The Washington, DC Jazz Scene

Rundown of the local jazz scene in the nation's capitol

Washington, DC is perhaps best known as the hometown of pianist and composer, Duke Ellington. More than 40 years after his death, the DC jazz scene remains a prominent force on the east coast.

A thriving U Street music scene was devastated by the riots of 1968 in which countless clubs, businesses and restaurants were destroyed. With the establishment of Bohemian Caverns and Twins Jazz, the early ’90’s saw a resurgence of jazz on U Street.

The Kennedy Center, located near the Lincoln Memorial, is committed to continuing a legacy of jazz in DC and, in recent years, has established the KC Jazz club. Under the guidance of the late Billy Taylor, jazz at the Kennedy Center has flourished. The legendary Blues Alley jazz and supper club continues to present a formidable array of local and national talent.

Most promising in the effort to maintain the scene is the emergence of educational programs which seek to foster and develop the area’s young talent. Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program is an annual two-week program for young composers and musicians that focuses on jazz history, composition and performance. Saxophonist Paul Carr established the Jazz Academy of Music in 2002-an organization which now runs a summer camp and two year-round big bands for teens in addition to sponsoring the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival. While lacking the recognition of East Coast rivals New York and Philadelphia, DC’s character, history and commitment to the preservation of jazz continue to drive its celebrated scene forward.


Blues Alley

1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW

Washington, DC

(202) 337-4141

The quintessential DC jazz venue. Wide variety of music presented, ranging from r&b to modern jazz. Cover varies depending on artist.

Twins Jazz

1344 U Street NW

Washington, DC

(202) 234-0072

Performances nightly, focus is on straight-ahead jazz. Ethiopian food, $10 cover for food/drink.

Bohemian Caverns

2003 11th Street NW

Washington, DC

(202) 299-0800

“The sole home of soul jazz.” Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra performs every Monday night. Full menu of traditional and contemporary American cuisine. No minimum.


816 H Street NE

Washington, DC

(202) 483-5000

Weekend shows from 9 – 1. Weekly jam sessions on Wednesday and Thursday nights from 8 – 12.

Madam’s Organ

2461 18th Street NW

Washington, DC

(202) 667-5370

Blues bar and soul food restaurant. Blues, jazz and R&B presented seven nights a week.


3701 Mount Vernon Avenue

Alexandria, VA

(703) 549-7500

Dinner theater-style music venue. Broad array of music including folk, bluegrass, country, pop, r&b and smooth jazz.

9:30 Club

815 V Street NW

Washington, DC

(202) 265-0930

One of the area’s premier nightclub and concert venues, predominantly featuring rock and pop acts, with occasional appearances by jazz artists. Past performances by the Bad Plus and MMW.

The Kennedy Center

2700 F Street, NW

Washington, DC

(202) 467-4600

Jazz presented frequently on Millennium Stage, main concert hall and in KC Jazz Club. Past performers include Roy Haynes, James Moody and Sonny Rollins.

Strathmore Hall

10701 Rockville Pike

North Bethesda, MD

(301) 581-5100

Host of jazz concerts and educational programs held at Strathmore concert hall annually. Past performances by McCoy Tyner, Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Terence Blanchard and many others.

Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts

University of Maryland

College Park, MD

(Intersection of Stadium Drive and Route 193)

(301) 405-2787

Concert hall at University of Maryland featuring jazz master classes and performances on a regular basis.

Festivals/Special Events

Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

Rockville Hilton in Rockville, MD

Held in mid-February

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival

The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC

Held in mid-May

DC Jazz Festival

Various venues around the city

Held in early June

Capital Jazz Festival

Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD

Held in early June

Takoma Park Jazz Festival

Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, MD

Held in early June

Rosslyn Jazz Festival

Gateway Park in Rosslyn, VA

Held in early September

Silver Spring Jazz Festival

Downtown Silver Spring, MD

Held in early September

Radio Stations/Shows

WPFW 89.3

“Jazz and Justice Radio”. Music all weekend long. On Weekdays, Jazz from 5 – 8 am, 1 – 3 pm, 4 – 6 pm, 8 – 10 pm and 11 pm – 5 am.

WAMU 88.5

Rob Bamberger’s Hot Jazz Saturday Night

Airs on Saturday from 8 pm until 12 midnight


Online jazz radio station.

Education Programs

Maryland Summer Jazz

10701 Old Georgetown RD 

Rockville, Maryland

Tuition: $544 per session

Adult-level jazz workshops, high school students also welcome. Faculty includes Jeff Antoniuk, John D’earth, Steve Herberman, James King and others.

Jazz Academy of Music Camp

Sligo Middle School

1401 Dennis Avenue

Silver Spring, MD

Tuition: $565

3-week summer program for middle and high school students focusing on jazz history, improvisation and repertoire. Faculty includes Paul Carr, Pepe Gonzalez, Richard Seals and Alex Brown. Past guest artists have included Steve Wilson, Tim Warfield, Bobby Broom and Branford Marsalis.

Jazz Academy of Music LAB

National 4H Youth Center

7100 Connecticut Avenue

Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Tuition: From $850 to $1,200 depending on length of day, residency

3 day, 4 night residency for students in grades 6 – 12. Focus is on jazz improvisation. Faculty includes Paul Carr, Pepe Gonzalez, Richard Seals and Alex Brown along with guest artists Andrew Gould and Brian Lynch.

Maryland Summer Jazz Consortium

Walt Whitman High School

7100 Whittier Blvd

Bethesda, MD 20817

Tuition: $250 ($200 for early bird registrants)

Junior Jazz Consortium for students in grades 6-8. Senior Jazz Consortium for high school students. Faculty includes Chris Vadala, Mark Cook, Mike Kamuf, Gerry Kunkel and John Previti.

American University

Department of performing Arts B.A. Jazz Studies

4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,

Washington, DC 20016


Let us know by a Comment below if we have omitted any important venues, programs or outlets for jazz in this region.


Information initially compiled by Eli Aleinikoff and Lee Mergner in June 2011. Reports of jazz scenes from other regions will be coming soon to