Productions will be taking the music in another direction Sunday June 1 with vibraphonist/composer Kevin Norton of New York and his group promising sounds of exploration themselves, pushing harmonic and rhythmic edges in a free-flowing fashion. He is to appear with Esther Noh, violin, Angelica Sanchez, piano, and Ehut Ettun, bass. Go to www.transparentproductions.org or www.bohemiancaverns.org for more information.

In other early June performances, violinist and composer Chelsea Green plays at the Hill Center with The Green Project, vocalist Jessica Boykin-Settles appears at Westminster June 6 with the Forward Jazz Collective, featuring Peter Fraize, sax, Jon Ozment, piano, Herman Burney, bas and Greg Holloway, drums.  Sharon Clark is at the Loew’s Madison June 6, with Lyle Link there the following night June 7. There is a Jazz Family Day and Performance by the Jazz Academy of Music at 12 noon at the National Archives Museum June 7 (see archivesfoundation.org/jazz). Pharoah Sanders is at Blues Alley June 5-8 and the Iqua & Steve Colson Quintet visit Bohemian Caverns June 8.

Later in the month of course is the DC Jazz Festival, along with East River Jazz Festival, June 24-29, at many locations around the city. See www.dcjazzfest.org and www.eastriverjazz.net for more information.


 “Jazz in Washington” a must-have memoir

Many interesting tidbits about Duke Ellington and the early 20th century jazz scene in Washington, as well as remembrances by John Edward Hasse, W.A. “Bill” Brower, Rusty Hassan and other historians about the city and its music highlight The Historical Society of Washington’s special publication “Washington History: Jazz in Washington,” that was released this spring.

It is a must-have (Only $20, a bargain at twice the price, at www.historydc.org) for jazz aficionados and also those African-Americans and those of all races interested in the social and cultural history of the city in the 19th and 20th centuries that formed the framework and impetus for a city well known now for its musical legacy.

“Shortly after Ellington returned from his first tour as Jazz Ambassador, Dizzy Gillespie set his sights on a new residence in Ellington’s hometown, namely the White House. Although Gillespie embarked on his presidential campaign in jest, his underlying message was completely serious; American politics needed new energy. Gillespie promised that if elected, he would rename the White House “the Blues House” and appoint a stellar cabinet: Duke Ellington as secretary, Peggy Lee as labor chief, and Miles Davis as director of the CIA.” –Anna Harwell Celenza, Georgetown University Professor of Music.

Historical Society Executive Director John Suau says, “This special issue is timely given the resurgence of D.C. neighborhoods known for their musical legacy—jazz can provide a perfect opportunity for both new residents and long-time Washingtonians to learn about our city’s diverse history.”Thanks to Suau and editors Maurice Jackson and Blair A. Ruble, and the other writers, the publication delivers the goods.

Byron Morris, one of our master saxophonist, flutists and bandleaders, who is in a photo in “Jazz in Washington” with his band Unity from a 2000 Blues Alley performance says, “I was flattered that I am in the journal…you here about guys from Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York … and I think D.C. believes to be there [mentioned] with all the other guys … so, give us some love … John Malachi, Billy Eckstine, Billy Taylor … Buck Hill, Shirley Horn, they are both legends … so I am honored to be mentioned in the book. I ‘m not a native, but I’ve spent a lot of years here and most of my time here … and D.C. certainly have a very vibrant jazz going on … Andrew White, Walter Booker, the Bohemian Caverns … feel very privileged to be in the book. My only little complaint, is that they didn’t mention the talented pianist there in that picture with my group, who was Hilton Ruiz, great piano player.”

One fascinating chapter, “Jazz Radio in Washington,” is related by Hassan, one of our master programmer/historians, who has been with WPFW-FM since 1997 Hassan talks about Paul Anthony and Felix Grant, and the archives at UDC that bear his name, and other radio highlights, and jazz personalities, with this about the inimitable Andrew White:

“By this time Andrew had already had a multi-faceted career, .performing on the electric bass with Stevie Wonder while he was at the same time the principal oboist with the American Ballet Theater Orchestra and performing on saxophone at his jazz gigs. He also played electric bass with the Fifth Dimension and recorded with McCoy Tyner and Weather Report. When he performs he is notorious for his high water pants that show off his multi-color socks, his outrageous sense of humor, and his incredible performances on the saxophones.”



photo by Michael Wilderman

Andrew White 



Here is Brower, producer, historian, advocate, in a piece by interviewer Willard Jenkins, on jazz in clubs, and jazz in institutions:

“The fact that the music has moved to other platforms than clubs … I’d say that right now, for a community like ours, we have an embarrassment of riches … What the Kennedy Center has done for jazz, what Strathmore has done to a lesser degree, Clarice Smith Center at the University of Maryland, George Mason University—all that is relatively new stuff. Library of Congress, Smithsonian—the institutional engagement is providing more platforms for the music. I think jazz is a big house and it’s important that there is something happening in every room, so to speak … I think it is a dynamic culture, basically a vernacular culture that has moved into more academic realms … I like joints and I like concerts and I think they all have a place, they all fit …”


In Person … UDC big band fest, and more …



UDC Jazz Studies Director Allyn Johnson

photo by W.A. “Bill” Brower 


Another jamming UDC Calvin Jones Big Band Jazz Festival entertained a near full house of listeners in late April, with Ashton Bryce Vines on alto sax and Brittany N. Jiles leading the way on “Bright Mississippi” for the Howard University Jazz Ensemble; trombonist Reginald Cyntje spearheading the University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble swinging horn section on many tunes; and UDC’s jazz ensemble director and pianist Allyn Johnson unveiling his “Freedom Warriors Suite,” with its sections titled “Mandela,” “Malcolm” and “Messiah,” his fiercely rippling piano chords accenting his sweeping compositions, with Douglas Pierce on flugelhorn and Pete Muldoon on guitar highlighting the ensemble’s contributions.

If you get a chance, check out “Search for a New Sound. The Blue Note Photographs of Francis Wolff,” on exhibit until July 3 at the Goethe-Institut (www.goethe-institut.org) in downtown D.C. The exhibit opening with a reception featuring pianist Jason Moran was held May 3 in conjunction with Blue Note at 75, the anniversary events for the famous jazz record label.  The movie, “Blue Note – A Story of Modern Jazz,” was shown May 5 and is well worth seeing also, recalling the label established by Alfred Lion and Wolff in 1939, and the jazz greats who they recorded.

Humblebrag, the band, came to Blues Alley May 12 and played some of their funky bluesy jazz from their CD, “Michael Feinberg’s Humblebrag Live At 800 East,” the tunes always grooving thanks to Feinberg’s steadily throbbing but also inventive bass lines. A native of Atlanta, Feinberg’s naturally bluesy roots helped highlight the evening on tunes like “Humblebrag,” “Mr. Day” and others, with trumpeter Jason Palmer stealing the show with his clever, witty lines all night. See www.humblebragband.com . Julian Shore’s ringing piano ripples, Godwin Louis’ searing alto sax riffs and Dana Hawkins’ whipping drum work made for a fine night of multi-genre jam.

The jams included some funk and a lot of jazz and healthy dose of reggae rhythms when trombonist Reginald Cyntje’s group filled the room at Dukem Restaurant with sounds from their recent “Elements of Life” CD one night last month. Tenor saxophonist Brian Settles was in special form that night, forging full-bodied solos on several tunes, such as “Earth” from the CD, and vocalist Christie Dashiell shined on “Skylark.” Bassist Kris Funn and drummer Amin Gumbs and pianist Mark Meadows helped spread the vibe that “Elements of Life” is adding a special element to our musical universe.



Trombonist/bandleader Reginald Cyntje



Stephane Spira’s “In Between” flies between Paris, N.Y.

Maybe it is the French-U.S., Paris-New York connection that is played up in Stephane Spira’s bio material for his new JazzMax CD, “In Between,” because to this listener the first highlight is the flighty, percussion-drive tune “In Transit,” an often hypnotic blend of alternating rhythms spurred by the saxophonist Spira interweaving with trombonist Glenn Ferris.

The mood dips into more melancholy on “Reflections,” Spira sailing through remembrances no doubt on soprano saxophone. We pump it back up on “Flight,” itself, Spira and Ferris again an empathetic duo answering, and sometimes echoing the other’s riffs, Spira whipping along on tenor sax above Jonathan Blake’s efficiently intense drums and the always deft melodicism of Steve Wood on bass.

Reviewer Culture Jazz seems on the mark with this: “Methodically, without any wasted notes, Spira’s debut as a bandleader could be the first chapter in a long and beautiful story – a love story … he’s developed a full, hot, slinky sound, devoid of clichés but imbued with a close listen to the masters: Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Stan Getz.”

“A Special Place” has Ferris sliding along easily between honks and prolonged, clean lines of melody, Wood and Blake again pushing Ferris and Spira through their symphonic paces, always on the edges, always tuneful, with the sound, often seeming like more pieces, more colors, than just those from four players. “N.Y. Time” sounds fittingly like a New York session, a riff turned into an extended suite with all players coming through with their own individual contributions to the edgy mode.

For more on Spira, an engineer turned first-rate musician, see www.spirajazz.com.


Melancholy magic on Jane Ira Bloom CD



Jane Ira Bloom

photo by Kristine Larsen

For straight-ahead melancholia, few master the genre like soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, especially on her latest recording, “Sixteen Sunsets” on the Outline label. A seven-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association award for soprano saxophone, we would expect nothing less of Bloom and she works her distinctive touch here.

A favorite is “Darn that Dream,” with Bloom squeezing all the anguish out of the classic by Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie DeLange. But other delights are heard on “Good Morning Heartache,” “Primary Colors” and Bloom’s original “Ice Dancing.”

Bloom is ably and sympathetically supported by Dominic Fallacaro on piano, Cameron Brown, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums. Among Bloom’s other honors was the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award for lifetime service, and according to her publicity, is the first musician commissioned by the NASA Art Program — and has an asteroid named in her honor by the International Astronomical Union, named asteroid 6083janeirabloom. There is proof right there that she is an out of this world talent, with “Sixteen Sunsets” offering ample earthly evidence.



See www.janeirabloom.com for more information.