Friday night my husband I headed into Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood for an evening of jazz. Georgetown has been home to Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Katharine Graham, Julia Child, Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Woodward. Georgetown is also home to the renowned Blues Alley jazz club.
Blues Alley sits in a true alleyway just off the main thoroughfare in Georgetown. If you have never visited Georgetown, the community is incredibly picturesque. Colonial buildings mix with brick row houses that sprung up after the civil war. The C&O Canal flows through Georgetown and residents walk the towpath on warm days.
Entering Blues Alley feels like walking into a secret cave. The sound of conversation, laughter and clinking glasses draws you in. This is the place to be. Patrons are sandwiched in around small tables as waiters weave back and forth taking food and drink orders. The Cajun fare is good, bringing back memories of visits to my husband’s home state of Louisiana.
As the lights dim further, the crowd hushes. Several unassuming individuals make their way up onto the barely raised stage. Patrons sit right next to the drums, bass and piano. Everything about Blues Alley feels intimate.
Years ago, my husband remembers seeing Dizzy Gillespie in the small venue. Players wait in a modest lounge upstairs at Blues Alley. The room is open and not far from the restrooms. There sat Dizzy Gillespie warming up, puffing out his cheeks in preparation for the show.
In my experience, jazz musicians are warm, appreciative people. I know that is a generalization but at Blues Alley, the musicians often head to the bar for a glass of water or something stronger at set’s end, and they kindly greet patrons giddy with compliments. Jazz musicians are a rare breed. They seem to travel constantly from club to club. At each show I’ve attended the commitment to the music is evident. Improvisations flow and the musicians create a new journey each time.
When we left Blues Alley on Friday night, I carried a club calendar with several upcoming dates circled. Jazz is magic in a bottle and I can’t wait to hear more.