Origem: Jazz in the Garden

(Photo Credit: Kennedy Center)

(Photo Credit: Kennedy Center)

Jazz in the Garden takes place in the Sculpture Garden on the Mall in Washington, DC. It is as much about the garden and the sculpture as it is about the music. In fact, the music can become secondary to communing with friends, chowing down on a pulled pork sandwich and swigging down ice cold beer or sipping Sangria, or photographing the sculpture. Yet, when the Brazilian jazz group Origem hits any venue in metro DC, the music reigns supreme. And their performance on Friday, August 8, 2014, engaged the audience so much that even the security guard cut a few steps.

Comprised of the Lucini brothers: Leonardo on bass, Alejandro on drums, and Bruno on percussion, these brothers have been performing around metro DC for more than 15 years. Leonardo has performed with such jazz greats as Benny Golson , Jimmy Heath, Terence Blanchard, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Phill Woods, Kenny Burrell and Wynton Marsalis. All of the brothers are accomplished musicians in the United States and Brazil, and are known for their openness towards the world’s musical diversity. Their jazz band relies heavily on compositions with sounds and beats of their native Brazil, awakening their listeners to the rhythms of samba, bossa nova, forro, afoxe, and maracatu. For this performance, the band was joined by vocalist Dawn Elliott Robinson, saxophonist Ben Roseth, and keyboardist Alex Brown.

With a band like Origem and playing in DC, the crowd was diverse. Everyone swooned. The first set featured one of Origem’s signature tunes, “Reflections,” a slow samba composed by bassist Leonardo. “Reflections” opens with Roseth’s mournful sax. Once Brown on keyboards strikes the first few notes after Roseth’s introduction, you feel like you are in Rio de Janerio. “Reflections” is a bit reminiscent of Sergio Mendes, who is the forerunner for introducing North American jazz listeners to bossa nova. However, here bassist and composer Leonardo displays his versatility by composing bossa nova for the saxophone, and the results are a memorable and engaging tune.

Watch Origem Perform “Reflections” on YouTube:


Vocalist Dawn Elliott Robinson (Photo Credit: M. L. Simms-Burton)

Vocalist Dawn Elliott Robinson, who joined the band a few days before her debut with the band at the Garden, complimented the keyboardist on “Sache”  and “Winds” by echoing the notes in something between a scat and a chant. Given the short time that Robinson had to rehearse with the band, her colorful and nuanced voice mitigated any apparent missteps.

“Run” which appears to be another signature tune by the band, according to Origem fans, opens with a single repetitive note and chord by Brown with Alejandro punctuating Brown with a beat that indicates a tune that’s going to get you on your feet or at least set your head and shoulders to bobbing and weaving. “Run” opens the second set featuring up tempo tunes that got the listeners on their feet and dancing in front of the band stand. Samba and hand-dancing sent men and women twirling and skirts swishing. By now, many listeners were as engaged in watching the dancers as they were listening to Origem. Others enjoyed the cold pitchers of Sangria and beer. What better way to enjoy jazz on a warm summer night than in the Sculpture Garden on the National Mall in DC.

Watch Origem Perform  “Run” on YouTube:

Although conventional Brazilian music is known for heavy percussion, Bruno did not perform with the band for the gig. Yet, Bruno’s absence did not make the performance any less enjoyable. The band received a standing ovation.

If the music and crowd become too much, you can take a hiatus by venturing into the Pavilion where an ample menu of salads, sandwiches, desserts, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks can be purchased. Also you must enjoy the sculpture garden where you will find some of the most coveted sculptures in the art world like Louise Bourgeois’ “Spider,” Joan Miro’s “Personnage Gothique,” and Claes Oldenburg and Cossje Van Bruggen’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X.” Remember not to cross the yellow tape marking off the sculptures to mitigate potential damage to them. However, feel free to visit the Sculpture Garden when there is not a jazz band playing to enjoy the sculpture up close.

Sculpture at the Garden

“Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, 1998” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen (Photo Credit: M. L. Simms-Burton)

Jazz in the Garden ends on August 29. This is one of the must attend free events around metro DC in the summer.


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