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I’d like to compare notes with Chris Porter’s report of the free jazz vs. Soho Tea and Coffee incident of April 7 (Artifacts, 4/17), speaking as an audience member. I’d first like to balance Porter’s report by saying that organizer Vince Kargatis was not rude to anyone by my observation; in fact, Vince was unfailingly polite to bands, coffee jerks, audience, and other customers. I found it remarkable that Vince and the musicians should be so calm and nice about everything considering that the owner was abruptly reneging on a commitment.

I think it’s also important to note—again to balance Porter’s report, which quoted only Soho Tea clerks and customers in its estimation of the performance—that the musicians were playing great music. John Berndt’s Music in the Key of Zero had roamed into some interesting musical territory, Bhob Rainey was blowing wild and free, and I was really looking forward to his final set with Berndt’s group. In fact, just before Rainey was cut short, I’d been thinking what a great space it was for this music, and how well everything was going.

It doesn’t surprise me that I got a different story that night about how the cancellation went down from the chickenshit Soho staff. The coffee jerks claimed they had nothing to do with the plug pull, but that the owner “calls in every shift and happened to call in and hear 4 seconds” of Rainey’s music. According to the staff, Soho’s owner called the show off in a split-second judgment. When I suggested to the staff that they let the groups play on until the owner called at the next shift, one coffee-puller said: “That would be pretty disrespectful of your boss, don’t you think?”

The dualing saxes of Berndt and Rainey at the Schevchenko monument—one of the most beautiful musical moments I’ve experienced in about 10 years of DC concert-going—must have made the “Bard of Ukraine” proud. The setting was perfect, with a flowering tree to one side, a sculptural concrete backdrop, and the bronze Ukrainian looking down, and Berndt happily declared that he’d played a sound he’d never heard before. The cop who drove by gave Vince “10 or 15 minutes” to clear the noise complaint before driving off. The boys were so law-abiding they didn’t push it when they clearly could have played until the next noise violation call.

Kargatis brings great free jazz to Washington a couple times a month with the nonprofit collective Transparent Productions. Already, their shows have dramatically changed D.C.’s music scene for the better—bringing William Parker, Susie Ibarra, Jemeel Moondoc, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris, Leo Smith, and many others to town. They always work in donated spaces, like Crush and Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, without any problems with customers or staff. The problem at Soho Tea clearly was in the constipated minds of its owner and her sycophantic staff. Soho Tea will never get my business again, and I hope anyone who cares about music in D.C. will also boycott this shop, maybe heading over to Food for Thought instead.

Falls Church, Va.

via the Internet