What Makes a Jazz Legend Quickest?

In the past, jazz stars made their names by playing in famous groups as studio sidemen and then on the stage. Jazz greats like Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster emerged from U Street clubs to the spotlight of fame only after years playing in the shadow of Duke Ellington.

Aspiring D.C. jazz artists still find their way through obscure studio and club gigs, but local jazz pianist Louis Scherr envisions a different route. Last September, Scherr launched DCjazz.com, a Web site devoted to promoting local jazz artists and linking the Washington metropolitan jazz community.

At a gig last July, Scherr talked about the “blues of playing jazz music in the area” with bassist Tom Baldwin. The two players devised a “wish list” for area musicians. High up on that list was the idea of a more unified network of local jazz. And so they developed DCjazz.com.

DCjazz.com offers local musicians an Internet “stage” where Webheads can sample riffs by artists and evaluate performers in categories such as arrangement and improvisational technique. And until May 31, the site is holding its DCjazz Recording Competition, offering up to four new contestants each week.

DCjazz.com also features the jazz “Cyberunion,” an “online music union” where musicians can network and promote their music. Currently, 35 artists link their Web sites to Scherr’s.

It’s a far cry from the clubside wheeling and dealing back when U Street was known as the “Black Broadway.” WPFW-FM Program Director Lou Hankins sees the potential for sites like DCjazz.com to reach a new kind of local listener: “The jazz anthologist isn’t going to catch jazz over the Internet. [But] the Internet may make jazz accessible to an unidentified jazz listener. Sitting on the computer, young people may discover jazz for the first time.”—Andrew Katz