Jazz at the American Art Gallery
I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Take Five! event. Every third Thursday from 5-7 pm, the museum hosts a different jazz ensemble in the indoor courtyard connecting the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. This month, the Brad Linde Ensemble, a 10-piece band devoted to the bebop style of jazz, entertained. The group celebrates Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Lester Young. Their claim to fame is that they played in DC over Inauguration weekend as part of a tribute to historic U Street.
Although I’ve been to the free outdoor Jazz in the Sculpture Garden summer series at the National Gallery of Art several times, I only recently learned that another gallery hosts recurring jazz year-round, also without cost. These two galleries are so simple to reach. Take the museum exit out of the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro station and it leads adjacent to the museum.
The bandleader listed some of his personal musical influences, “Besides Louis Armstrong (obviously), the people who influenced me most would have to be Charlie Parker, and Charlie Parker, and, oh yeah, also Charlie Parker.” I think he’s in fan love!
Unlike Jazz in the Sculpture Garden where grass estate is limited fast, seats and standing room at the museum were practically unlimited. It’s an enormous, cavernous space that distorted the music depending on where I stood. Still, they are clearly a commanding group that made me wish I owned a tuba for stress relief.
Indoor trees and an egg-crate ceiling make for a distinct setting.
I went to this event alone and wasn’t out of place. The courtyard was mixed with families with young children, singles and groups of friends, anxious couples chugging wine (presumably first dates), and relaxed couples reading the New York Times.
Board games to borrow during the performance. Not sure if I’ve ever played Sorry!
The next Take Five! performance at the gallery is on Thursday, December 17 and will feature holiday jazz.
I was impressed with the museum café, which offered fresh fruit, decadent-looking chocolate mousse, and a variety of drinks. It looked like they also have hot sandwiches and pasta during the day. Of course, you’ll pay $3.50 for a cup of fruit, but at least it’s more than just a variety of candy bars.
The museum closes fairly late at 7:00 pm everyday. I made use of the 25 minutes until closing to race through a few exhibits at both the American Art and Portrait Galleries. While the courtyard was filled with noise, the stairwells and exhibit rooms were eerily silent. If you’re looking to visit the museum when it’s least populated or have that Thomas Crown “I could disappear with this painting and no one would see” moment, go an hour before closing.
I captured a few photos before a security guard yelled “no photography!” in my direction.
Constitution’s preamble as communicated over license plates.
An audience line had formed at 6:00 pm for Historian Roger Kennedy’s lecture, When Art Worked, starting an hour later. The topic of his discussion was the New Deal’s mobilization of artists during the Great Depression. I made a quick trip through the exhibit that he was going to discuss that was created through FDR’s Public Works of Art Project, the first government program to support the arts in an effort to raise morale. The paintings depicted life with themes such as Industry, Labor, and Leisure.
As always, photos can’t trump a visit. How amazing is it that I could enjoy remarkable art and live music – in two galleries – for free – on a regular weekday evening – in this city? I might also be experiencing some fan love…
Filed under: Art, Music, Penn Quarter | 40 Comments