Washington, D.C. is the birthplace and home of such important pianist and composer . Its connection to Duke is enough to cement its importance to history, but it still has a thriving scene today in 2022, which we’ll be exploring in this rundown of the in Washington D.C.figures as Charlie Rouse, Butch Warren, and the legendary
But first, let’s check out a little history of jazz in Washington to understand the unique impact that D.C. on the music’s history…
The History of Jazz in Washington D.C.
Whilst Washington may not seem like a major force, it was home to many important players, like the aforementioned Ellington, along with singer and pianist , Sonny Greer, and even pianist Billy Taylor.
The first great composer, Jelly Roll Morton, relocated to the city in 1935 for a residency at the Jungle Inn. As a result, D.C. often had a myriad of different styles.
It wasn’t uncommon to hear Ellington’s hard-swinging group compete against Morton’s southern styles, with and Dixieland also making an appearance.
Later pioneers, like Ruth Brown and , even recorded albums and toured the city heavily. This unique stylistic meshing has created a fantastic and dizzying array of styles that are hard to pin under one simple definition.
Washington D.C. Areas Most Famous for
Washington D.C.’s historic Bohemian Caverns. This important club operated until the 1990s and helped launch many careers. centres typically focused on the historical
Located on modern clubs, new artist debuts, and much more. , this region remained the centre of in the city and has remained important for various
However, it’s not the only neighbourhood that affected development.
The Georgetown area has become popular for and One Step Down. like
These modern hub for the area, though has seen a recent resurgence in popularity with various city-improvement initiatives. are now considered the
The in Washington D.C.
Like many major American cities associated with development, D.C. has many sterling clubs that are more than worth visiting.
Each of these clubs has different venue options, styles, and even food options.
So here’s our rundown of some of the top clubs that Washington D.C. has to offer, including the preferred styles practiced in each of these .
1. The Birchmere
The Birchmere is one of the oldest still-operating clubs in the area. Opening in 1966 as a hub for bluegrass, it has drawn a broad range of different performers over the years.
It’s not unusual to see a singer-songwriter one day, a hip-hop group the next, followed by a tight quintet.
That unique diversity makes The Birchmere an interesting place to hang out. With a capacity that nears 100 or so people, it’s a hopping place whenever there’s a show!
The box office opens at 5:00 PM and seating begins at 6 PM. You can order food while you wait for the show to start at 7:30 PM.
Beating The Birchmere to the punch by opening in 1965, this club hosted some of the biggest names in , , and the beloved trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie., including
In fact, it is currently the nation’s oldest operating , one that features a small and intimate setting.
Expect around 125 people per concert when attending this . Shows typically centre on more traditional styles, with minimal avant or free groups playing.
Some light funk- groups may also play from time to time. Shows start at 7:00 PM and 9:45 PM to provide two showing options.
3. JoJo Restaurant & Bar
JoJo Restaurant & Bar has helped fuel the modern resurgence in recent times. They take their mission seriously and create a 1920s style and ambiance.
They focus on using authentic mahogany furnishings that mimic 1920s style and serve delicious foods that should hit the spot.
As a result, you can expect some pretty old-school styles combined with a modern flair. There’s a lot of upbeat swing music here, paired with more modern music techniques.
Don’t be surprised to hear a tasteful synth solo in your favourite Strayhorn composition!
Holding over 100 people, doors open at 5 PM six days a week, with shows starting soon after.
4. Mr. Henry’s
Founded in 1966, Mr. Henry’s is acclaimed as the home of Roberta Flack, as she first received her first major gig exposure.
In fact, her surge in popularity helped save the club from closing, as people flocked to the venue every for the chance to see her play.
Modern Mr. Henry’s performances include many different styles and genres. is just one music type you’ll hear, including bop, swing, and upbeat rock-based styles.
This club can seat about 80-90 people or so comfortably and typically starts shows at around 7:30 or 8:00 PM.
Tavern hosts multiple unique events every week, including comedy open mics on Thursdays and major sports-watching parties on Saturdays and Sundays.
Its Friday experience includes performances from popular city and national performers.
Takoma’s diverse approach is mirrored in its foods, which feature a Bob Marley Honey Jerk Chicken Sandwich and a Charlie Parker Wings Basket.
Expect everything from cool to heavy fusion reminiscent of Mahavishnu at their best. Show up at 4 PM on Fridays to get a historic spot.
Bonus: Washington D.C.
The , or DCJF, organisation hosts a week-long celebration in April, showcasing various genres and providing education to younger students.
Their programs include the DCJF Education Program that helps children learn about new to the area., the 200,000+ person DC JazzFest, and the Charles Fishman Embassy Series which introduces
Thanks for reading!
Whether you’re a DC native or planning a trip, we hope you’ve found some useful ideas for where to catch some live jazz.
Looking for more live gig tips? Check out our collection of guides on the best jazz clubs and festivals around the world.
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!