Arts Desk

Free Friday Night Jazz Comes to Chez Billy in September

Next month, Petworth will bear witness to a merger between two proven D.C. jazz commodities.

The first, Chez Billy, is a popular French restaurant on Georgia Avenue NW. Its upstairs lounge has also been the home base for CapitalBop's D.C. Jazz Loft for a little under a year now, enjoying quite chezbillya successful run on the second Sunday night of every month.

The second is Chris Grasso, a jazz pianist and bandleader who for many years curated the weekend jazz in the lounge of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest. That was typically a rhythm trio (with himself at the keys) and a rotating lineup of vocalists in an immensely popular Friday and Saturday night gig that ended earlier this year when hotel management decided to cut the series.

Grasso has since been working to revive his weekend series, and Chez Billy has proven game to try it. So beginning Friday, Sept.  6, there'll be a new Friday Night Jazz schedule at the Petworth eatery. "It's just Friday nights, not Friday and Saturday, but the concept is the same: a house band (me and bass) plus a rotating group of different singers," Grasso writes in a Facebook message. "The owners and management seem really into doing it."

They are still testing the waters, Grasso notes, which is why the house rhythm section is only a two-piece for the time being. "Ideally, we'll add drums if the gig is successful enough to support that. That will be determined by the size of the crowds and how much they spend."

Performances will run Friday nights, from 9 p.m. to midnight. With a schedule that currently includes vocal talents such as Lena Seikaly (Sept. 6), Sharón Clark (Sept. 13), and Elin (Sept. 20), there's no reason the size (and tabs) of the crowd shouldn't be substantial.

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