Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Washington Social Diary

2009 TMIJ Competition Winner Ben Williams performing with Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Jazz Bliss at the Kennedy Center
by Carol Joynt

A lot of entertainment comes to the stages of the John F. Kennedy Center, but for Washington’s jazz lovers, Sunday night offered a rare few hours of pure bliss.

The Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz held their 22nd annual Gala Concert, combining a competition of young bass players with a celebration of Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary. Calm yourselves, jazz fans. Here are the past and present Blue Note legends who performed: Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, McCoy Tyner, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Terence Blanchard, Kurt Elling, Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath, John Scofield, Nicholas Payton, Terri Lynne Carrington, Earl Klugh, Joe Lovano, Wayne Shorter and Bobby McFerrin.
The audience arriving at the Eisenhower Theater for the Thelonious Monk Institute's gala.
Yes, all those greats on one stage, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups, performing classics like “Moanin,” “Cookin at the Continental,” “You Taught My Heart to Sing,” “Speak No Evil,” “Caravan,” “Foggy Day,” and “All Right, OK, You Win.”

Bruce Lundvall, the head of Blue Note since 1984, was honored with the Maria Fisher Founder’s Award, and a serenade by Dianne Reeves, singing “I Wish You Love,” with some special personal lyrics that included a quote from W. C. Fields: “Don’t worry about your heart. It will last as long as you live.”
Nichols Payton, Wayne Shorter, Bass Competition Winner Ben Williams, Jimmy Heath, and Joe Lovano.
McCoy Tyner and Diane Reeves.
Bobby McFerrin and Herbie Hancock.
After a standing ovation from a full house, Lundvall was joined on stage by the Blue Note artists. Cameras flashed from the audience. It was a rare photo op. Lundvall said he first tried to get a job at Blue Note as a trainee in 1957 when he was fresh out of college. That time it didn’t work but eventually he landed “my dream job,” running the label. “I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “I’m 79 years old and I still have the body of a 73 year old.” He promised that “even in a bad economy” jazz, and Blue Note, will thrive.

For the younger generation of jazz performers, Sunday evening was about nerves and competition. Earlier in the weekend, fifteen of what the Monk Institute called the “world’s most outstanding young jazz bassists,” challenged each other for three semi-finalist positions. Those three semi-finalists performed Sunday at the top of the show, each doing two numbers – one instrumental and one with Dee Dee Bridgewater singing - before the audience and a panel of judges. The semi-finalists were 26-year-old Matt Brewer of Oklahoma City, 24-year-old Ben Williams of Washington, DC, and 25-year-old Joe Sanders of Milwaukee. The winner was Williams, who got a $20,000 scholarship and a contract with Concord Records. Sanders, in second place, and Brewer, also got scholarship money to pay for “private, specialized instruction.”
Thelonious Monk, Jr.
Clockwise from top left: Bruce Lundvall and Herbie Hancock; Jason Moran and Herbie Hancock; Actor Billy Dee Williams, one of the emcees, who also painted the cover for the program; Tipper Gore; Jimmy Heath.
Terence Blanchard.
Matt Brewer, 3rd Place. Joe Sanders, 2nd Place.
The judges for the competition were among the world’s top jazz bassists: Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Bob Hurst, Christian McBride and John Patitucci. Two other musicians well known within the jazz community, drummer Carl Allen and painist Geoffrey Keezer, accompanied the semi-finalists.

Thelonius Monk, Jr., chairman of the Monk Institute, and son of the late pianist and composer, was the primary emcee of the evening, sharing the role with Hancock, Tipper Gore and Billy Dee Williams. Remarking on the evening’s celebration of the bass, Monk, himself a drummer, called it “the low voice of jazz.”
Tipper Gore presents first prize in the jazz bass competition to Ben Williams with Herbie Hancock standing by.
Bruce Lundvall accepts his honor on stage with current and former Blue Note artists Herbie Hancock, TS Monk, Diane Reeves, Terence Blanchard, Terri Lynn Carrington, Earl Klugh, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, and Wayne Shorter.
Monk emphasized the Institute’s role in underwriting public school programs that not only teach how to play the music but feature lesson plans for understanding the history and characteristics of jazz, exploring its roots in social, economic and political contexts. The Institute also played a role in the revitalization of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina through high school programs but also helping the city’s musicians and jazz clubs.

The Eisenhower Theater stage was so rich with talent Sunday night that no one wanted it to end, and for the performers it really didn’t. There was a cast party in the Kennedy Center’s rooftop atrium, and when that ended at midnight the musicians returned to the Fairfax Hotel and continued the party into the wee hours, bringing some welcomed jazz verve to Washington nightlife.
Kurt Elling, Carl Allen, and Terence Blanchard.
Front row, l. to r.: Judges Charlie Haden, John Patitucci, Christian McBride. Back row, l. to r.: Ron Carter, David Holland, and Bob Hurst.
Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner.
Others who were on stage, or in the audience and at the cast party were Attorney General Eric Holder and Sharon Malone, Paxton and Rachel Baker, Ysaye Barnwell, Sen. Evan Bayh, Susan Blumenthal, Tom and Cheri Carter, Sandra Evers-Manly, Julius and Rachel Goslins Genachowski, Audrey Haynes, Camille Johnston, Robin Kelley, Debra Lee, Barbara and Jeff Levenson, Capricia Marshall, Gen. Richard Myers and Mary Jo Myers, Paul Reisler, Billy Taylor, Butch Warren, Gigi Hancock, Mona Heath, Susan Scofield, Carolina Shorter, George Duke, Lionel Loueke, Jason Moran, and Esperanza Spalding.
The cast party buffet in the Kennedy Center's rooftop atrium. A Washington favorite: ham biscuits.
The Watergate complex is a place of historic legend in Washington, but it's also to some people just home sweet home. Booz, Allen, Hamilton executive and philanthropist Reggie Van Lee is one. We were at his apartment last week for an afternoon champagne reception to honor VelocityDC and the Evidence Dance Company, for which Lee is board chairman. Here are some of the pictures from the party:
Watergate, looking up from the interior gardens.
The Watergate fountains in the interior gardens, which also include an outdoor pool.
The Watergate apartment buildings are taller than one would expect at 15 floors, but then they don't count floors 1 and 2, which have ground floor duplex "townhouse apartments." Reggie Van Lee's apartment is in a prime location at the end of the hall.
The entry hall of the Lee apartment.
Out on the terrace with Darren Thomas, Gina Adams, Reggie Van Lee and BET's Debra Lee.
The living room.
The living room from another angle.
Joyce Mullis Jackson, Ron K. Brown and Reggie Van Lee. Shirley Marcus Allen and Carolyn Stennett try some canapes.
In Reggie Van Lee's bedroom, playing the popular party game "find the hidden TV."
Beside Lee's bed, a powerful little picture. Lee's friendship with the Obamas is evident in subtle ways at his home.
The champagne bar through a mirror.
Christine Stanley, Veronica Nyhan Jones, and Jake Jones.
Marianna Gray and Daren Thomas. Margaret Daniels Tyler and Lola West.
On Lee's terrace, looking up the Potomac River toward Georgetown.
In another direction, looking down river toward the Kennedy Center and Virginia.
The terrace continues around the building to finish with an interior view.
Lee greets Reta Jo Lewis of the State Department. Cynthia Carson and Charlie Lewis.
Greg Albright and Keith Harley.
Members of the Evidence Dance Company relax before the evening's performance at the Harmon Center.
Cynthia Carson, Greg Albright, and Daren Thomas.
The food at the Lee party was "authentic southern cuisine" from Spoonbread Too of New York.
Caught in the kitchen. Lee's apartment is a showcase for his art collection.
Dancers in a relaxation mode.
Housewives Update

It's impossible to go through a day without hearing one rumor or another about "The Real Housewives of Washington, DC." The Bravo camera crews have been spotted all over town, though certain events have told them “no” at the door.

Lynda Erkiletian with Muleh owner, Christopher Reiter.
Already, more than one cast member has bit the dust. First there was Edwina Rogers, apparently shut down by her notoriety for wrapping gifts in sheets of real dollar bills. Now the cast has lost Lisa Spies, whose husband supposedly 86’d the Bravo cameras from their lives. 

Still in the cast, at least as of today, are Lynda Erkiletian, a modeling agency owner, Mary Amons, a mother of five, and Michaele Sahali, the polo-loving wife of a winery owner. There are rumors that Mary Barth has joined the cast, but no confirmation. 

Was it Sahali and her husband who visited the romantic and luxurious Inn at Little Washington for what was described as a "decadent and romantic getaway?" The Bravo cameras were there, that’s for certain.

Somehow, whatever went on between the housewife and her husband, involved a lot of Jimmy Choo shoes. They stayed in the uber elaborate Claiborne House, named after the late New York Times food critic, Craig Claiborne. It’s also been the hideaway for Vice President and Tipper Gore and Warren Beatty and Annette Bening and their children.
The Clairborne House at the Inn at Little Washington. The bedroom of the Claiborne House.
Bravo required The Inn's staff to sign confidentiality agreements, so we couldn’t get any colorful details from them.

The new cast are under much stricter contracts than the original casts, like the stars of “Real Housewives of New York.” The most visible and talked about “housewife” husband, New York’s Simon van Kempen, has accepted an invitation to come to DC Housewife territory for an interview with me on November 12 at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown. All fans are welcome. For a day, Simon will step out of his reality and into ours. But can it be real?
Photographs by ©2009 Steve Mundinger (Jazz); Carol Joynt (Evidence). Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C. Visit her at: caroljoynt.com.