Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Favorite Washington DC Area Jazz Performances

  Having attended many jazz performances here in the Washington Dc area, some of them were memorable enough so that it seemed to me that sharing the memories would be worth doing.
 the Performances at a place called Vicinos is where we'll start. The place being near me here in Silver Spring Maryland; , naturally that's where I look first for local jazz. needless to say, my quest for quality jazz has found me as all over the area as I could manage. even so, this is my first choice as it's always easy to get too and when it comes to strait ahead jazz that just won't quit, they have a thing that's really worth supporting..

You'll find that, these writings are more about capturing the mood than being extremely educational as that's more the forte of others. You'll just have to be the judge as to how much you agree with me on any and all as you see fit. Also, it's worth noting my tendency toward the "strait ahead" as being something that gets mention here. Other things have been enjoyed also but, that's just not what's discussed here at this time.
 let me grab the text from an email advertising a performer that i've gone to see at Vicinos before. and actually; we'll be discussing my memories of shows there until i sayotherwise.

You'll get a better feel for the place by virtue of the text in the email below.. and yes, I just went to this next show mentioned below..

   The Jamie Broumas    Quintet:

  •  Vicinos; The Washington DC Metro Area's Most Intimate Jazz Club
    Monday, March 11, 2013
    7:00PM to 9:30PM
    Jamie Broumas (vocals),  Bob Butta (piano), Michael Bowie(bass),
    Harold Summey(drums), and special guest Charlie Young(alto sax)
    $25 admission
    Reservations are recommended as seating is limited
    For reservations call: 202-726-6515 or 202-270-0107
    Vicino's is located at: 959 Sligo Avenue
    Silver Spring Maryland. 20910
    For more information visit us on the web at

    at any rate, Jamie is very cool, a little like 

  • Diana Krall  as you'd see when sampling the music on her site or catching her live. Her Version of Wayne Shorter's Foot Prints is always fun, nice and slow too... She does a set list that's uniquely her. the often neglected Cole Porter Tune Thou Swell is always a treet.


  •   Vocalist George Ve Johnson:

  • I believe that That date found us with drummer Lenny Robinson, basist Herman berney, Pianist Alan Johnson, and george on vocals. Lets just say that, he's singing songs that noone else sings much that i know of. It's really as cool as it gets to catch him doing things that you may have known as instrumentals or only heard at a jam. Noone else would dare try and sing the songs he does or could write the lyrics he does. but George did it. - Similar
    "In 2003, George V Johnson Jr. was commissioned by Don Sickler of Second Floor Music to pen lyrics to the music of jazz legend and saxophonist, Hank Mobley."

    George V Johnson Jr - My Little Suede Shoes - YouTube

    But that's not all; frankly, some vocalists have louder is better's disease but, George is not afflicted with that. thus he's really a treet to catch live; just has a really musical ear. always a treet to hear him sing. Oh and, he's Also; founder of The Washington DC Jazz Network.

       vocalist, Leslie Summey:

     The other musicians on the date were,basist Steve Novesel, pianist Toney Nalker, and last but not least, her hubby,Harrold Summey on drums.

     Seemingly,she's just becoming more delightful and uniquely great as the years go by. The first time i got to hear her live was in much less of a listening room; thus, on this occasion, things were easier to hear, and did seem more special than ever. She mixes in some African Chanting such that Round Midnight and All Blues become something very special in deed... Actually, anything she does is but, certainn things are worth pointing out as its not always easy to find something that's unique and musical both at once..

    tennor sax man Paul Carr:

     Paul's another one who has often included Harrold on drums and this was so during the concert that night. Past experience and a usually good memory tells me that, The rest of the band was probably Michael Bowie on bass and Allan Johnson on piano. at any rate, Paul's seriously musical tennor playing, coupled with his choice of songs and aranging, really made for a heck of a good time. and in fact; There was one of Paul's original tunes that i still just can't get out of my head. It's a tune called, Musically Yours. A lot of what makes the song is this extremely hip dotted bass rif placed over a swing patern for part of the tune, thus it goes back and forth between that and "walking" swing. Without a doubt, one of the coolest things i've ever heard.

      Pianist Danny Mixon:

    This time it was Steve Novosel on bass, and Keith Kilgo on drums. If Johny O, mentioned below was a delightfully musical presence that kept your attention as if the hand of God mandated it; Dannie was the equally amazing and slightly more wile and crazy guy who you just have never quite heard the likes of. Truely a wonderful example of a cat who's really doing his own thing without chucking the baby with the bath watter. Never easy to achieve and these days maybe even more so what with all that competes for our ears during the course of a day. Totally entertained and satisfyed, I kind of found myself saying at times, did he really do that?

       Pianist Johnny O’Neal:

    He performed there with his trio, and that one was just amazing, and,If you didn't know He's the guy who played the role of Art Tatem in the movie Rayhe. Thus you'd suspect that you'd be in for a treet, and yup! He plays his but off. Just real tradition mixed with his own delightful unique slich something that's really deeply fun. It was truely the kind of playing that i just love, the type that you might have even forgotten you wanted even needed to hear more of. Recent events in the form of a show curtacy of the pianist mentioned above have jogged my memory such that i'm pretty sure that Keith Kilgo was on drums that night. It could have been Herman Berney on bass. Usually i look for certain drummers hwen deciding to attend a show but, that's not always true. Lets just say that it's a good thing that i, let my curiosity about this pianist get the better of me.

    We'll leave Vicinos and the Carter family who run that gig now to discuss other performances.
    Hendrick muerkens:   Http://

    but  with Chuck Redd ON drums this time:
     It was the perfect evening for walking with friends to a house  concert in Takoma Park Md. No surprise, but always welcomed is the fact that, The House was equipped with a real baby grand piano. There was food and even wine despite the warnings that there would be none, but hey, with the promise of good music to come really, who could worry about such things.. the personell other than chuck on drums that day was as follows. Hendrick muerkens-harmonica,Wayne wilentz-piano, and Victor Dvoskin-acoustic bass
     about the rest of the evening. Hendrick was a real performer, playing wonderful soulful and technically brilliant harmonica.
     Hendrick is one of the rare people who is just able to totally just be himself as a person and a musician, and make it work, as he's someone who makes the audience laugh, and also delights them with his playing. IN other words, between the unique wit, and the playing, your just not going to find what he does easily elsewhere. Now, speaking from experience, the business of just musically being oneself, is easier said than done. But, he is one of those that ttruely does it. and he also plays vibes. Check out a record of his called The NewYork Samba Jazz quintet for his vibe playing.
       Warren wolf:

    Warren played the Jazz Night at West Minster. and on that night he played with his quintet that included sax, bass, drums piano, and himself on vibes.

    John Lamkin was on drums and again it escapes me who else was on that date - thus i understand if you doubt me when i claim that i'm usuallly pretty good at recalling who was on a date for a jazz performance that i liked. Warren just really did great stuff, and between his choice of songs and styles, and the rest of the bands chemestry, well it's easy to see why he's  succeeding as a jazz musician. Oh and he plays Piano drums and bass as well.

    The Potomac Jazz Project:

    So another jazz quartet i thought as friends and I prepaired to order a little something at a Thai restaurant called Sala Thai. This is where I found the Potomac Jazz Project moste recently, and, though i can't say that any one song of the evening sticks out in my mind, lets just say that I was pleasantly surprised. it will be said here that their sound was just wonderful. Just really fun easy to listen to music, which is not always easy to come by, especially in jazz today, or at least some of us would argue that. I found their sound to be great during the other occasion where i got to see them perform as a quartet live as well. If I hadn't said it yet, the sound of a band is as important as anything as if I need to where ear plugs in order to enjoy myself, or the other extreme situation is true where its hard to hear them at all.. is happening, well, needless to say it's a miss match some how that is seldom as fun as it might be.

      The Mid Atlantic Jazz festival:

    Run by the previously mentioned Paul Carr and his wife, This  is an event that happens annually during every presidents day weekend, and this case found me there during 2012 and there were a couple of shows that deserve mention for sure.

    One of them was a group called cloudburst, Http://

     This is a vocal group that i had the great pleasure of playing with myself during a previous occasion. I'll take someone elses description of them for my own selfish purposes now;

     "Cloudburst" is the DC area's only all vocalese group, specializing in recreating the original sound of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Their repertoire also includes songs and arrangements by Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure, Al Jarreau, and Joni Mitchell/Charles Mingus
      This group is Lead by Pianist Wayne Wilentz. Otherwise usually on the date with them are drummer Jim West, and basist David Jernigan.

    There’s a fine young drummer by the name of Aaron Seeber, and his group's performance at the fest was an excellent example of what can be done when true understanding of the art form is present. After all, when it comes to jazz lets face it, plenty of older people seem clueless when it comes to jazz, and it’s not that they can’t, it’s just that they lack that understanding. It’s like, expecting me to play classical music, I’m just not going to do well at it as it’s just not something I’ve invested much effort in trying to understand.

     The quintet consisted of local musicians, Elijah Balbed on tenor sax, and Elliot Seppa  on bass; Aaron is from the Dc area as well.. Caroline Davis and guitarist Charley Siggler came from Chicago, and though they knew each other, this was a tight sounding ensemble that had not rehearsed the show that I attended. Youth is keeping this art form alive, no question about it.
    The Manderin Oriental and Pianist Chris Grasso:  

     Chris's doing some great music at the very classy Mandarin Inn with  more quality musicianship, and it's jazz vocals that are the specialty. These shows happen on Friday and Saturday  nights. as adrummer myself, let me say that, since Lenny Robinson often plays drums for those occasions, I recommend those evenings, to say the very least. 
      Actually,There was one of those nights, when Deloris King Williams, was the featured vocalist of the evening. I was just so totally blown away by  that night that I can’t even describe it. She did a version of My Favorite Things that was well; as good as it will ever get.
      Vocalist and trombonist Erick Felten:

    Erick has done some memorable concerts. He's someone who does groups of
    various sizes but is also known for leading a big band and doing the Nut Cracker Suite and it's a really good rendering of that that I recommend and it's actually the second mention of his that I make here. Erick is another musician who makes me jealous that I don't also play more than one instrument.

      The first one I'll mention was a smaller version of the big band, maybe eight musicianstotal. This one was at the Felix, kind of a classy venue in DC, and, Harold, again, was playing drums and just burning it up!. I’ve never heard better swing, feel, and improvisation on the part of a drummer comping with a medium sized big band. This was the band that was doing tributes to Frank Sanotra. Paul Piper was playing guitar and there was no lack from the absence of a piano that night I can tell you. Odds are good that that did not get recorded and it's why I encourage people to get out and see this music  as if you don't you'll probably miss out on moments like that one.

      There was another big band thing of his, this time with the big  big band, that Erick did at Blues Alley, and, Chuck Redd was playing drums on this one, which is also hard to complain about. There's plenty of nice wood and carpet almost guaranteed to make any music sound great. Also, any time things get too loud, well one can usually remedy that just by moving to the bar - an assential feature of any room where I don't run the sound :)
     it would be impossible to find better big band drumming than Chuck's , and I’ve never enjoyed anything more than that gig that night. This was Erick's anual christmas time rendering of Duke Ellington's The Nut Cracker Suite.

     Chuck red Playing vibes this time:

    Chuck once brought drummer Jeff Hamilton in to town, and he played vibes on that gig, no horns, just the quartet with Chuck as the star. let me suggest going here in order to buy at least three really great records that feature Chuck playing Vibes, 

     That concert was held at the so called, Imax Jazz Cafe at The Smithsonian, before the cafe closed down. Now, that was something very special also that may never get repeated and so I’m very happy that I attended that one. That venue closing was a loss as I don't think that anything could sound bad in that room. and, Chuck on vibes with Jef on drums is the best of both worlds or at least not going to be topped. 
    When it comes to Jef, I'd recommend the recordings from the 1990's or so, those and beyond in fact. The Ray Brown records from then, and also the Diana Krall records that he's on

       At Twins Jazz this time:

     This  is the new and improved one on U Street, which is a huge improvement sonically speaking, thus i recommend it highly because everything has a way of sounding good there. at any rate, they once had a gig a couple few years ago with pianist Noah Hydu., the names of the basist and tennor sax player, allude me but, with drummer Billy Hart, it was really quite the amazingly memorable show. Noah just kicked but, Billy just was as good as it will ever get, Billy all by himself was just absolutely gripping and  riveting. Actually, the entire ensemble just totally kicked ass, better than most, and the horn player was just right there with them. Truely another special event, and an occasion that probably didn't get recorded and so I'm happy to have been there.
    My point here is that, though it seems time consuming at first, that, if you haven’t done so, it’s a wonderful thing to decide upon some jazz styles and musicians you like and then, when they play live, go out and support that as best you can. Or; - just buy some of their recordings, and preferably both. Speaking of recordings, though Noone digs live jazz more than I do, there's also something to be said for a quality at home listening experience. You should try spending some time with our friends at the Capital audio fest, and they'll turn you on to some great home audio that you'll enjoy as they have something there for almost everyone. Check them out at the link below: