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District Jazz

Bohemian Caverns Celebrates 85 Years of Historic Jazz

By Published: December 27, 2011
According to Brown's thinking, the impact of this community approach is more than dollars and cents. It is about making a long-term investment in jazz as an art form. "The reality is that all of our legends... are not going to be around forever. If you are stuck just presenting what is big, [then] who is next and how do they get to that? Somebody has to give these people a chance to play and somebody has to listen to the music just for the music. What is the platform for developing the next legends? It always traditionally has been clubs, but it is hard to point to more than a handful...[of] traditional jazz clubs that don't present other music and can do it more than two nights a week. That's a lost art. It just doesn't exist. You have to be committed to it."

Brown's commitment to this vision extends beyond the day-to-day operations of the Caverns, informing his ultimate goal for the future of converting the Caverns to a non- profit structure. "The idea is to put a non-profit function...around the Caverns in a way that will allow it to be here indefinitely, with other arms additionally, more educational outreach, fundraising, 'cause its not going to make anyone a ton of money. But it has intrinsic value. Hopefully this place will stay here forever-keep its history."

While accomplishing this final transformation may be a ways off, the vision informs the daily operations and tone of the Caverns even as it celebrates its 85th anniversary. A sense of continuity, high aspirations, and artistic dedication breathes through, making a night at the Caverns a unique experience-one that audiences return for time and again.

To paraphrase another local musician, what makes Bohemian Caverns special is the sense of family and belonging that Brown cultivates. This rare sense of community in a cut-throat industry provides a welcome backdrop for the club's rich and diverse musical offerings. It also contributes to reviving a facet of DC that, though never entirely lost, was elusive during the economic and artistic doldrums of recent decades.

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