DC Jazz Fest Honors Chuck Brown With a Memorial Concert

The go-go legend gets special billing during this year’s festival.
The New Orleans–based band the Brass-a-Holics. Photograph courtesy of DC Jazz Fest.
The New Orleans–based band the Brass-a-Holics. Photograph courtesy of DC Jazz Fest.

If you didn’t get to pay your last respects to
Chuck Brown when he lay in state at the Howard
Theatre last month, you’ll get another chance at a special memorial
concert honoring the
local music legend this Friday. New Orleans band Brass-a-Holics
were supposed to play with Brown as a special guest during
their DC Jazz Fest performance, a part of the “Jazz in the
’Hoods” series. Instead, they’ll perform their concert at the Hamilton
as a tribute to him along with special guests and local go-go
legends
Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott and
Milton “Go Go Mickey” Freeman.

Heralded as the “godfather of go-go,” a title that
nods to his pivotal role in creating the District’s unique brand of funk
music, Brown was finally granted national recognition in 2011
when he was nominated for his first Grammy award for “best
rhythm-and-blues-performance
by a duo or group with vocals,” for his collaboration with
Jill Scott and bassist
Marcus Miller. He died of complications from pneumonia on May 16 at the age of 75.

Now in its eighth year, DC Jazz Fest offers 125-plus
performances in more than 50 local venues and runs through June 10. In
an effort to bolster the visibility of local musicians, the
organizers created the “Jazz in the ’Hoods” series, featuring
a bevy of DC artists including
Brian Settles,
Fred Foss, and others. (NPR has a good rundown
with samples of songs from local performers
here.)

Venues include typical haunts such as Madam’s Organ as well as
less obvious spaces such as Children’s National Medical Center.

Though the Brass-a-Holics hail from the Big Easy, they
bring a flavor of jazz that is distinctly Washington. Their style of
music combines NoLa’s unbeatable brass sound with go-go’s
signature funky beat. They’re dedicating Friday’s performance to
Brown and will, along with other special guests, cover his
signature hits “We the People” and “Blow Your Whistle.”

Though the local music scene will never be the same
without Chuck Brown, it’s arguable that it hadn’t been the same since
he joined it. One only needs to walk down the stretch of
Seventh Street, Northwest, near the newly refurbished Howard
Theatre—known
as “Chuck Brown Way”—to reminisce about where the shift he was
responsible for began. Though Friday’s concert will hardly
be the last local memorial to the man who brought us “Bustin’
Loose,” it’ll be a fine way to commemorate a voice that is already
sorely missed.

Brass-a-Holics perform this Friday, June 8, at the
Hamilton, with special guests Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott and Milton
“Go
Go Mickey” Freeman. Tickets ($27.50 to $38) are available
through the Hamilton’s website. For more information
about DC Jazz fest, visit dcjazzfest.org.

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