Bohemian Cavern, the historic jazz club that has been the site of many of the greats since 1926, is closing this weekend. This is a tragedy of a kind that is hard to fathom. Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and many others have shared their genius in the basement caverns of this historic place.
The club has struggled off and on over the years, opening and closing under different names, yet emerging again to carry on the tradition of America’s original musical form. It was a victim of the riots of 1968, which left U Street, and 14th Street, where we now live, in flames after the assignation of Martin Luther King. Our good friend, Diana, was in the midst of history that night.
We have gone to many concerts there since I moved to DC, mostly to hear the house big band, The Bohemian Cavern Jazz Orchestra. It’s where I met my former partner and trombonist, Jeff Bonk. I’ve since met many musicians there, a number who have become my clients.
We went to the last show of the Jazz Orchestra on Monday night to say farewell. They played selections by Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and arrangements by band members. They ended with a round-robin of solos from each band member based on a rockin’ blues vibe.
After so many gigs, we even got to know Fred, the security dude, ticket-taker and all around nice guy. After the show we had a group hug, vowing to look them up, wherever they may land.
The band played their hearts out that night, making us believe that jazz may yet fill the Caverns again!