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“As Groucho Marx used to sing, ‘Hello, I must be going.’”
Gary Giddins quoted Groucho when his column for the Village Voice ended. I am quoting Gary Giddins (my idol, my acquaintance, my occasional expert witness, and, in his own way, my cheerleader) quoting Groucho as I end mine for Washington City Paper.
It was eight years, five editors (thank you, Sarah Godfrey, Jonathan Fischer, Ally Schweitzer, Christina Cauterucci, and Matt Cohen—with Andrew Beaujon and Caroline Jones doing backup at various times), and 315 installments ago this month that Jazz Setlist began picking, promoting, and, in effect, documenting the happenings on the Washington, D.C. jazz scene. It took pride in covering local talent (some of the best in America, and sometimes the world) and the established national/international superstars of jazz on equal terms. Reginald Cyntje and Tedd Baker and Christie Dashiell held their own against Curtis Fuller and Joe Lovano and Cassandra Wilson, at least in Jazz Setlist.
This column has meant more to me than you, dear regular reader (we have one!), could know. It was important to me, and (I felt) to the scene that it come out every week, or as near to it as possible. Something as mere as the births of my two children wouldn’t stop the music, so why should they stop me from writing about it? (I’ll never be able to give Erin Shannon West enough thanks for her support, her patience, her indulgence, her willingness to retweet this shit.) I only hope I did right by the many musicians who live here, work here, or stopped through here. Setlist covered many of them, and gave too short a shrift to many, many more. It wasn’t perfect; there were times, I fear, when it wasn’t even adequate. But it was a sincere, loving attempt to give local jazz the love and attention it deserved.
I am not disappearing from these pages, virtual or dead-tree. And I’m already at work on salvaging Jazz Setlist in some form—it’s too important to me, and the music it covers is too important, to let it simply expire. But alas, it will not converge with Washington City Paper any more after today.
D.C. jazz, however, has survived worse setbacks than this, and my piddling little attempt to document it won’t do more than barely register against its tough hide. The music lives on.
Or, as Wynton Marsalis used to say (hey, might as well pack in the quotes this week, right?): “They don’t like it, but we’re still swingin’.”
Let’s go see some jazz.
Friday, October 20
Has it been a while since you’ve seen Larry Brown’s quintet? (I mean, before his gig at Twins last weekend.) The pianist, as straight-ahead, as hard, and as bop as straight-ahead hard bop comes, is one of the major mainstays of not just D.C., but the entire mid-Atlantic, and he’s been away for a while. So here is a marking in music of his triumphant return. Brown’s accomplished, quite long-lived quintet includes the criminally underheard drummer Greg Holloway, an absolute beast of a player; tenor saxophonist Peter Fraize, another one who deserves more attention; trumpeter Thad Wilson, whom you surely already know about; and bassist Kent “The Deacon” Miller, the thoroughly dependable swinger. (Don’t take that as faint praise. “Dependable” is just about the highest compliment you can pay to a jazz bassist.) Vocalist Bonnie Harris will also join them.The Larry Brown Quintet performs at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW. $5.
Saturday, October 21
Last week I said that Lee Konitz’s 90th birthday was threatening to get lost in the shuffle. (His birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center, by the way, was magical, even if it wasn’t what you might expect—he sang as much as he blew.) This week I have to say that it seems like Dizzy Gillespie’s 100th might meet the same fate. He simply has the misfortune of having been born in the same fortnight in October 1917 as Thelonious Monk, the 20th century archetype of “misunderstood genius.” (Fuck you, Daniel Johnston, Marcel Duchamp, and Stan Brakhage.) Dizzy also had the unfortunate characteristics of being an unabashed clown and freakishly organized, two traits that we refuse, thanks to Mozart and Picasso and other folklore, to associate with genius. How, then, can we appreciate the fact that the bebop movement only became a “movement” because Dizzy forced it into one? Those early Charlie Parker recordings that so shook the world? They weren’t Charlie Parker recordings. They were Dizzy Gillespie recordings that Charlie Parker played on, and Dizzy was as revolutionary and brilliant on them as Bird was. (Don’t believe me? Click here.) After that, he figured out how to make those same ideas work in a big band context. And after that, he more or less invented something called “Latin jazz.” Dizzy’s 100th is as major an event as any in jazz, and he deserves the fete he’s getting from Paquito D’Rivera, Jimmy Heath, Jimmy Owens, Terell Stafford, Antonio Hart, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Davis, John Lee, and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. You owe it to him to go.
The Dizzy Gillespie Centennial Celebration begins at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $19–$69.
Sunday, October 22
I went last Saturday to see the abovementioned Lee Konitz concert at the Kennedy Center. Then, immediately afterward, I went to see local trombonist Shannon Gunn‘s CD release show at Mr. Henry’s. Here is a secret: The Gunn show was much better. I would also like to tell you the “secret” of how outstanding a drummer my friend and jazz-writing colleague Sriram Gopal is, but as far as I can tell the only person to whom that’s a secret is Gopal. You can see the dynamite spectacle of both of them together at this weekend’s appearance of The Fourth Stream, the South-Asian-and-world-jazz collective of which Gopal is the only permanent member (though guitarist Rob Coltun appears quite regularly too). Given the high-energy rhythms and surprisingly splendid melodies of Gopal’s music—just last year, he split the WCP title of Album of the Year—it’ll be a firecracker of a performance, and mark my words, Gunn will more than keep up.
The Fourth Stream with Shannon Gunn performs at 9 p.m. at Bossa Bistro and Lounge, 2463 18th St. NW. Free.
Wednesday, October 25
You should know about B.J. Jansen. He’s a baritone saxophonist, born and raised in Cincinnati, and he swings like hell on an instrument that can often be as heavy and cumbersome in sound as it is in physical artifact. It’s often used as background, or to fill out the woodwind spectrum in a big band setting, so when you find someone who can crush with it it’s a special thing indeed. And Jansen plays fine, fat tones, but with the kind of flurried full-frontal assault you wouldn’t expect from such a low-toned horn. But perhaps you don’t know B.J. Jansen. If that’s the case, you almost certainly know the musicians he surrounds himself with on the new record Common Ground: trumpeter Duane Eubanks, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, pianist Zaccai Curtis, bassist Dezron Douglas, and one of the most electric drummers going (and one of this writer’s favorites), Ralph Peterson. That’s a sextet full of ringers right there, and there’s surely at least one of them that you know from experience will absolutely knock you out.
B.J. Jansen and Common Ground perform at 8 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7714 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda. $40.