Saturday, April 26, 2008

So last night I had the itch to hear some live jazz, so I headed into the city to do just that. I ended up at a spot called Columbia Station in DC, and I went to hear Butch Warren and his makeshift band. While my lady and I were at the bar, the bartender implied that Butch Warren was a jazz legend and I was a bit embarrassed that I had never heard of him in my life. In fact, it was not until I googled him this morning, that I realized that he was indeed a semi-legend who played with Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk. But while looking at him last night, I had no clue that he had achieved legendary status. He was very unsteady on his feet, he seemed to have a grand total of 3 teeth, and he had a lost look in his eye like he didn't quite realize where he was, and what he was supposed to be doing. All this changed on he got the bass in his hand.

Once Butch started playing the bass, he no longer looked lost or uncomfortable. He actually looked like he was mid-coitus..that's how much he seemed to be enjoying himself. He played beautifully, he fed off the other members of the band, and clearly he was in his element. But he only played 3 songs, then he went outside and walked around, came back in and had a drink, and watched the other band members play. There was a backup bassist there, and I suspect that was due to Butch's past bouts with mental illness.

The rest of the band was interesting as well. The drummer clearly thought he was playing at the Blue Note and not a small bar in DC. I tried to request a song from him before the band started playing, and he basically blew me off. The pianist(say that out loud) was a woman, which for me was a first. The alto and tenor saxophonist looked like Phil Donahue and Don Imus respectively. At one point Phil Donahue abruptly cut off his solo to go the restroom, catching the other band members off guard. The guy on alto sax was clearly the best player in the band, and his solos were on beat and on time. The trumpet player seemed to be the youngest member of the group, and his solos were terrible. When he played, you could see the other members of the band struggling to find common ground with the notes he was putting down. It was the equivalent of watching a comic bomb at his first gig. Very painful to watch at times. But the band collectively still sounded decent. The only song they played that I recognized was the Girl from Ipanema, and it sounded excellent.

The only thing that bugged the hell out of me was the crowd. I'd say there were about 30-35 people in the venue and they were all loud as hell. Columbia Station is a restaurant/jazz club, but 90% of the clientele seemed to only focus on the restaurant part. Jazz bands at this venue thrive on tips, and up until right before we left, no one was tipping the band, and it was making me angry. Here the jazz band was setting the mood, and providing the audience with melodic sounds, and no one had the decency to place even a dollar in their tip jar. My lady and I dropped $10 in there by the way. No one in the place knew to clap after solos, or to be quiet while the band was playing, and it was just a mess. I think I may be a bit of jazz elitist, but oh well. There's a certain decorum that needs to be followed when jazz is being played, and clearly no one was following it but us. But that's what I get for not going to a fine jazz establishment. Overall, I give my experience with Butch Warren and his band a 5 out of 10. If you live in DC, you can go see them any day of the week I believe.

Girl from Ipanema - Stan Getz


sixfive said...

Interesting, that sounds like a pretty good show. I love jazz, but aside from hitting a spot in Chicago several years ago I've never been to a club to see it live. Until 2 weeks ago. I designed a CD for a guy who plays in the Duke Ellington orchestra, and he hooked my wife and I up with tickets to their performance at Blues Alley (a spot I've been wanting to hit for years). It was dope. Silence while the band played, people clapped after the solos, there was some nice color provided by this woman in the back who kept hollerin semi-inappropriate shit, but it worked. Also, the pianist was drunk as hell, but never showed it in his playing of course.
I'm thinking of going to see Terence Blanchard down there in June.

rashad said...

i'll be checking out mr blanchard at blues alley in june too. he puts on a damn good show, and he has good interaction with the audience.

Jo said...

Yes, you are a jazz elitist, much like I am a theater elitist . . .some people just don't know how to act. And yes, it is ANNOYING AS HELL! I repeat, ANNOYING AS HELL!

I went to a Broadway weekend matinee of the "Color Purple" and realized I would never ever do such a thing again. Clearly, 90% of the crowd had never been at a theater performance and thought they were in church - clappin' every minute, sayin' amen, and laughin' and talkin' so loud you couldn't even follow what was goin' on . . .Boy was I pissed, but I sure did learn my lesson. If you want a cultured, normal theater experience, pay full price for the tickets and go to the prime evening shows on Friday and Saturday night when only the theater regulars go (no matinees)!

sixfive said...

Even after I read this post, it didn't click until today that I am missing out on seeing a jazz legend blocks away from me who performs every week..until I saw a post on dcist today about him again. Wish this had hit me when I read this a year+ ago. DOH.