For students on a budget, it’s hard to beat the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. These cats play two sets every Monday night at — you guessed it — Bohemian Caverns. They’re D.C.’s only resident big band, and believe us when we say they swing HARD. It’s ten bucks for both sets, there’s no drink or food minimum, and the basement club actually looks like a cave. The action starts at 8:00 on the corner of 11th and U St., but get there early to grab a seat. Unlike some other clubs, the Caverns isn’t 21 and up, but you’ll need a fake to buy a drink if you aren’t of age. If you’re too angsty to get out on a Monday, Bohemian’s got top-notch acts coming through every weekend as well, although they usually cost quite a bit more.
If ten dollars is still stretching it, keep an eye out for jam sessions at Columbia Station, HR-57, the D.C. Jazz Loft, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. If there’s anything that deserves the title of “real D.C. jazz” it’s these communal gigs chock full of local talent. The Loft is especially cool, bringing the District’s best to a hip, DIY style location on the second Sunday of each month. And if you play, drag your horn down to a jam and test your chops. As one critic told me, “There’s never any negativity on this scene”, so don’t be shy!
Clubs are all well and good, but for something more upbeat, head up to see the fiery trumpeter Donvonte McCoy and his quintet play at Eighteenth Street Lounge every Friday and Saturday night. There’s a dance floor instead of the usual tables and tealights, and Donvonte’s unique brand of funky bop and latin is guaranteed to make you get on up. Bossa Bistro and Sala Thai also offer bar atmospheres, but they’re both a bit chiller and have a decidedly latin tinge. Unfortunately, fakes are a must if you’re under 21.
Of course, there are a great many more options in D.C., including Blues Alley just off M St., Twins Jazz, The Kennedy Center, and beyond. But, many of the more well-known venues get expensive quick between tickets and drink minimums. For a full guide to the entire scene, CapitalBop.com is the place to look, and if you want to delve further into the history of jazz in the District, check out the Voice’s Capital Swings feature from last spring. Then close the computer and get to swingin’!
Photo(s): Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, ESL Photo Book