U Street Ethiopian restaurant Dukem to host weekly jazz shows
D.C.’s U Street has long been a proud home for America’s classical music, dating back to the days of Duke Ellington when the neighborhood featured one of the nation’s most vibrant and productive jazz scenes.
Today, the street maintains its artistic reputation, but the culture has changed. Only two full time jazz clubs—Twins and Bohemian Caverns—remain on U Street, and their cover charges often put them out of reach for students. Georgetown’s lone jazz attraction, Blues Alley, is even more exclusive, with the price for a weekend ticket regularly topping $40.
But now one restaurateur is looking to capture the younger, more cash-strapped segment of the District audience.
Beginning this Thursday, the popular U Street Ethiopian restaurant Dukem will play host to a weekly jazz jam, spotlighting local and regional talent. More exciting than a new venue in northwest D.C. is that you won’t spend any money until you get to the bar—there’s no cover.
Opening Dukem up to jazz is actually a second act for owner Jeff Stacey. Earlier this year he began an instantly-popular weekly jazz night on Fridays at his other U Street venue, Ulah Bistro. He told CapitalBop.com’s Giovanni Russonello that he thinks there’s an untapped market for the music.
“We’re trying to take issue with the crazy conventional wisdom that jazz is dead, catch on with the millennials, and be a part of the energy on U Street,” he said.
Russonello notes that the restaurant is basically a ready-made jazz club already. “Dukem is a wise choice in part because of its location, and also because it’s already got some logistics in order: Thursday-night performers at Dukem will work from a stage already built into the restaurant. They’ll pick up at 9 and play until midnight,” he wrote.
Whether a no-cover set can be financially viable in a city of rising rents is still in question, but what’s not is the quality of performers Stacey has scheduled. D.C. native and Howard graduate Akua Allrich will bring her vocal stylings this Thursday and next, with veteran D.C. vocalist Sharón Clark following her on Dec. 19. The venue will take a break for the holidays, but then start back up after the new year on Jan. 9.
Dukem is located on the corner of 12th and U, right next to the U Street/Cardozo Metro stop. Sets begin each Thursday at 9 pm and run until midnight.
Photo: Mikhail Petrov via Flickr