For years, I have known a certain truth-- don't sleep on Warren Wolf. the master vibraphonist has snuck up on me one too many times on releases of his own. He rolled through San Antonio three times in 2015 and never failed to impress. His work with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's large ensemble is a surprise and not a surprise at the same time. He has maintained a beautiful melodicism in his playing that would seem obvious for his instrument but he surpasses such expectations again and again. He's an unmistakable talent. He shouldn't be slept on. This is no more apparent than in his latest album, Convergence on Mack Avenue.
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.
I must preface this piece with the statement that I'm not quitting. I'll be covering the last few days of this year's Montreal Jazz Festival for the first time. I am booking at least two more shows in San Antonio, Texas, under the banner of Nextbop by the end of the year. I still intend to throw the annual Jazz for the Masses day party in Austin, Texas, during the South by SouthWest Music Festival next March. I am still the host of KRTU San Antonio's The Line-Up and still love doing that show dearly every week. I burrowed my way into this jazz world and I don't see a way for me out of it, for better or for worse. I'm not quitting. However, if anyone who pays attention to Nextbop may have noticed, it's clear our output here has been diminished over the last few years.