Week One: Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra
Thanks for joining me on this LiveJazz Journey! For the next 52 weeks, I will be checking out a live jazz show in a different city each week. From Seattle to Miami, Boston to L.A. and dozens of points in between, I plan to explore and share with you the wide-ranging diversity of this music we call jazz. And what better month to begin than April, Jazz Appreciation Month?
To get this party started, I traveled to my hometown, Washington, D.C. and checked out the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra on April 2nd. Located in the heart of the still-evolving U Street corridor, which used to be known as America’s “Black Broadway,” Bohemian Caverns is an anchor of the City’s vibrant jazz scene. The neighborhood holds a special place in my heart. From 1994-1998, I was the first executive director of the U Street Theatre Foundation, which operates the historic Lincoln Theatre – one of three theaters that earned the aforementioned appellation in the early part of the 20th century. The neighborhood’s resurrection so many years after being devastated by riots in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968 and subsequent years of blight is an urban success story in many regards.
The 17-piece Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra has staked a claim on Monday nights in the District. Founded by Bohemian Cavern owner Omrao Brown and baritone saxophonist Brad Linde, this nimble large ensemble moves effortlessly through the big band canon and then some! It was hard to keep track of the playlist with my camera in hand, but the audience was treated to fresh arrangements of tunes by Wes Montgomery, Count Basie and a few originals from BCJO members. Linde shares the music director chair with trumpeter Joe Herrera and the two of them see to it that the ensemble swings with sophistication and verve.
Bohemian Caverns has a remarkable history and it was exciting to see the Orchestra enjoying a standing-room-only house on a Monday night. Granted, the space is intimate and as you’ll see from the photos, the décor definitely evokes a cavern. The vibe is anything but spooky, though. As one of three rooms in the three-story venue (the second floor is a restaurant and the third floor is home to Liv, another performance space/lounge), it feels more like a black box theater than a smoky jazz club. If you’re heading to D.C. for business or a quick getaway, definitely put seeing live jazz at Bohemian Caverns on your must-do list.