Saturday, April 18, 2009

Antonio Parker at HR-57

Sometimes it's easy to overlook the embarrassment of cultural riches that our city has to offer, and that's no more true than in our very own neighborhood. U Street and Logan are blessed with a tremendous collection of jazz clubs that bring in some phenomenal talent. This was no more evident than it was this Friday evening, as 14th street jazz club HR-57 played host to local saxophonist Antonio Parker and his quartet.

If you've never been to HR, you're missing out on a wonderful neighborhood destination to catch some jazz.  (It's also one of the cities rare BYOB establishments, so you can drink on the cheap.)  The 14thandyous have been enjoying performances there for years, and this Friday decided to head out to catch Antonio, one of our favorite local performers.  Antonio's group is a Friday night staple at HR, having been playing more-or-less consistently in that slot for the past couple of years

This evening, the band--Parker on tenor sax, William Knowles on piano, Kenny Thomas on bass and Jimmy "Junebug" Jackson doing a rather fine Buddy Rich impersonation on drums--were in splendid form.  Parker is a Coltrane devotee, and in addition to the bop standard "Giant Steps", the quartet plowed through an original Coltrane-inspired Parker number that Coltrane himself would certainly have been proud of.

Parker has developed into as exciting a jazz frontman as you are likely to find in this area, and his on-stage energy is palpable.  As a frontman, he deftly led the group through all manner of hardbop, ballads, Latin-tinged and even hip-hop inspired numbers.  In addition, his quartet is both supremely talented and well-suited for playing with each other.  The interplay between Thomas and Jackson was a particular highlight of the set, and the inclusion of pieces penned by Thomas (a ballad) and Knowles (a calypso-tinged Latin number featuring a fabulous syncopated beat from Jackson) served to indicate the depth of talent and musicianship on stage.

In other words, you don't have to head up to NYC to hear top-quality jazz.  It's literally right outside your door.

On a slightly down note, it seems that DC audiences aren't quite familiar with the protocol of attending performances in jazz clubs.  The presence of alcohol and a dimly lit room does not present one with a license to talk as obnoxiously loud as one wants, but try telling that to the several tables behind us, who as far as we could tell were not aware that they were actually taking in a performance.  A chatty neighborhood bar this is not.

Crowd noise issues aside (and that's something we haven't experienced before at the club), HR is a lovely--and relatively cheap--venue to take in a performance. You can visit HR-57's website by clicking here (note that Parker's quartet will be playing next Friday as well).  We certainly encourage you to check them out--but only if you aren't reuniting with your long-lost college roommates.  For that, Stoneys is just around the block.


Brandon said...

That's too bad that people are talking at the shows--they're missing great music.

Anonymous said...

The talking issue is a big one and happens mainly with the under 35 crowd. To them the music is just background noise. T

Unknown said...

I certainly agree with both comments. Its become "cool" to hit a jazz club with friends. But there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. And the time spent at HR isnt for endless chatter. Great place though. I will not be deterred by the new crowd.