- Brian Settles rocks a D.C. Jazz Loft in February. (Photograph by Carlyle V. Smith/Capital Bop)
Giovanni Russonello knew there was a problem in Washington's small jazz scene: " In D.C.," he says, "there's work for jazz musicians, but very little is about playing for people who are listening." The Tenleytown native, who is 23, grew up going to HR-57, Twins Jazz, and Bohemian Caverns, but he wanted dearly to re-create the New York loft scene of yore. "I was sort of always piqued by that romantic notion," he says. "I wanted to do something similar in D.C."
For a little over a year, he has. Luke Stewart, who with Russonello edits the very fine jazz website Capital Bop, pointed his partner to Gold Leaf Studios, the performance and studio space on Eye Street NW that's closing at the end of this month.
Saturday night will be the last Jazz Loft at Gold Leaf's Red Door. Russonello says Capital Bop will announce a new location for Jazz Loft soon, maybe even tomorrow. But the old space is worth saying goodbye to.
The show will feature some of the artists who've ignited previous shows since their December 2010 debut: the Brian Settles Trio, Elijah Jamal Balbed's quartet, the Jonathan Parker Quartet, and more. Russonello says a Settles Trio show last February (video below the jump) is one of his favorite Jazz Loft memories.
The group "just sort of took everyone apart," he says. Drummer Tiacoh Sadia "just created this bounce that people couldn’t believe. People were yelling and shouting. At a jazz show that’s what you’re after."
It's also not a typical jazz-club experience. There are no appetizers, no table minimums, and unless you snag one of the 15 or so folding chairs, you'll stand or sit on the floor. "The prevailing idea is that you're there to listen to the music, and you’re there to grapple with it," Russonello says. "You’re there because you haven’t had many experiences with jazz but your friend told you that if you wanna get down to it, this is the one time."
Another atypical jazz experience: Even a middle-aged fan won't be the youngest person the room. And you'll have plenty of time to, as Russonello puts it, "smell everyone else's breath."
"There’s always plenty of set breaks," he says. "What you have in between is a lot of people getting together and reflecting on what they've heard and making googly eyes."
Jazz Loft's final Red Door show is Saturday night at 7 p.m. "I personally would put more emphasis on the fact that it goes all night," Russonello says. 443 Eye St. NW; $10 donation (all money at the door goes to the musicians); BYOB.