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Sala Thai on U Street features live jazz every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. There’s a fairly regular rotation of performers, and two of them are guitarists who performed particularly impressive gigs this past weekend.
Steve Herberman, an adjunct faculty member in Towson University’s music department, has a smoky guitar timbre and a winding, spidery playing style. He generally plays in a trio with bass and drums, mixing standards and his own intriguing originals. The latter are also available for purchase on Herberman’s 2006 CD, Action: Reaction. (He usually has copies for sale at his Sala Thai shows.) The songs he writes tend to be both mellow and dark, a late-night sound that’s more influenced by dusty-plains Americana (“Negev Journey,” “Halcyon Air”) than blues and Tin Pan Alley, which do pop up occasionally (“Nearly Time,” “Sphericity”).
The disc is enigmatic and excellent, but first you should hear him work some of the tunes in his live show. He’ll be at Sala Thai again this Thursday, October 11, with bassist Tom Baldwin and drummer Frank Russo.
Mark Mosley is also a guitarist, and also an educator: He teaches in the Baltimore system. But his similarities with Herberman end there; despite his more delicate touch, Mosley is a traditionalist, a hard-swinging blues player. He comes by it honestly, too—his father played him the great postwar blues guitarists when he was growing up, and Mosley later did his apprenticeship on tour with Lou Donaldson. That remains Mosley’s base even when he does decidedly unbluesy material like “The Girl from Ipanema,” a favorite of his live shows (and included on his great self-produced CD Mark’s Mood), though on his recording he does throw a bit of a change-up with the smooth jazzy “Horizon.” He’s also an idealist; Mosley will tell you as he plays that he believes in spreading jazz because it’s the most perfect representation of democracy.
He has a rather large reserve of musicians that he works with, though pianist Charles Etzel and bassist James King recur more often than most; but Mosley’s sidemen can vary in both names and number (he switches between trio and quartet). In one form or another, his music can be heard every Saturday night at Sala Thai, and it’s always a swingin’ affair from an impassioned jazz lover and musician.
Sala Thai is at 1301 U Street NW, in the Ellington Apartment building. (202) 462-1333. The music usually starts around 8 p.m.