by Michael J. West
Monday, July 15
Guitarist Dave Manley leads a jam session. It’s at one of the (at first glance, anyway) least likely spots for a jam session in town: a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant and bar on Georgia Avenue, in the southern part of the Petworth neighborhood. No, Homestead isn’t a big spot, or a particularly prominent one, just another plot on the strip. But once the session known as Mashup Monday gets started, it gets really, really exciting in there. You’re not dealing with rigid, acoustic, straightahead jazz under Manley’s watch. Have a seat and watch the sound morph from post-bop jazz to hard blues, to modern rock, to funk, to hip hop … in one damn song. It doesn’t confound expectations as much as it may sound, however; that metamorphing sound? It is D.C., all wrapped up in one thoroughly and thrillingly untidy package. Mashup Monday begins at 8 p.m. at Homestead, 3911 Georgia Avenue NW. Free (but order something!).
Wednesday, July 17
Alto saxophonist Herb Scott and vocalist Aaron Myers lead a jam session. It’s at one of the most venerable, but least recognized as such, jazz venues in town. Yes, I speak of Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, a special place in which this writer saw his first live jazz show as a resident of Washington, D.C. (back in 2001). Thirty years before that, it was where a young D.C. public school teacher and moonlighting musician named Roberta Flack was discovered performing. Now it is the locus of the Capitol Hill Jazz Jam, the staple component of the Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation (which Scott and Myers run). Sitting down at one of the upstairs tables, the jam has a lighthearted veneer, with Myers acting as master of ceremonies with his natural showmanship. But make no mistake, this jam is a serious business, a spot where some of the scene’s current young lions first introduced themselves to District jazz watchers. Who knows who’ll turn up there next? The Capitol Hill Jazz Jam begins at 8 p.m. at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Free (but order something!).
Thursday, July 18
Drummer Trae Crudup leads a jam session. It’s on U Street, because no matter how hard developers, young affluent white kids, or anybody else tries to say otherwise, U Street’s jazz primacy has not died and it will not. It’s at Bin 1301, on the ground floor of The Ellington apartment complex. It’s not a hole in the wall, but it’s small—and if you’re not careful, it’ll be at capacity when you get there, and you’ll have to wait at the door for space to open up. Get in and you’ll find out why. Crudup is an extraordinary and exploratory drummer, perhaps best known to the wider world for his work with saxophonist James Brandon Lewis. However, what he does in Bin 1301 on Thursday nights is a matter of groove, plain and simple. In fact what you encounter there is a jaw-dropping sort of guessing game—to the tune of “Jesus, how long, and through how many permutations, can you keep this groove going?” There is, of course, only one way to find out. Trae Crudup gets started at 8 p.m. at Bin 1301, 1301 U Street NW. Free (but order something!).
Sunday, July 21
Various artists lead a jam session. It’s another one on U Street, and next month it will celebrate its tenth anniversary there. It’s the DC Jazz Jam, which drummer Will Stephens began organizing in 2009 at Dahlak—a now-defunct Eritrean restaurant on the Adams Morgan end of the U Street corridor. These days, it’s at the other end of U Street, at The Brixton—not a place that gets a whole lot of associations with jazz hangouts. Yet every Sunday night in the upstairs bar, a rotating house band with an ever-changing leader gets up before a packed house and swings the house down in a splashy, raucous three-hour musical party. (There’s even a signature cocktail for the session: the Blue Monk.) This week the session will be led by trombonist Jen Krupa, one of the underappreciated giants of the DC jazz scene. The real star of the session, though, is inanimate: it’s the clipboard where musicians new and seasoned sign up for a trip up to the bandstand. The DC Jazz Jam begins at 6:30 at The Brixton, 901 U Street NW. Free (but order something!).
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.