Arts Desk

2010: The Year D.C. Jazz Broke

One of these days someone will write a comprehensive history of jazz in the District of Columbia, and 2010 will have a volume all to itself. Or at least a very long chapter. It's simply been a spectacular year for the scene; not always "spectacular" in the positive sense, but momentous and monumental no matter how you slice it.

We've already talked about the year's biggest story, the ascent of Bohemian Caverns to the top of the heap in D.C. jazz. But here are the other big happenings of 2010:

  1. Sarah Hughes, a talented young saxophonist and hardworking District supporting player, made a promising debut as a bandleader at Utopia on Jan. 7.
  2. The East Coast Jazz Festival was reborn as the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in February, putting local stalwarts and promising students on the bill with great national acts.
  3. Local dynamo Nasar Abadey and his Supernova ensemble was selected to represent the United States as part of the State Department's "Rhythm Road" cultural exchange program.
  4. Alto saxophonist John Kocur, pianist Amy Bormet, and drummer Nate Jolley were recipients in March of the Kennedy Center's prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency.
  5. A new Sunday night jam session began at Dahlak Eritrean restaurant on U Street in April.
  6. The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra became the city's only house big band when it organized and premiered at the Caverns in April.
  7. A slew of outstanding new recordings by Bobby Muncy, Kevin Pace, Saltman Knowles, Nasar Abadey, and the Jolley Brothers.
  8. The D.C. Jazz Festival changed its name, refreshed its one-world jazz perspective, and found perhaps its surest footing in its six-year existence.
  9. D.C. jazz had its own "Revolution Summer", with a full plate of festivals and national acts colliding with seven nights a week of local jazz in the U Street/Adams Morgan corridor.
  10. Saxophonist Elijah Balbed established himself once and for all as one of the major forces at work on the local jazz scene (and its best new musician).
  11. CapitalBop, a comprehensive new website advocating jazz in the District run by local jazz lovers Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart, launched in July.
  12. Butch Warren, the District's most significant (and significantly troubled) jazz ambassador, was fired from his longtime gig at Columbia Station.
  13. Longtime U Street jazz venue Cafe Nema, one of the key locales in the District's recent jazz renaissance, closed its doors in October.
  14. Among many great national acts performing in DC (including a live recording made here in November), free-jazz great Cecil Taylor performed a rare and extremely well-attended—not to mention brilliant—concert at the French embassy on Nov. 10.
  15. The aforementioned jazz advocates at CapitalBop became jazz impresarios when they presented the DC Jazz Loft, one of the best and most important showcases for local jazz musicians in recent memory.
  16. HR-57 Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues left its 15-year outpost on 14th Street NW for the greener, hipper pastures of H Street NE.

Not bad for a year's work, huh?

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