DC Diary: Jazzing it up

HR-57
1610 14th St.
Thursday, March 7
8 p.m.

If there was any doubt in your mind about the future of jazz and blues, it is thriving in Washington at HR-57, the Center for the Preservation of Jazz and Blues on 1610 14th St.

Accompanied by my friend, I somewhat reluctantly headed toward Dupont Circle on the Metro’s Red line. Using a map, I figured out that HR-57 is halfway between the Dupont Circle and Howard Metro stops. Not a big fan of jazz or blues, I did not know what to expect from this club, but I quickly learned a thing or two. We followed the house band, the Thad Wilson Big Band, as we walked into the candle-lit club. I paid the $8 entrance fee and peered around looking at the various paintings of musicians and people dancing to jazz. I quickly felt at home when I saw the GW pennant on the wall.

The interior of the club is brick, which creates a cozy, relaxed and warm atmosphere for jazz lovers. The stage is sectioned off in the rear of the club with tables and an eclectic array of couches positioned in front. There room is filled with a mix of Persian rugs to create a cozy, jazzy feel. The bar serves food with a Cajun flare, such as fried chicken, trout and various desserts. Although the bar serves drinks, most people brought their own bottles of wine to drink during the performance.

The dimly-lit club quickly filled with cigarette smoke as members of the band slowly entered. My friend and I suddenly became the center of attention as young journalists reporting on HR-57. Band members were quick to inform us about the club and their group.

The Thad Wilson Band plays every Thursday from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Every second Tuesday of the month there is an open-mic night. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are jam sessions. The Thad Wilson Band had 20 members on stage playing a range of instruments including the piano, trumpet, bass, drums, saxophone, trombone and a vocalist. The variety of instruments played reflected the age differences of the musicians. The band was made up of all men and one woman, ranging from the college age to retired musicians.

A large number of couples filled HR-57, adding to the already romantic feel of the place. A word of caution: if you are on a date and plan on talking to your significant other, this might not be the place for you. The music is extremely loud and almost continuous. The band did take a few short breaks, but they were sparse.

The vocalist even sang, “The Lady is a Tramp.”

The audience was comprised of a diverse group of people listening to the mostly upbeat tunes. The young after-work crowd was there with older people who seemed to come to the club for the simple love of jazz and blues. The old-timers tapped their feet and enthusiastically clapped to the music.

HR-57 has had a hard time securing a permanent location in the District. It has changed locations three times during its nine years in existence. It has been on 14th Street for a year.

I wondered about the name HR-57. Interestingly enough, it was the name of a bill passed by the House of Representatives calling for a greater appreciation and need for preservation of jazz. It declared jazz a national treasure. A copy of the bill is framed on the wall near the exit.

On the way out, the owner stopped me and told me that jazz is not dead. He said people thought it was a fad, but it’s part of American culture. He compared jazz to jean jackets, saying they were popular in the ’70s and now they are just as popular again. People may lose interest in jazz, but they always come back to it in the end.

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