There used to be lots of jazz in downtown Durham. Between the Thursday-night jam sessions at Whiskey and Beyú Caffè’s bursting calendar, there was a decent chance that you’d find jazz to your liking somewhere on any given night.
But Whiskey closed years ago—followed, a little later, by The Shed, whose jam sessions at Golden Belt were sometimes the stuff of legend—and Beyú got out of the regular-jazz-programming business at the start of 2019. Sharp 9 Gallery continues to present top-notch programming, but it’s not exactly walking distance from downtown. Given how many good musicians there are in town, thanks in part to N.C. Central’s renowned jazz studies program, the downtown void has been palpable.
Enter The Fruit. Duke Performances’ two jazz festivals there—Monk@100 and In the Jazz Tradition—have already shown that it makes for a pretty great jazz club. So it seems natural for the venue to take a go at its own jazz night, as it will do in a new, just-announced, weekly-ish series, held most Mondays at 7:30 p.m. and titled Local Jazz (door prices range from $15 to $25). Curated by King Kenney and hosted by singer, songwriter, and cellist Shana Tucker, the series currently includes nine shows, held between August 12 and November 11, highlighting local jazz musicians doing the kinds of gigs that used to be Beyú mainstays.
This Monday, August 12, 99 Brass Band kicks things off in raucous fashion with its Durhamized take on New Orleans brass bands. In the coming weeks, we’ll see Brian Horton and Shana Tucker attempting to recreate and recontextualize John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman’s iconic 1963 album of ballads. Pianist Ernest Turner’s trio will provide deft interpretations of Stevie Wonder and Fats Waller alongside adventurous originals. There will also be shows by relative newcomers like saxophonists Shaquim Muldrow and Annalise Stalls, each of whom has a distinctive approach to the instrument. And Lynn Grissett of the New Power Generation will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue.
Indeed, every event in the series has something interesting to say. Hopefully, it will become the new mainstay for the ever-improvising, creative Durham jazz scene.
Correction: Shana Tucker is the series’ host, not the curator.
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