For nearly 60 years, Andrew White has committed John Coltrane’s solos to paper, capturing the saxophone giant’s famously free-flight improvisations in notes that don’t appear on standard jazz sheet music. As fans celebrated the jubilee of A Love Supreme—Coltrane’s masterpiece 1965 album—in February, White was preparing to chart solos from newly released recordings of Coltrane’s 1960 concerts with his onetime bandleader Miles Davis. They represent the most recent of 840 Coltrane solos White has written down—a feat “most people think would be impossible,” says Mark Gridley, author of the widely used textbook Jazz Styles.
A flamboyant dresser and talker at age 72, White has the peripatetic, idiosyncratic résumé of a prodigy. Raised in Nashville, he arrived at Howard University in 1960, brimming, he says, with “swaggering iconoclasm, with commercial intent.” He was here to study music theory and oboe but, with iconoclasm and ready cash in mind, hauled his alto sax to local jazz clubs, playing regularly at Bohemian Caverns at 11th and U. During intermission, he often went around the corner to Abart’s Internationale to hear Coltrane, whose disruptive solos he had begun turning into scores for his own use at age 13. “I wanted to know what was wrong with him,” says White, laughing.
When Brett Isaacoff moved to DC a few years ago, the 28-year-old musician planned to blog about music and book gigs at small clubs. Soon, however, he wanted something more. Thanks to a relic from his adolescence, he decided to start his own music label.
In 2011, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Isaacoff launched DZ Tapes, a label exclusively dedicated to cassettes. Unlike most people who left cassettes behind in the '80s and '90s, Isaacoff never threw out his tape collection. “I’d been a fan of cassettes and mix tapes in particular since I was a kid,” he says. For him, tapes were--and continue to be--a great way to create tactile compilations of music. Others seem to agree.
It might seem weird that in a world of easily accessible music, tapes would be making a comeback, but the format has been growing in popularity over the past five years. In 2010, NPR announced cassettes had "kind of" made a comeback. A few months later, the Washington Post declared the comeback was a real thing. Flash forward to today, and there's even a Cassette Store Day.
Now several Washington-area indie labels--including Blight Records, Chimes Records, and Odessa Madre Tapes--have jumped on board along with DZ Tapes. For labels of their size, the benefits are twofold: Tapes are cheap to produce and have a nostalgic, collectible feel.
Bryan Gerhart, the founder of Odessa Madre Tapes, first heard of the resurgence of cassettes while living in Long Beach, California in 2008. When he got to DC four years later, he became part of the go-go music scene and found the only way to hear a lot of that music was through cassettes. "I've always been a physical media fetishist,” he says. When he found out how affordable it was to produce them, he started Odessa Madre and released tapes for his band, Baby Bry Bry and the Apologists.
The thing that struck him most was how affordable the whole process was compared to vinyl. Though vinyl unit sales rose by more than 3 million between 2013 and 2014 according to Nielsen, the format continues to be considered a specialty item for labels, both big and small. Mumford & Sons released their latest album, "Wilder Mind," in CD and vinyl. A CD costs $16; vinyl costs $31.
“As exciting it is to see the resurgence in popularity [of vinyl], it’s still harder for smaller bands to print vinyl without it being exorbitantly expensive,” Gerhart says. “If I was going to a show and seeing a band for the first time, chances are I wouldn’t want to drop $15 on a record. With a cassette, if they’re selling it for $4 or $5, there’s more of a willingness to take a chance on it.”
Isaacoff says producing a cassette typically costs him between $1 to $2 per unit, with retail prices ranging from $5 to $7.
Ben Schurr of the experimental bands Pree and Br’er started Blight Records in 2012. He’s seen small labels fold because of their focus on strictly printing vinyl. That's why he settled on cassettes. “A few friends were still releasing music on tapes, and I said, ‘Woah, you can still do that? How much does it cost to do it?’ and it was super cheap,” Schurr says.
The same goes for Gerhart. “I had started meeting a lot [of] folks who run these small labels that were mostly based in cassettes, and it was very clear to me that it was something that could be done,” he says. For him, it's the best way to reach as many people as possible: “It’s all for the greater goal of getting the music out there."
Correction: This article referred incorrectly to Bryan Gerhart as a member of the bands BRNDA and Baby Bry Bry and the Apologists. He only belongs to the band Baby Bry Bry and the Apologists.
Anyone strolling down Thomas Jefferson Street, Northwest, in Georgetown this past Sunday night, would have heard nothing unusual--humming street noise at most. And yet not far above the sidewalk, on the roof of the Graham Hotel, about 150 people were jamming out at a disco party.
Sandro Kereselidze, owner of Art Soiree and sister company Silent Dance Society, launched his Silent Disco Sundays this week. For $15 ($20 at the door), attendees had access to mixes by three different DJs, a bar, entertainment, and lounging area.
With the weather warming up, the sun setting later, and the kids winding down the school year, spring is a great time to take in a rock concert with your family at one of Washington's outdoor amphitheaters. But why slog through the EDM-heavy lineup of a Sweetlife Festival or a millennial siren like Lana Del Rey if there's nothing in it for you? If you've got to take your kids to a concert, make it someone everyone will like, or at least someone you like and can berate the little ingrates for not enjoying on the car ride home.
Tickets are running low for two upcoming shows at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow. On Saturday, May 23, Gen-Xers who were more laid-back in high school than their Corgan-worshipping contemporaries can see Dave Matthews Band. A week later, aging free-soilers can trek out for Rush, with the Canadian prog gods on what they claim is their retirement tour.
But which show should you go to? If you can only drag your kids to one of them, you'll want to choose wisely. Take our quiz and figure it out:
Last week, folk band If Birds Could Fly performed a two-hour show in the basement of Hill Country. Impressed by Brittany Carter's powerful voice and her ability to play multiple instruments with bandmate, Andrew Carter, I knew I had to find out more about the small-town, Virginian duo, which has opened for Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and LeAnn Rimes. After the show, I helped the husband-and-wife team load their gear into their car and sat down to chat about music, dream gigs, and their upcoming album.
What has it been like performing as husband and wife for the past four years?
Andrew: Sometimes we want to kill each other, and other times, it's like, "Wow. How did we get this lucky?"
How'd you meet?
Brittany: We actually met through Myspace six years ago. We've been playing ever since. I sent Andrew a message one night that was like, "Hey, I know you have a band, and I sing." And that was it, which is really out of character for me because I'm really shy. He was like, "Well, come over, and I'll listen to you sing." So I did it. I sang in a British accent, so it was really weird.
Andrew: It was Kate Nash.
Brittany: But he liked it.
Can you sing it for me?
Brittany: Okay. I have to do my hand piano though.
Andrew: I found out she could really sing and had a really bad British accent, so it worked out.
What kind of music inspires you?
Brittany: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. It's really hard. I like genres more than specific artists. Blues. Rock and roll. The Stones. Tom Petty.
Andrew: If it's good music, we'll listen to it. But we're just songwriters, and we don't try to write country. We don't try to write blues. We don't try to write folk. Just, whatever comes out.
How do you collaborate when you write songs?
Brittany: Usually Andrew will have a guitar lick, and then I'll write some words over it. Sometimes Andrew has the words; sometimes I have the guitar lick. It just really depends.
You both play instruments?
Brittany: I don't play them well.
Andrew: She does.
Brittany: I'm a lazy guitar player. It's mainly a songwriting tool for me. I'll play a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keys--that's about it. Andrew plays everything. He was our drummer for a while.
Andrew: You try to learn everything you can when you're from a small area, because you don't know what you're going to play. You don't know who's going to be available to play with you. Tonight was our first time playing the two-piece with the kick and the snare.
You played a cover of TLC's song, "No Scrubs." How'd you come up with that?
Andrew: We were probably just looking up stupid things, or it came on the radio. I don't know.
Brittany: We just learned it, so we were like "Oh, we'll pull it out." It's so catchy, so it sticks with you.
Andrew: I think musical inspiration too comes from movies. [Our song] “Alone in the Wild,” I would say, was Pulp Fiction. I picture a movie that I like, and then think if I was to rewrite the music for the movie.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your career?
Brittany: I would love to play on Saturday Night Live--not only as a band, but I want to act in SNL. So that's my dream, and the Grand Ole Opry.
Andrew: Sometimes you don't think that far in advance. As far as a long-term goal, to get this album out in an artistic way in which we want to get across, and playing in the Grand Ole Opry would be nice one day.
What's it like being on the road?
Andrew: When our van's not broken down, we have a mattress in the back of the van next to our equipment. It takes a little getting used to, but we have fun.
Brittany: You don't smell the best all the time. But we really love it. We get to see a lot and travel. It's wonderful.
Andrew: Better than working in the coal mines.
What do you mean in the coal mines?
Andrew: I worked in the coal mines for two years before we started playing music.
Brittany: He actually quit his job so we could do this full-time.
Andrew: My dad was my boss. It was the first time he kind of said, "Do it, and we'll be supportive of you." I guess he realized that you get one life to live, and if you don't want to spend it in the coal mines, then try something else. And it was great. I got his approval, and that meant a lot. It's been good.
Brittany: We're finally starting to see the fruits of our labor here lately. We're getting good responses. We're playing a lot. We can't really ask for much more. We're just ready to get another album out, and then we're golden.
When do you expect that to be?
Brittany: Hopefully this fall.
Andrew: It's been almost three years since we released an album, so we have so many songs that we've wrote. It's really narrowing songs down.
Brittany: Our last album was more country--I think--more polished. I think this one will be more raw, and rock and roll, and just fun. We'll have some sad songs on there, too. We always do. This will be our sophomore album, and it will be hopefully good.
Mentioning Zusha usually leads to a lot of questions. Are they Jewish? Yes, the band--comprised of Shlomo Gaisin, Elisha Mlotek, and Zachariah Goldschmiedt--are Hasidic, an Orthodox branch of Judaism focused on spirituality and mysticism. Second: Are they hipsters? Sure, it can be difficult to discern between a Hasid and Hipster. In this case, they're both.
Is that gibberish I hear? Yep, these twenty-somethings croon wordless melodies, blending jazz, ska, and reggae into a folksy, soulish sound. Called niggun, these melodies are rooted in the Hasidic tradition of wordless prayer. Niggun isn't about words, but about the meaning attached to sounds. "It's a spiritual song," Mlotek says. "Whoever is singing it can attach whatever emotion is in their heart to the song."
The band is making this sort of music at an ideal time. They follow in the footsteps of Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, who shattered the boundaries of Jewish music when he went mainstream in the mid-2000s. (Matisyahu has since disaffiliated with Hasidism and shaved his iconic beard.) Like Matisyahu did when he first started out, Zusha hopes to make their music as universal--and hip--as possible.
For lead singer Gaisin, that means writing music that's beautiful and relatable. His melodies, typically composed while riding the New York subway or walking around a park, are closely tied to his past. The Silver Spring native grew up in an observant Jewish home and spent about seven years studying jazz as a kid.
While he was in high school at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, he began studying Hasidism. He would wake up at 5 AM to meditate and study its teachings. "I had never tasted something like this before," he says. "It opened my mind and heart to everything I had been doing by rote for about a decade and a half."
After graduating from school, he hopped on a plane to Jerusalem, where he continued his religious studies. He later moved on to Yeshiva University in New York then ditched school to study raw nutrition with leading raw foodist David "Avocado" Wolfe. Gaisin eventually landed in Washington Heights and met Mlotek and Goldschmiedt around 2010 through mutual friends. They started jamming together, and about a year and a half ago, Zusha was born.
The questions started shortly thereafter. When they first got in the studio to record their EP, their producer was pretty confused. "The producer kept asking us what we were doing," Mlotek says. "'Nay, nay, nay? That's not a language!'"
It may not be a language, but somehow Zusha has made wordless music work. By creating a folksy sound--and recording a great single, "Brother," with Grammy Award-winning guitarist C. Lanzbom--the trio has achieved meaning without words. And that meaning has the potential to reach anyone--Hasidic or not. "In its most raw form," Goldschmiedt says, niggun "is used as a meditative experience."
Which might explain why they rather not be described as "Neo-Hasidic hipsters," as they've been labeled by everyone from Fox News to the Huffington Post. They argue their music isn't a new interpretation of Hasidism; instead, it's a return to its origins. Gaisin says he isn't Hasidic in the way people have come to expect. Hasids are typically thought as bearded men in Borough Park. Gaisin, however, identifies with Hasidic teachings and ideals--not necessarily the garbs and secluded communities.
As for the hipster part, Zusha's members just happen to be wearing text-emblazoned sweatshirts, singing wordless melodies, and selling out shows in Brooklyn. Seriously, though, they really don't want to be called hipsters. "People tend to cling to labels, so they can know how to measure you," Mlotek says. "We want to represent where we're coming from, but we also have this message underneath it."
The band is busy recording its first full-length album slotted for a summer release. And for Gaisin, there's an added pressure: He's preparing for his first performance back home. On May 10, Zusha comes to the Washington Jewish Music Festival, where Gaisin's parents will hear him perform live for the very first time.
He hopes that Washington audiences will be captivated by the band's unique brand of music. "Everyone wants to take a fresh breath of air and be able to meditate," he says. "What we're trying to bring is the feeling that it's so good to be alive."
Zusha performs at the Washington Jewish Music Festival at the DCJCC on Sunday, May 10 at 7 PM. Tickets are available for $20.
May is a big month for music festivals in Maryland. On May 1 and 2, aging greasers can relive their hair-metal heyday at M3, featuring 1980s legends like Kix, Quiet Riot, and Europe. May 21 to 24, Maryland Deathfeast takes over venues across Baltimore for an ear-bleeding weekend of extreme metal. And May 30 and 31, the local salad chain Sweetgreen expands its Sweetlife festival to two days, with a diverse lineup that includes Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris, and Billy Idol. But which festival is the right fit for you? Take this quiz and find out.
Drake, the Strokes, and the War on Drugs are among the artists headlining a new music festival being held in West Potomac Park this fall that is being billed as a massive fundraiser for overdue repairs on the National Mall. The aptly titled Landmark Music Festival, scheduled for September 26 and 27, is the creation of the Trust for the National Mall, a nonprofit that advocates for increased funding for upkeep on the 309-acre park, and C3 Presents, which stages large-scale music festivals including Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
The top of the 41-act bill also includes English art-rockers alt-J, zeitgeist-y singer-songwriters Ben Howard and George Ezra, and electronic bands Chromeo and CHVRCHES. A few locals made the lineup, too, including Wale, Ex Hex, and the perpetually unsigned indie rockers U.S. Royalty.
Two-day passes are on sale for $100 until Wednesday at 10 AM, when prices increase to $150 for the weekend. The event will also be streamed on Yahoo.
A report earlier this month from the National Parks Conservation Association found that the National Mall and Memorial Parks of the National Park Service has a maintenance backlog totaling $852.7 million. The Landmark Festival, in the words of its planners, "aims to raise awareness and funds," though they do not say what the revenue split between the Trust and C3 will be.
Here's the full lineup:
Band of Horses
The War on Drugs
The Lone Bellow
Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
The Joy Formidable
Albert Hammond Jr.
In the Valley Below
Rebirth Brass Band
Hiss Golden Messenger
The London Souls
The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers
Let's start with the bad news: If you were waiting around to buy tickets for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's performance at the Kennedy Center in July, you're too late. Tickets have already sold out for that concert, but there's still tons of other stuff to look forward to. Here are the concert tickets you really should buy now.
1. Aretha Franklin
May 13, 8 PM
$65 to $195
The Queen of Soul comes to Washington to sing classics, as well as songs from her latest album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.
2. Sheryl Crow
May 26, 8 PM
$35 to $55
So many song lyrics to quote here. Do you want to "soak up the sun"? "Have some fun"? Check out Crow's show at Wolf Trap's Filene Center.
3. A. R. Rahman
May 29, 8 PM
$45 to $175
The mastermind composer behind Slumdog Millionaire's score is on his first US tour in five years.
4. Florence + The Machine
June 9, 8 PM
$45 to $65
The band's new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, comes out on June 2.
5. Mumford and Sons
June 10, 7 PM
RIP, banjo. Mumford and Sons has leapt away from their characteristic bluegrass/folk and shifted toward rock and electric guitar in their latest album, Wilder Mind.
6. Lana Del Rey
June 11, 7:30 PM
$25 to $79.50
Not only do you get Lana Del Rey, but you also get Grimes, who will be opening for the tour.
7. Belle and Sebastian
June 11, 7 PM
In June, the Scottish indie pop band will be on the US leg of a world tour, playing gigs all the way from New York to Minneapolis.
8. Best Coast
June 16, 7 PM
Made up of singer Bethany Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno, this duo will release its third album, California Nights, on May 4.
9. Romeo Santos
June 25, 8 PM
$44 to $122
Don't have a clue who Romeo is? To get an idea of how big this bachata singer is, all you need to know is this: His "Propuesta Indecente" video has three times as many views as Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney's "FourFiveSeconds."
10. Taylor Swift
July 13 to 14
$54.50 to $134.50
Swift fans are in luck: A second show at Nationals Park was added for the mega star's "1989 World Tour."
11. Neon Trees
July 20, 7 PM
Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees made headlines when he came out last year as a gay Mormon in Rolling Stone. With two double-platinum singles under its belt, the band is likely to pack the house when it performs in Washington.
12. Sam Smith
July 24, 8 PM
$45 to $97.50
Sam Smith won big at the Grammys this year, receiving four awards. If you missed his January show at the Patriot Center, score tickets now for his summer gig.
September 12, 8 PM
$93 to $358
Not only is Washington getting the Queen of Soul this year, it's also getting the Queen of Pop. Madonna will be in town promoting her 13th album, Rebel Heart.
14. Kelly Clarkson
September 13, 7 PM
$45 to $125
Tickets are already sold out for Clarkson's performance on September 12, but you're still in time to grab a few for her second show on Sunday.
Jamie Foxx has a problem. His lips are chapped. He summons a member of his entourage, who rushes over with a brush and swipes a layer of gloss on his lips. Now Foxx is thirsty. He takes a sip of the drink that was just handed to him. “What’s this? This is amazing!” he says. It’s a barrel-aged Negroni.
Foxx is in Washington promoting his upcoming album, which is fittingly titled Hollywood. The setting for this meetup? The basement at the W Hotel, just steps from the White House. The time frame? I had about seven minutes alone with him before he was to be ushered out.
We dive right in. Though Foxx hasn’t released a new record in five years, his musical ties still run deep. Hollywood features a roster of white-hot production talent: DJ Mustard, Boi-1da, and Vinylz, among others. So how does Foxx keep up with acting, singing, and the potentially catastrophic consequences of dehydrated lips?
He points to his production partner, DC native Breyon Prescott. “He does all of it,” Foxx says. “At a certain point, you sort of lose what you think it is that’s hot. You always need someone fresh, someone young, someone that’s moving, someone who doesn’t stretch you too far out of what you do.”