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Dear PoPville – Bringing More Jazz Back to U Street

by Prince Of Petworth February 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm 7 Comments

duke_ellington_mural_u_street
Photo by flickr user @mjb

“Dear PoPville,

The red hot music scene in DC these days is marked by more than just indie rock and Go-Go. The jazz scene in Washington has deep roots and is as vibrant as ever, including one element that is revving up the scene ever more: the jam culture. Between DC and Baltimore we are blessed with many top of the line jazz clubs and more talented musicians and singers than can be counted. In addition to the jazz venues, where artists typically play two sets at 8 and 10 pm on weekends, there are numerous jazz jams where artists come together either on an off night early I the week or on weekends after their gigs around town.

The central node of all this frenetic musical activity is the U Street Jazz Jam on Friday nights after hours. Every week at 11 pm the Bmore/DC cats file in and trade licks on stage. The impresario of all of this is Jeff Stacey, a policy wonk by day but music promoter after the sun does down. As designed, a host band kicks things off and one or two songs and then start letting others play in their places. By midnight the place starts to pop, producing a raw uber intense energy that resounds throughout the two floors of Ulah Bistro (where the Jam takes place) and out the windows and doors onto the street.

Stacey is out to prove two things. First, that the pre 1960s jazz culture on U Street is alive and well. Second, that anyone and everyone will respond to this hyperkinetic energy, including the Milennnial generation. According to Stacey, “half the players and singers and tappers come from this generation. So if you tell me jazz is dead, I suggest you coming by and giving that some more thought.”

One of the great things about this community is, everyone is welcome. The U Street Jazz Jam takes place every Friday night at the Ulah Bistro (1214 U St.) at 11 pm and goes until 2 or 3 am. Every Thursday Stacey puts on Dukem Jazz a block away at Dukem Bar and Restaurant (1114 U St.), with jazz sets at 9 and 10:30 pm.”

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