Jazz Avenues – January 2017

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Sizzling alto sax man Antonio Parker is to play on Jan. 20 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Photo: Antonio Parker

J.J. Johnson, Birthday Hero
Not too long ago I reached into a stack of CDs and pulled out trombonist J.J. Johnson’s 1998 Verve release “Heroes,” and then couldn’t stop playing it for days, for its poetry and musicality, with Renee Rosnes’ piano one of the highlights along with Johnson’s lyrical lines on tunes like “Blue Train” and “Carolyn.”

It is appropriate to remember Johnson, one of our January birthday jazz heroes. As mentioned in “Jazz Portraits” by Len Lyons and Don Perlo, he introduced “a technical virtuosity, tonal purity, and harmonic sophistication to the trombone that advanced the instrument to the front line of bebop.” A veteran of groups led by legends Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and his own groups, Johnson was an Indianapolis native (1924-2001). Heirs to his legacy include area trombonists Reginald Cyntje, Shannon Gunn, and Jen Krupa.

Happy New Year’s Wishes
Happy New Year to all, including special wishes as always to our January birthday homeboy, drummer Jimmy Cobb, a living legend National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. More New Year’s wishes to our area masters like Nasar Abadey, Fred Foss, and Buck Hill. Happy happy to our venues like Twins, The Brixton, Blues Alley, Jo Jo’s, The 18th Street Lounge, Columbia Station, Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Jazz & Cultural Society in Northeast, the Atlas, Mr. Henry’s, and many others. And best wishes to George V. Johnson Jr. and his Washington DC Jazz Network, the CapitalBop folks, and of course Charlie Fishman, Sunny Sumter, and Willard Jenkins of the DC Jazz Festival and Paul Carr and company with the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival … and to a new venue, The Alex at The Graham in Georgetown … and to everyone out there keeping it jamming for us!

Calling All DCJazzPrix Applicants
The DC Jazz Festival has announced a call for applications for its national jazz band competition, DCJazzPrix, at www.dcjazzprix.org. Applicants will find guidelines, including eligibility, review criteria, terms, and digital submission requirements for the application, which will close on March 4 at 5 p.m. The entry fee is $49 per band.

“The DCJazzPrix is unique in that it recognizes bands over soloists, with the goal of promoting the careers of emerging jazz artists committed to the creative and professional development of their excellent bands,” said Sunny Sumter, DC Jazz Festival’s executive director, in a statement. “The event is designed to help launch and promote the careers of emerging jazz artists …”

Also, DC Jazz Festival has announced its 2017 dates: June 9-18, with the prelude Jazz ‘n Families event on June 3-4. For the first time it is offering an early-bird pre-sale. See www.dcjazzfest.org for complete information.

InReview … St. John’s Jazz
Continuing into the New Year and beyond are young musicians who assure the music’s rich and growing multidimensional future. The award-winning St. John’s College High School jazz program in Northwest DC, under the direction of Kenneth Hammann, deserves kudos for its December concert at the school by the Competition Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, Swing Band, and other groups before a large, appreciative crowd.

Highpoints included tenor saxophonist Patrick Castillo’s smooth riffs, trumpeter Victor Chupka’s bright lines, and, maybe stealing the show, the Advanced Percussion Ensemble’s crackling and bopping delivery of “Blues by Five.”

See www.stjohnschs.org for more information and to support the school.

Steve Monroe is a Washington, DC, writer who can be reached at steve@jazzavenues.com and followed at www.twitter.com/jazzavenues.