- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

It's another August Friday in Washington, and the torment of a white-hot day eases in a glow of evening peach. On the Beltway, commuters rush to subdivisions and shopping malls far from town. Summer soldiers and sunshine patriots clog the roads toward beaches and mountains.
Let them flee. Those who stay behind are the lucky ones: They have discovered one more gem in the crown of the capital city of a Friday night.
It is jazz in free performances by outstanding local artists every Friday through Labor Day at the National Gallery of Art's outdoor Sculpture Garden, and, just a few feet away on the Mall, year-round jazz at the National Museum of Natural History's indoor Imax Cafe.
Visitors walking tomorrow evening along the Mall to the Sculpture Garden gorgeously framed by the distant image of the dome of the Capital, the austere sandstone blaze of the west wing of the National Gallery of Art, and the majestic columns of the fairy-tale Roman box of the Archives building on Pennsylvania Avenue will hear the Young and Rollins band cranking up flamenco jazz compositions that made the Billboard top 25 chart for new age music when released as a CD last year.
What makes the scene sparkle is not just the players, but the great circular fountain behind them in the Sculpture Garden. Six large plumes of water as thick as a bricklayer's arm arc across the surface of the fountain, their sprays impossibly refreshing after the long heat of the day. The moving waters dance, playing with the light and shadow of clouds crossing the sun that bends westward away, as possibly 1,000 people amble slowly through the greenery or stop to listen to the music.
There are parents with children in hand, elderly visitors from around the world, teen-agers, and young professionals from city office buildings cooling their heels amid the lush garden inaugurated by the National Gallery in May 1999.
Garden trails carry them to green lawns holding flower beds and assemblies of shrubbery and ornamental grasses. Tall trees stand guard over the sculpture that is everywhere. Joan Miro pieces vie for space with work by Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and other pieces that tickle the eye.
Visitors take seats on the stones and benches to listen to the music, or to talk, or just enjoy the coolness of evening move through the greenery and turn the sky every color of nature's palette. It is a rare scene of urbane civility.
The blend of music, art and vast numbers of people walking in peace is found more commonly in places like Madrid's Rialto Park, Rome's Tivoli Gardens, St. Stephen's Green in Dublin or Munich's English Gardens.

Young and Rollins certainly approve.
"We sure like it," says guitarist Dan Young, a Washington guy who graduated from Jewish day school here and studied jazz guitar at the New School in New York. "We played here about a month ago, and it was great. A nice crowd of people really into the music. They have a patience for jazz, maybe slowing down and just letting the music do its thing."
"We're only interested in playing original music," says Lawson Rollins, also of the District. Two years ago he joined with Mr. Young to sign a six-CD record deal. The group's first record was released last year, and "Salsa Flamenca" earned raves from some critics for its musical inventiveness.
It is acoustical guitar work marvelously entwined within the Spanish tradition of flamenco, and somehow held together with classical guitar technique, something modern and yet bound to long traditions. Backing the duo are Alfredo Mojica of the District on percussion, Leonardo Lucini of Silver Spring on bass, and Ivan Navis of the District on congas.
"We're into jazz and improvisational jazz, improvising chord changes, and all the rest," says Mr. Rollins, who attended high school in North Carolina and got an English degree from Duke University, where he picked up the guitar without ever having taken a music lesson.. The duo's next title will be released in November.
Other musicians are also fans of the scene.
"I love playing the garden," says Harold Little, another professional District musician who plays regularly at the Gallery and the Sculpture Garden. He and his 10-year old, five-piece group compose their own music as well, and expect to release a CD "sometime next year," he says.
The graduate of the University of the District of Columbia and his band will play again in the Sculpture Garden on Aug. 24, with Mr. Little on trumpet and flugel horn, Walter Cosby on bass, Gary Gillespie on keyboards and Lorenzo Sands, who writes the music, on bass.
"The audience receives us tremendously," Mr. Little says. "They come from around the world, where jazz may be viewed as something to pay attention to, something serious but still fun. All I know is that while we're on break [playing at the Gardens], I'm passing out our band's cards like it's government cheese."
The National Gallery, which for generations has supported programs focused on classical European musical traditions, only got into the jazz offering two years ago, says spokeswoman Shannon Roberts.
"What we found is that people love it, and we're trying to find a way to keep it going year-round" in the gallery Pavilion's indoor 120-seat cafe, she says.

Another free jazz venue is only a minute's walk west on either the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue just behind the Pavilion and cafe at the Sculpture Garden. Take the Mall route and amble through Natural History's butterfly garden with its exotic plants and feathery visitors from the butterfly world to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Enter through the Museum's 10th Street entrance and walk into the Imax Theater area with soaring staircases that lead to the huge, wrap-around motion picture screen above and the circular Imax Cafe directly underneath.
Tony Martucci, of Falls Church, leads a trio tomorrow evening in what he calls "a jazz conversation."
"One of the really special things about this kind of music," he says, "is it's a very conversational art form. Jazz lets us (musicians) converse within traditions and idioms known all over the jazz world, while at the same time letting us as individual artists 'say' things that move us."
Mr. Martucci is a teacher and student of drums, and has two CDs "Earth Tones," released in 1990, and "Collage," out in 1994 both of which received critical acclaim in the music press. He's played Blues Alley, the Monterey Jazz Festival, performed on television and with groups led by Charlie Byrd, Eddie Daniels, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redden and Sonny Stitt. He toured Europe several times, and in 1990 helped form a Russian-American jazz group called "Jazznost."
Joining him tomorrow at the Imax Jazz Cafe is Harry Appelman, a pianist who has toured with the Woody Herman and Artie Shaw orchestras and was a finalist in 1987 and 1988 in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano competitions. He plays Blues Alley, the Corcoran Museum concert series, Wolf Trap and other popular jazz venues.
The University of Chicago economics graduate, who lives in Silver Spring with his wife and two children, wrote the music for "Balancing," a 1995 CD release praised by the jazz press as "harmonically imaginative," a "debut of a strong jazz pianist."
"The power of music is indescribable," he says. "Jazz in particular affects me the spontaneity, the infinite potential. You know, if it doesn't work out right tonight, I can do it differently tomorrow."
He says he loves the Imax Cafe, too, a windowless expanse directly under the theater. The girders rising from the floor to support the ceiling give a concert-goer the impression of sitting inside a turtle and looking up into its shell.
"That's part of the charm," says Mr. Martucci, who will lead a different session of artists at the cafe on Sept. 21.

The Imax jazz offering began in February, says Gary Mercer, who heads the corporate Imax Theater operation at the Museum. "Our Atlanta operation had something called 'Martinis and Imax,'" he says, "where they had a rock 'n' roll offering every Friday night that was doing well."
After visiting Atlanta, he invited a lineup of area jazz artists to perform Fridays for a small paycheck and the opportunity to play before "around 1,000 visitors every night," he says.
"What we find is that this has become a kind of alternative to the bar scene," Mr. Mercer says. "The building is terrific, and you can sit and listen for free, or have a drink, or we've got a limited light dinner menu for folks who are hungry."
So successful has the program become, Mr. Mercer says, that a corporate sponsorship agreement was reached with the Discover Card company. "We hope to offer jazz year-round from now on."
"Man, Washington jazz is on the upswing," says Calvin Jones, the 71-year-old music director of the jazz studies program at the University of the District of Columbia. A trombonist and pianist, he played orchestra at the legendary Howard Theatre and with the Ray Charles Band.
"This thing on the Mall is good for jazz," he says, remembering the time when Washington's U Street and R Street corridors of jazz clubs never closed, where jazz enthusiasts could see on the streets or performing in Washington clubs artists such as the native-born Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin and other giants from the American musical tradition.
"But that's OK. Things are coming back. There's a long way to go before we get back to those old days. But these cats (at the free Mall performances) are good," he says.
"Harold was one of my students, man," he adds, alluding to Mr. Little.
"This precious art of jazz, which is so close to America's heart and from the heart of black America's experience of triumph and rising, is never going to take over TV or anything like that," Mr. Jones says. "But it lives when people come to listen to it."

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