First, right up front, a disclosure: Your humble correspondent is on the festival's schedule. I'll be appearing in a Saturday afternoon panel session entitled "Does the Jazz Media have a Positive Effect on Jazz Audience Development?"
Panel sessions, by the way, join with artist Q&As, workshops, master classes, film screenings, and musical competitions to make the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (now in its seventh edition), a stunningly robust and well-rounded jazz festival. Not what the casual observer might expect from an event that's confined entirely to a suburban hotel. But festival curator Paul Carr is nothing if not serious about jazz; each year he turns the Hilton Rockville into a miniature city of jazz, complete with marketplace, restaurant, large theater, and small clubs. (You can even think of the middle school, high school, and college bands, which play in the atrium, as buskers on the city's streets.)
That's kind of a pie-in-the-sky view, of course; you can also look at it as something approaching a trade show, as I've said in the past. But then you don't really have to look at it as anything other than a weekend of great music and appreciation thereof. Here are some suggestions: Read more What to See at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival
There are perhaps no harder working musicians in D.C. than Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog. Both are gifted and constantly evolving multi-instrumentalists, and both of their names are synonymous with nearly every pocket of the District's diverse, bustling music scene—from jazz to avant-garde and experimental, and even to indie rock and DIY punk (at least in involvement, if not in sonic practice).
But their main focus has always been the music they've made together. Over the course of two albums, they've taken their encyclopedic musical knowledge and training from around the world and funneled it into their own playing, which has mostly focused on Pirog's impressive guitar chops and Leppin's exquisite cello skills. Read more Listen: Janel and Anthony, ‘Sweet and Sour’
This weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, which is tough to compete with in terms of jazz happenings. (Look for a preview on Arts Desk soon.) But these four performances do a pretty good job of it anyway.
Photo: John Abbott
Thursday, Feb. 11
Sensitivity in a musician is about more than just playing softly. It's about understanding the needs of a piece, and the ability to deliver those needs at whatever level of volume and intensity is needed. The softness is perhaps the hardest to deliver, so it gets tagged as "sensitive" most often. But there are few other players of any instrument that demonstrate just how wide-ranging the notion of sensitivity is than pianist Aaron Diehl. One of the Columbus native's performances can run the gamut of dynamics, but also of styles: tender ballads, blues, stride piano, hard-driving bebop, standards delivered with torch-song feeling, and original compositions with surprising and beautiful twists. (Diehl particularly likes to throw in dark underlines with his left hand, a craft that's woefully underemployed in jazz piano.) And it all comes with that impeccable gift for feeling that can only be called, yes, sensitivity. The Aaron Diehl Trio performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $28. Read more Jazz Setlist, Feb. 11-17: Heartbreaker Edition
Tucked into the corner of a quiet speakeasy, Mathias Broohm reminisces over the days when his love for music was just a hobby. After moving from New Carrollton to Frederick in 2000, "I used to be in charge of the music for house parties," he explains. His eclectic playlists garnered enough support from friends to make the transition into DJing a no-brainer.
After months of practice and sending off mixes for critique from other DJs, Mathias became a mainstay of Frederick nightlife, and in 2011 he took his first gig in D.C. at Spaghetti Garden in Adams Morgan. He hasn't looked back since.
Inspired by the "anything goes" mentality of some of his DJ peers, like Stereofaith, Spinser Tracy, and Jerome Baker III, Mathias follows suit at his own parties. He can be heard spinning everything from current hip-hop to throwback pop to underground club music for diverse crowds at venues like Rock & Roll Hotel, Velvet Lounge, Marvin, U Street Music Hall, and everywhere in between. But to stand out amongst the crowd, Mathias has a unique sonic signature to make every set memorable. Whether it's a guilty pleasure or a song long forgotten, "every time I play, I always wanna leave something in your mind," he says. Read more Burning Down the House: For D.C. DJ Mathias, Versatility Is Everything
They say everyone is a critic (especially in the age of Twitter and Facebook), but few make a living at it. And even among the professionals, A.O. Scott stands above the rest. He’s one of two principal film critics for the New York Times, and during his tenure he has come to the realization that thinking about films is a good way to think about, well, pretty much everything else. Scott distills his feelings into his new book, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth. His discussion at Politics & Prose will be an extension of the book: a celebration of thought that mixes the highbrow alongside the lowbrow, and without thumbs pointing in any specific direction. Read more >>> A.O. Scott reads at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. politics-prose.com. (Allison Kowalski and Alan Zilberman)
Wolfgang Puck’s Asian-fusion restaurant The Source will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a special themed pre-fixe menu and a traditional lion dance tonight. Before dinner, guest chefs Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground and Maketto and Danny Lee of Mandu will prepare New Year dishes at different “live-action stations.” The meal itself is three courses, including whole jumbo head-on prawn, cumin-soy marinated Wagyu New York strip, and monkey bread sticky cake with tangerine ice cream. The evening costs $85 a person with a $35 optional wine pairing. The Source, 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (202) 637-6100. www.wolfgangpuck.com/restaurants/fine-dining/3941. (Quinn Myers)
OH AND ALSO
Spooky Action Theater begins performances of Collaborators, a John Hodge comedy that imagines a relationship between Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov and dictator Joseph Stalin. 8 p.m. at 1810 16th St. NW. Pay what you can. Read more To Do Today: A.O. Scott, Collaborators, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Linn Meyers creating "at the time being" at the Phillips Collection in 2010. (Charles Mahorney/Phillips Collection)
This spring, Linn Meyers, a D.C.–based artist known for making intricate but temporary wall drawings, will create her largest site-specific work yet: a 360-degree wall drawing for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The drawing will occupy some 400 linear feet of museum wall space, spanning the entire circumference of the museum's second-floor inner-ring galleries. "Our View From Here" will open on May 12 and run for one year—at which point the entire drawing will be painted over.
The artist will begin the drawing on February 29, working during museum hours seven days a week to execute it. She estimates that the project will take her more than 600 hours all told. The artist doesn't have a problem with the fact that the most time-intensive work of her career has a predetermined lifespan of exactly 367 days. Read more The Hirshhorn Is Hosting a 360-Degree Wall Drawing by D.C. Artist Linn Meyers
John Schroeder, the singer of legendary D.C. hardcore band Government Issue better known as John Stabb, has been diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer after a series of hospital visits over the past month.
Read more Government Issue’s John Stabb Battling Stomach Cancer (UPDATE)
Arena Stage's latest, The City of Conversation, explores the myth of the Georgetown dinner party. Here's what really went down at these mythic parties. [Post]
Porchfest returns in April. [DC Music Download] Read more Arts Roundup: Porchfest Returns Edition
Trend pieces may insist that Georgetown is sooooo over in terms of its late-night bar scene, but damnit if we don’t still enjoy watching the movements and political machinations of the neighborhood’s hostesses. Anthony Giardina’s latest play, The City of Conversation, doubles down on that supposition, taking audiences through the years with Hester Ferris, a liberal, well-connected string-puller who invites ideological opposites into her living room to discuss the issues of the day. From the Carter years through two Bush adminstrations and into Obama’s historic election, Hester sees her gatherings evolve, but her world is truly rocked when her new, conservative daughter-in-law threatens to dismantle everything Hester has built over the decades. Read more >>> The play runs Jan. 29 to March 6 at Arena Stage, 1100 6th St. SW. $55–$90. (202) 554-9066. arenastage.org. (Caroline Jones)
Teddy & The Bully Bar will celebrate President's Day early this year with a “Presidential Happy Hour” today from 3 to 8 p.m. The special includes complimentary food from 5 to 6:30 p.m. with themed drinks like the Rio Roosevelt and the Safari Sangria going for $8. In case the free food doesn’t sway you, 10 percent of the happy hour proceeds will go to the Washington Humane Society. Teddy & The Bully Bar, 1200 19th St. NW. (202) 872-8700. teddyandthebullybar.com. (Quinn Myers)
OH AND ALSO
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden opens "Suspended Animation," a new exhibition featuring work by artist whose digitally generated work questions our notions of reality. 10 a.m. at 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. Free. Read more To Do Today: The City of Conversation, Pell, and ‘Suspended Animation’
Government Issue's John Stabb is battling stomach cancer. [Arts Desk]
French soprano Sandrine Piau's D.C. debut at the Phillip's Collection wows. [Post]
9:30 Club is getting its own Austin City Limits-esque musical variety show on PBS. [Arts Desk] Read more Arts Roundup: Nothing Keeps a Punk Down Edition