It’s been a rough month for the local jazz community. First, D.C.’s “jazz and justice” radio station WPFW revealed that its basically running on empty financially, then Bohemian Caverns—the legendary U Street jazz venue—shut its doors for good. But it’s not just Bohemian Caverns, says jazz vocalist Aaron Myers II. “Over the last two or three years, a number of venues that have been supportive of jazz have closed down,” like Café Nema and HR-57,” he says.
It’s enough to send any local jazz musician into panic mode, which is why Myers is spearheading a lobbying effort to get the local government to help support the scene.
Myers tells Arts Desk that he’s hoping to get several government agencies—including the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development—to work with the local jazz community to find unused government property for “jazz and music programming” and to “increase affordable housing for musicians.” On Tuesday, Myers says he’s meeting with Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Elissa Silverman while other local musicians will be in the building most of the day to lobby for their cause.
A lot of local jazz musicians decamp to New York, Myers says, “because they see New York as this jumping off point.” But Myers says D.C.’s jazz scene was, at one point, comparable to New York’s, and he thinks with support from the local government it can be that way again. “A lot of jazz musicians can no longer afford to live in the District of Columbia,” he says. “What we’re asking for is the city government to support live music because that’s a major part of tourism in D.C.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery