Washington’s jazz community lost its nucleus last month when Bohemian Caverns closed on U Street. The 90-year-old club, which hosted legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk over the years, closed its doors due to finance problems and disagreements with the building’s landlord.
But in his story on the end of Bohemian Caverns, Washington City Paper reporter Michael J. West insists the city’s jazz scene isn’t hopeless in the aftermath of such a loss: “The scene will endure and perhaps rally. It’s lost nerve centers before: One Step Down, in Foggy Bottom, closed in 2000, and the Caverns’ U Street neighbor (and predecessor as the hip jazz spot) Café Nema shut down in 2011. HR-57 moved briefly to H street NE and then closed. The jazz community survived them all.”
A reason for this outlook is that DC actually has a diverse group of clubs still in business. Here are a few worth checking out.
Events at this Georgetown supper club can get expensive, but that’s because of its clientele—later this year Blues Alley will host acts like Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kenny Garrett and soul singer Jean Carn. It’s also worth stopping in for the many tribute nights; there are upcoming shows dedicated to the careers of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald. 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-337-4141.
The sister venue of the now-defunct Twins Lounge, U Street’s Twins Jazz has hosted such high-profile jazz musicians as Miles Davis collaborator Shirley Horn and one-time Tonight Show with Jay Leno pianist Kenny Kirkland. It’s also an affordable club; tickets for gigs rarely exceed $15. 1344 U St NW; 202-234-0072.
If you’re looking for a place to dance, then Bossa Bistro is your venue. The Brazilian-centered Adams Morgan club often picks its programming based what will get people moving, with acts ranging from Latin-focused DJ sets to gypsy swing bands. Every Friday night features a performance from Alfred Mojica—a mainstay in the DC salsa music community. 2463 18th St., NW; 202-667-0088.
The weekly rotation at Takoma Station is reliable—most Wednesdays nights feature a neo-soul showcase, and Sunday afternoons are usually live music brunches. The most important part of the club’s schedule, though, is its Tuesday night jazz jam from 7 to 10 PM, which Bandwidth once called one of the best jam sessions in DC. If Takoma is too far out of your way, then consider heading to Columbia Station (2325 18th St., NW; 202-462-6040) Columbia Heights, which also hosts weekly jam sessions as well as cover charge-free live gigs every night. 6914 4th St., NW; 202-829-1999.
You always know what you’re going to get with Adams Morgan’s Rumba Cafe. The Latin-American club, which is also known for its tapas menu and its mojitos, has a consistent weekend lineup bookended by tango trio La Trifulca on Thursdays and Cuban guitarist Pavel Urkiza on Sundays. 2443 18th St., NW; 202-588-5501.
If the tall stage curtains and spacious audience area make this venue seem more like an old playhouse than a jazz club, you’re not totally off-base—Bethesda Blues and Jazz was once a 1930s art deco movie theatre (the historic, 500-seat Bethesda Theatre). Now it hosts everything from jazz jams and Rat Pack tributes to oddball pop acts like Cameo. 7719 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 240-330-4500.