Folkin’ Around with Dan Wolff

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Folkin’ Around with Dan Wolff

by Dylan Naumann

Sitting around a campfire with friends, listening to the resonating warmth of an acoustic guitar can be an emotional experience. Whether it’s a novice or an advanced player attempting to render those captivating moments, more times than not, the communal experience created by the performer will be significant to the audience. The upcoming singer/songwriter Dan Wolff was “mesmerized” watching his father share stories and pick Bluegrass tunes around the fire. “I simply wanted to re-create those moments…”

Releasing a number of albums over the years, Dan has shown a rich diversity of both style and texture in his songwriting. His freshman album, Old Fashion Love, strays from the “cookie-cutter” mentality of pop songs you’ll hear on the radio. He uses a wide variety of instruments, from the saxophone to the banjo, which adds color to a traditional form.

The formation of The Muddy Crows drove Dan out of his singer/songwriter “isolation” and allowed his writing to flourish in the company of other like-minded individuals. Dan says, “I wanted to take them to the next level with additional instrumentation.” He is still in shock that the group would still be playing together a decade later, considering how they got together. “I found some like-minded musicians on Craigslist that wanted to create and promote original music in the DC area.”

His latest release, Folkin’ Around, displays tones shifting from gritty, emotion-filled rock – carried over from The Muddy Crows – to a “quirky” style that simply catches the listener’s ear. His expansion into the realm of writing catchy tunes made him aware that all his songs aren’t “winners.” Dan, in fact, has “panned” or completely “rewritten a number of tunes that weren’t worthy of promotion.” He rehashed some songs that were featured on the album but also went into the rainy-day pile for additional material.  This pile consisted of “radio-ready” material but also songs that were too contrasting for Folkin’ Around.

Since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2009, Dan and The Muddy Crows have been voted “Washington, D.C.’s Best Original Band” twice and toured extensively beyond the Mid-Atlantic region (Wisconsin, Oregon, and a 2016 tour in Europe). The charisma Dan displays during his performances is natural and unshakable, but his artistic persona took a few years to develop. Keeping mostly to himself while studying at Cornell, Dan preferred to play guitar for himself in the comfort of the dorm room. But it wasn’t long before his friends tricked him into performing at the local open-mic night. “They secretly added my name to the list…Being a good sport, I did not protest.” He took the stage, hands shaking, a borrowed guitar in one hand, and started to sing. From that moment, when Dan witnessed the positivity of the crowd as his voice wafted into the stale bar air, he realized that he wanted to step out of the dorm and begin to actually play.

It took Dan several years to find a place on stage, playing what felt like an endless parade of open-mic nights, but he came through the gauntlet alive and well. His songwriting matured along the way, from the adolescence stages of posting music to Myspace all the way to bundling up the “bedroom pop” aesthetic that reflected “decades of new life experiences.” This passage of time transformed his character and his work ethic as a songwriter.

Please be sure to check out Dan Wolff and The Muddy Crows in and around the Mid-Atlantic region. The foot-stompin’ isn’t going to stop anytime soon! Get all their up-to-date info and music on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify!

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Dylan Naumann

Dylan Naumann is a freelance musician, composer, writer, and improviser. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, he’s currently finishing up his degree from Towson University for jazz commercial performance. He enjoys wondering around town, from local venue to venue, trying to find the inspiring sounds from local artists.

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The End of America + Will McCarry (of Wylder) @ Jammin Java

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The End of America + Will McCarry (of Wylder) @ Jammin Java

The End of America
Philadelphia natives The End of America (TEOA) caught the attention of the industry and fans alike with their debut release Steep Bay (2010), following up with the sophomore LP Shakey (2012) and the critically acclaimed eponymous S/T album in 2016. TEOA’s new single “Break Away”, due out June 7, 2019 on all digital and streaming platforms, will also be available as a limited edition 7” vinyl and features a version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” on the B-side. “Break Away” is the first in a series of new songs that will be released by TEOA in 2019. TEOA is blazing new trails in the digital age by ditching the album format and releasing a new song each month for the remainder of 2019.

Will McCarry
Singer/songwriter Will McCarry first formed Wylder in Fredericksburg, VA in 2013. Drawing on a season of personal doubt and loss, Wylder’s long-awaited sophomore release, Golden Age Thinking, is an expansive and dynamic collection of rhythmic, haunting, and lyrically-driven indie-folk that examines the powerful influence of nostalgia as a form of denial.

Wednesday, Sept 4, 7:30pm
Jammin Java
227 Maple Ave E
Vienna, VA, 22180

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Jazz In The District

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Jazz In The District

by Michael J. West

Monday, September 2
Experimental jazz galore! Cinghiale is a saxophone duo from Chicago: Ken Vandermark (best known for leading the Vandermark Five, which once upon a time headlined this writer’s first ever free-jazz concert) and Mars Williams (best known for the NRG Ensemble). Both are freeform improvisation specialists. But both also have feet in the Chicago post-rock scene, and both Vandermark and Williams bring their compositional acumen to Cinghiale as well. So! It won’t be entirely free jazz, obviously… but it will be new, it will be different, and it will probably be weird, in the best sense. But that is not all. There are also two other artists on the bill. Often abrasive, always askew Chicago guitar improviser Steve Marquette (who has been known to work with both Vandermark and Williams in various contexts) is one of them. The other is the DMV’s own Sarah Hughes, the alto saxophonist who, if you don’t know about her by now, you simply haven’t been paying attention. Now’s the time to do something about that. The program begins at 8 p.m. at Rhizome, 6950 Maple Street NW. $15.

Thursday, September 5
It’s really been recently that trumpeter Muneer Nasser has been working the scene. (That, at least in part, is by design: he’s spent a great deal of time working instead on Upright Bass, the biography of his father, the prominent bebop bassist Jamil Nasser.) But since he has been playing out, he’s been making a splash. Nasser is also very much a bebop missionary, and he’s got incredible chops that with each new hearing demand yet another new hearing. He reminds this writer of Woody Shaw in his virtuoso devices and a little bit of his phrasing, but he’s got a gritty tone that I’ve never heard before. You can hear it on his wonderful 2019 album, A Soldier’s Story. A much better idea, however, would be to pick up that album from the very hand of the trumpeter himself, after you hear him playing with a superlative quintet that also includes tenor saxophonist Elijah Easton, pianist Christopher Stiles, bassist Gerhard Graml, and drummer Julian Berkowitz. They play at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.

Saturday, September 7
There are those who would insist that Stanley Jordan is smooth jazz and not worth your time and trouble. This writer happens to think that that is true of smooth jazz in a general sense but adamantly denies that Stanley Jordan falls into that category. The innovative guitarist is best known for the tapping technique he developed in his playing. And while he undoubtedly has smooth contours in his sound, he is also more than capable of bringing out some rough edges. Indeed, Jordan’s current tour is what he calls “Stanley Plays Jimi,” an homage to the unchallenged god of electric guitar on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his iconic Woodstock performance (August 18, 1969). Jordan says that it’s his fantasy of a modern-day, if-he-were-alive Jimi Hendrix concert. Consider that this is in a solo-guitar context, Jordan’s preferred milieu. Now, really…does that sound “smooth” to you? I thought not. It does sound pretty great, though. Stanley Jordan performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $35.

Sunday, September 8
There aren’t a whole lot of vibraphonists around these parts. Chuck Redd is the DMV’s elder statesman of the instrument; Warren Wolf is its reigning star. Chris Barrick is the exciting young player who will enthrall you with his prowess. Barrick is a D.C. native who spent some time in the Cincinnati area (where he went to music school) before coming back to build a career in his hometown. Recently he did exemplary work on trombonist Shannon Gunn’s 2019 album Gunn’s Ablazin’ and Abinnet Berhanu’s record Hebret Musica; as you might surmise, he is a popular choice for a sideman on bandstands all over town. Give him the lead of an ensemble, however, and he’s something else again. And when that ensemble features the likes of saxophonist Mike Cemprola, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Eric Kennedy…well, need we really say more? Besides, you can check it out for yourself. The Chris Barrick Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Twelfth Street NE. $10.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a freelance writer, editor, and jazz journalist who has been covering the Washington, D.C. jazz scene since 2009. He spends most days either hunkered down in the clubs or in his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.

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