This spring, one of the most venerated institutions in the Washington D.C. jazz scene closed its doors. Bohemian Caverns, which had been in operation intermittently since 1926, had once presented the likes of Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, and had long been an establishment of the local jazz scene, from its weekly performances from the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra on Monday nights to its regular programming of local acts alongside more established figures in the jazz world. Although it is hard not to see this as a specific wound for the jazz community in the city – particularly alongside similar closures such as Jazz Record Mart in Chicago– it is of course not surprising. Alongside the tired narratives of how jazz is dead, the structures that still support creative music and the communities that come from them are, in many cases, struggling for survival.
In contrast to this narrative of decline, however, new musical establishments continue to form. One in New Orleans, in particular, could provide inspiration for what a more sustainable community and support structure for jazz musicians and fans could look like. The New Quorum, located in a beautiful shotgun house on oak tree-lined Esplanade Avenue, has recently concluded its first residency program and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, it will bring much needed dynamism to the local scene and create new musical relationships that transcend genre and go well beyond the city.