Blue Note Record's significance to modern music is as inarguable as its story is remarkable. Over its 75 year lifespan the label has recorded many of jazz's defining artists, its evolution tracing the trajectory of America's most significant musical form from its beginnings to its present day diverse manifestations. It is therefore especially auspicious that the celebration of its 75th anniversary took place at the Kennedy Center just as the center welcomes experimentalist Jason Moran as its now long-term artistic director, fulfilling a commitment to the musical form begun by the groundbreaking Billy Taylor when he established a ...read more
The saxophone is the most iconic of jazz instruments. Its image is all that is needed to invoke the music's essence, its history intimately entangled with the cultural arc of American music and urban culture. Its masters are the most recognized outside jazz circles and its sound most closely identified with the art form. To many, jazz is defined by the sax and the sax defined by jazz. For that reason, it was fitting that this year's Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Saxophone Competition divested itself of much of its hallmark pageantry, opting instead for a paired back ...read more
2013 DC Jazz FestivalWashington, DCJune 5-15, 2013Every summer, the DC Jazz Festival shines a spotlight on Washington, D.C.'s expanding music scene, having grown in parallel with the increased number of jazz clubs, venues, and musicians the nation's capital now harbors. The relationship has been mutually reinforcing. The festival created a national brand and, especially in its early years, harnessed the support of major sponsors and city officials behind the mission of celebrating D.C's jazz legacy. In turn, the clubs' bookings and ties to local musicians kept the festival's lineup full and energized.Now ...read more
"Music is a powerful thing...fresh air for your life. You need jazz to breathe. It's just like oxygen." --Jimmy Junebug" Jackson Oxygen for the Ears: Living Jazz Oxygen for the Ears is a 2012 award-winning documentary film depicting the vibrancy of the jazz scene in the nation's capital. Made in three years by German-born astrophysicist Stefan Immler, the 94-minute documentary shows the city's key role in the past, present and future of jazz and is gaining attention for the filmmaker and his adopted city. The film was selected for 16 film ...read more
Local star Akua Allrich continued her rapid rise this month performing music from her latest album Uniquely Standard (Self Produced, 2012) at the historic Howard Theater on Washington, DC's U Street.An accomplished vocalist whose vibrant performances and inviting stage presence have built a loyal following and propelled her to the forefront of Washington, DC's main jazz venues, Allrich's rise in many ways parallels the resurgence of Washington, DC as a major jazz city, making her debut at the recently reopened Howard Theater both a fitting and symbolically resonant accomplishment.Just five years ago, Allrich was only beginning ...read more
Anat Cohen has received no shortage of accolades of late and her rise is a testament to her stunning capacities on clarinet and saxophone. She is no stranger to Washington, DC audiences either, packing clubs and concert halls from Bohemian Caverns to the Sixth and I Synagogue. Most recently, Cohen filled the Kennedy Center's Jazz Club, where she helped highlight the modernistic trajectory that pianist Jason Moran is charting for the Center's jazz program as its new artistic director.Featuring works from her latest release, Claroscuro (Anzic, 2012), Cohen's performance was no less superb than previous outings, compelling both ...read more
It can never be said that the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz does anything halfway. Held annually at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, this year's competition and gala concert was ambitious and extravagant--equal parts a celebration of jazz drumming, a salute to women's past and present contributions to the art form, and a promotion for the Institute's many programs.Lasting well over two hours, the event unfolded like a beautifully orchestrated tapas banquet. The feast covered not only a wide range of musical styles, but also explored, through the speeches and awards, the Monk Institute's multifaceted programs and ...read more
DC Jazz Festival, Washington, DC June 1-10, 2012With the summer heat descending on the nation's capital, the city transforms, its southern personality asserting itself. Ties loosen, linen suits make their first appearance, people mosey instead of dash, and the beats of jazz reverberate from venue after venue as the city welcomes the annual DC Jazz Festival with open arms.Celebrating the vibrant past, present, and future of DC's music scene, the 2012 festival once again put forth an expansive array of music, including everything from big-name vocalists, to big bands, to the more obscure avant-garde. Now in ...read more
Marking its 85th anniversary as a jazz venue, 2011 was a remarkable year for Washington, DC's Bohemian Caverns, solidifying its renewed reputation as DC's premier jazz club and a venue of national significance. The path to this point, however, was neither easy nor guaranteed. The smoky clubs, dark corner joints, impromptu lofts, theaters, noisy dinner clubs, and hidden basement bars of jazz are emblazoned in our collective imagination and provide definition to entire genres of film and literature, conjuring instantly lost eras and evoking a powerful sense of place and meaning for modern audiences to this day. ...read more
DC Jazz Festival 2011 Washington, DCJune 1-13, 2011 The DC Jazz Festival's seventh year was defined in equal measure by the event's now distinct combination of local acts and headline guests, spread throughout the city's stages, museums, and local clubs. Unlike many festivals, the DC Jazz Festival has maintained an exclusive focus on jazz music and continues to place a spotlight on the local musicians that now more than ever are converting DC back into a vibrant jazz city. The DC Jazz Festival recipe has come to rely on some stock ingredients--Roy Hargrove and Eddie ...read more
Jean-Michel Pilc / Ari Hoenig / François Moutin May 17, 20011 Blues Alley Washington, D.C. Tumultuous, unpredictable, vibrant with variegated rhythms and tempos, shimmering with torrents of sound and spiraling tendrils of color, the Pilc-Moutin-Hoenig Trio's recent performance at Blues Alley proceeded less like an unveiling and more like the exploding of a star--the event emitting a creative shock wave of force, overlapping forms, light, darkness, expanding and contracting space. The resonating artistic experience created by the Pilc-Moutin-Hoenig Trio is not the product of a carefully constructed composition, ...read more
Vijay Iyer TrioSixth & I Historic SynagogueWashington, DCApril 30, 2011 Sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, pianist Vijay Iyer's concert placed his innovative trio in the sumptuous setting of Washington, DC's Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The domed ceilings and intricate décor provided an appropriate backdrop to Iyer's powerfully evocative, enormously creative musical explorations, the serenity and seriousness of the space reflecting the complexity and spiritual clarity of Iyer's music as the repurposing of the building mirrored Iyer's ability to be modern, while maintaining continuity with multiple musical lineages.read more
Ben Williams Quintet Kennedy Center Jazz Club Washington, DC April 15, 2011 Winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition for bass (the competition focuses on a different instrument each year), innovative young artist Ben Williams brought his quintet to the Kennedy Center Jazz Club for an evening of entertaining, inventive music performed with an infectious sense of fun and youthful exuberance. The concert was all the more appealing for its sense of triumphant homecoming for Williams, a DC native, a feeling reinforced by the band's naturalness and the vocal support from friends and family in ...read more
Monk Vocal CompetitionKennedy CenterWashington, D.C.October, 2010 One of the premier jazz events of the year, the annual Thelonious Monk competition rarely fails to deliver. Each year the jazz elite gather to celebrate the legacy of Thelonious Monk and to recognize up-and-coming talents of the jazz world via a competition that rotates among instruments. When hosted by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., an aura of political weight is inevitably added to the evening as Congressmen--and this year, President Barak Obama together with Michelle Obama--affix their names to the list of honoree ...read more
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