Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DC jazz? duke ellington can't spin in his grave any faster

i was so embarassed for DC last saturday. seriously, ya really let me down.

so a friend was visiting, who happens to be a grammy winning musician from london and wanted to see some live music. friday night was a disappointment. ok, iritis kicked ass but those opening bands, ummm. needs a bit of work.
so it's saturday, let's go hear some jazz! i had a few places lined up and we were going to crawl them all to find the best.
we started at twins on U street, a solid choice, but on valentine's day it was a mess of couples with interlocking arms and smoochiness. and i don't mean to discriminate, but the musicians looked like they were from a high school in montgomery county. enough said.
so we scooted on over to bohemian caverns, a good backup. i walked up to the bouncer to ask who was playing and was interrupted with a grumbly "60 bucks."
can we go in and just listen for a -
"60 bucks"
what if we don't like the music, can we-
"60 bucks"
what if i leave this guy as collateral can i go in and -
"60 bucks."
that seemed like a bit of a gamble for a "60 bucks" band that plays nothing but "60 bucks" for "60 bucks"
soo...we stoped into Dukem to come up with a game plan. there at least, was some decent tunes. some guy playing a weird sideways guitar and some excellent singers. the martinis were served in plastic glasses but i wasn't about to complain.
and then, eureka, of course! H.R. 57 - it is in fact the center for the preservation of jazz.
so we go down and enter a packed house. this is great! let's have a seat. the band was in between sets but we smiled in anticipation.
then they came on - piano, guitar, drums, a 6 string violin - cool!
and then it started, what would be more than half an hour of what my friend would call "quite literally the worst music i've ever heard. ever. and i've been listening to music for over 40 years."
4 chords. 4 chords, which composed the latest coldplay hit, played over. and over. and over. and over again. i couldn't believe it. is this what passes for jazz these days? 4 chords. ok, that's not counting all the bad notes. 4 chords. it was a sort of grand finale, but it was never ending. 4 chords. the energy increased. 4 chords multiplied by 4 chords. i looked around the room, wondering if maybe my ears just weren't hearing the same thing as everyone else? 4 chords. people were dancing, waving their hands in the air. the song got louder, drum solo, piano solo, whining screaming violin with his 4 chords, is this for real? 35 minutes went by and we just couldn't take it anymore. it didn't stop for another 12. we retreated in horror to the middle part of the room which had these comfy leather couches. i put my head in my hands, this is humiliating.
we chatted, wondered what was becoming of jazz and the world. people started to trickle out, drunkenly swaggering, wasted. i noticed people pointing to a spot to our left, crinkling their noses and saying "looks like pizza." it was puke. PUKE. in a jazz club.

so this is the preservation of jazz, DC? are you fucking serious? i'm ashamed of you. it's going to take a lot to convince me to try that again. Duke Ellington is spinning in his grave at 6,000 rpms.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, to be honest, the jazz scene here is trending toward the LAME in the extreme. Most places are booking cheapo university student combos (or even high school kids... WTF?) and then charging a mint for CRAP. Seriously, I'm a musician and some of these people are my FRIENDS and I wouldn't pay the cover, let alone sit and listen to them play a 45-minute workover of Oleo they're practicing for combo class. No imagination, even fewer skills, and for that much money I can get to NY and into a life-changing performance and then back. It's just sad, really.

lefty said...

wow, thanks for the info. so what happened? it was my impression that a few years ago, the jazzin' was pretty decent in DC. oh well, guess i'll chinabuss it to my next show!