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Rhapsody in Rainbow: Jazz and the Queer Aesthetic

A look at how gay jazz musicians have dealt with their identity through their music

Dena DeRose
Dena DeRose (photo: Jimmy Katz)

Evangeline Harris is piquing the curiosity of some pedestrians outside of Mova Lounge, an upscale gay bar in Washington, D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood. It’s a gorgeous Sunday evening in late April, and Harris and her four-piece E & Me band are entertaining a sparse group of patrons. As some people chat and clink martini glasses in the rectangular-shaped bar, the musicians stand behind three large open panels, allowing the music to seep outside.

People hear music blaring inside Mova every day, but this time it’s different. Harris is not a drag or disco queen; she’s a jazz singer. Tonight’s set includes admirable renditions of Nat “King” Cole’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why.”

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Originally Published

John Murph

John Murph is a Washington, D.C.-based music journalist and DJ. He’s written for numerous outlets that include JazzTimes, DownBeat, NPR Jazz, JazzWise, The Root, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly. He hosts a weekly radio program at Eaton Hotel DC.