There is a long tradition of Jazz big bands holding down once a week residencies in New York clubs. For the last few months a big band here in Washington, DC has been doing the same thing, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra and tonight, after months of procrastination I got my fat ass down to the Bohemian Caverns to see them (which to my embarrassment, was the first time I'd been to the place even though I've lived in DC my entire life).
The group is co-led by saxophonist Brad Linde and trumpeter Joe Herrera and tonight they did a set of Christmas-related music, arrangements of familiar pieces like "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride" with Frank Foster's "Shiny Stockings" somehow sneaking in there. The highlight was the full Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn arrangement of the Nutcracker Suite, played true to the structure of the Ellington orchestra with a five-strong sax line of individual players, a sassy brass section and nimble powering from the rhythm section. The orchestra was on the money all night, boasting a gorgeous full ensemble sound with smart, tough soloing from just about every member of the band. What stood out to me? drummer Larry Ferguson dancing on the rhythms all night, Charles Phanuef on clarinet, a instrument he took up two months ago, playing asliquidly as Jimmy Hamilton on Nutcracker, Herrera's atonal but lovely version of "Silent Night" that sounded influenced by Andrew Hill's writing and the closing "Merry Little Christmas" with Sarah Hughes playing a weightless behind the beat alto solo with the creamy tone of Johnny Hodges followed by sassy, squawking trombone from Greg Boyer.
Best of all I saw the entire first set and got home before 11 which means I can go back and see the band even on weeks when I have to work.