Celebrating DC’s Black History Jazz
“Washington [in the early 1900s] was home to two of the founders of Great Black Music, Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe. A concert violinist, Cook received excellent classical training in both this country and Europe, but as an adult found inspiration in traditional African-American folk tales and spirituals, incorporating them in his compositions. Europe was outspoken in his belief that “we colored people have our own music that is part of us. It’s the product of our souls; it’s been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race.”
―From “Great Black Music and the Desegregation of Washington, D.C.” by Maurice Jackson in “Jazz in Washington,” a 2014 publication of the Historical Society of Washington, DC.
We can celebrate our Black History Month in DC this February in a number of ways, notably by visiting the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at the University of the District of Columbia, the Library of Congress and other locations to explore the recordings and documents and photographs of jazz. And we can attend live events celebrating the ongoing legacy, the living history, of this original black American art form.
The events include the Randy Weston show on Feb. 10 at the Kennedy Center, “NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston’s African Rhythms: A Tribute to James Reese Europe” (tickets $30, the Terrace Theater; see www.kennedy-center.org). Then there is the Tribute to Buck Hill show at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Feb. 24 and the Thinking About Jazz show honoring Hill the next day, Feb. 25, at Westminster. Hill, our own jazz master saxophonist, bandleader and composer, passed on to ancestry a year ago. See www.westminsterdc.org.
Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Swings Again
Thanks to our inimitable saxophonist, bandleader, educator and executive producer Paul Carr, the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival swings for three hot and heavy days again this February in Rockville. The stars aligned to perform include Chad Carter, DeAndre Howard and the Collectors, Warren Wolf, Paul Carr himself and his Jazz Academy, Buster Williams, Jazzmeia Horn, Lydia Harrell, Braxton Cook, Nasar Abadey, Carmen Bradford, Eric Byrd, The Airmen of Note, The Lovejoy Group, Carmen Lundy, Wes Biles and more – in addition to a fascinating array of crack school bands and line-dance events. See www.midatlanticjazzfestival.org for complete information, free events and ticketed event information and showtimes.
Coda for Reuben Brown
Sympathies and best wishes, and also thanks in celebration for the artistry he gave us, for the family of pianist Reuben Brown who passed on last month. Like yours truly, a graduate of DC’s McKinley Tech High School, Brown, also an excellent composer, was known for tasteful, melodic, swinging and elegant work on the keyboard, often at the old One Step Down. His legacy lives in our minds and hearts and on his many Steeplechase and other recordings. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU15rpbsXiw&feature=share for a sample.
InPerson … Ron Sutton Jr., Reginald Cyntje
It was a jamming Sunday night late last month at the Jazz and Cultural Society in Northeast DC as a packed house bobbed their heads, shouted and clapped in appreciation when saxophonist Ron Sutton Jr. and trombonist Reginald Cyntje led their group with searing, soaring riffs on several standards like “Sunflower” in a joint celebration bash for their January birthdays.
February Highlights: … Steve Washington, Feb. 10, The Alex/Graham Georgetown Hotel … NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston’s African Rhythms: A Tribute to James Reese Europe, Feb. 10, Kennedy Center … East River Jazz Brunch, Feb. 11, Anacostia Art Center … Imani-Grace Cooper, Feb. 14, Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital … Abby Schaffer, Feb. 14, Twins Jazz … Eugenie Jones, Feb. 16, Twins Jazz … Vince Evans Jazz Ensemble, Feb. 16, Westminster Presbyterian Church … Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Feb. 16-18, Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel Executive Meeting Center … Nico Sarbanes, Feb. 17, The Alex … Integriti Reeves, Feb. 18, Blues Alley … Three’s Company/Gail Marten, Feb. 18, Overlea Senior Center/Baltimore … Allyn Johnson/Meet the Artist on the Bandstand/Michael Bowie, Feb. 20, University of the District of Columbia (UDC) Recital Hall Bldg. 46-West … Noah Haidu, Feb. 24-25, Twins Jazz … Tribute to Buck Hill, Feb. 23, Westminster … Todd Marcus Quintet: On These Streets, Feb. 23, Atlas Performing Arts Center … Thinking About Jazz/Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill: The Wailin’ Mailman, Feb. 24, Westminster … Lafayette Gilchrist and the Sonic Trip Masters All Stars, Feb. 24, Atlas … Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Feb. 24, An Die Musik/Baltimore … Tierney Sutton Band, Feb. 26, Blues Alley … UDC Small Jazz Ensembles, Feb. 27, UDC Recital Hall Bldg. 46-West … Joe Vetter, Feb. 28, Twins Jazz …
February Birthdays: James P. Johnson, Joshua Redman 1; Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz 2; Eubie Blake 7; Chick Webb 10; Machito 16; Stan Kenton, David Murray 19; Nancy Wilson 20; Tadd Dameron 21; James Moody 26; Mildred Bailey, Dexter Gordon 27.
Steve Monroe is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC. He can be reached at email@example.com or @jazzavenues.