“Four Hours Went Fast!” on the “Jass” Walking Tour
“Four hours went fast” was one of the observations of the “Ellington, Shaw & U” walking tour launched in April for Jazz Appreciation Month.
There’s no better way to get a sense of place, culture, and connection than to actually hit the streets, go inside, meet people who work, create, and live in the community, and sit around a table and share good food and drink.
My first cultural walking tour, “Zora, Langston & U” explored the same U Street/Shaw Washington, DC neighborhoods from the writers’ perspective and the lives of two young literary lions, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Both resided in Washington, DC for several years from 1918 through the early 1920s. “Ellington, Shaw & U: The House that Jass Built” is from an up-and-coming musician’s perspective framed within the story of one of Washington, D.C.’s prominent native sons, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington.
The tours tell the stories of creative communities that have and continue to exist in the nation’s capital — a city that has not built a reputation for being “artistic” but somehow continues to grow and attract artists perhaps in search of an art/work/life balance.
The walking tours have served as my passport for being id’ed as a “cultural historian” for an upcoming pilot taping titled “The Transfer,” a production of Buoyant Partners in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The producers’ goal is to spark an intergenerational transfer between artists, musicians specifically. There would be no Zora, Langston, or Duke had there not been this kind of exchange during their years in Washington, DC. The proof is in the work. You read the personnel on almost any great classic jazz recording and you’ll see the name of a musician who was trained or resided in Washington, DC.
These stories, shared enthusiasm, colorful characters, the arts, food and drink, meeting small business owners do make four hours fly by especially when discovering you’re becoming part of the continuing story…and building your playlist.
The next “Ellington, Shaw &U: The House that Jass Built” is scheduled for Sunday, June 28 starting at 11 AM. The complete tour includes brunch at Ben’s Next Door, an introduction by Michon Boston, walking tour, and beer tasting at Right Proper Brewing Company. Early bird ticket price is $56 and includes a donation to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.