In jazz, as in architecture, what is left out is as essential as what is left in. The musician hears the proffered line in his ear and the inferred music in his mind. The open work draws in the listener, makes a communion of the creative process. (Maybe that's why the audience for jazz shrinks by the generation: Accustomed to "entertainment" that supplies its own "meaning" -- or pretends to -- we're uncomfortable with jazz's creative demands.) Remarkably, one of the havens of jazz resurgence in Washington echoes that openness, that sense of self-effacement and accommodation. Takoma Station Tavern, a renovated -- swept open, actually -- storefront on the quiet D.C. side of the Metro, has gradually been transformed from a neighborhood grog-and-sandwich shop with happy-hour background music into a vital and dedicated jazz nightspot.
Although Takoma Station Tavern in Takoma Park mixes up its music menu a little more these days with Sunday reggae, the occasional DJ, a little retro-disco and fusion (plus a riff of comedy from time to time), jazz is still its heartbeat, and the best of the locals and occasionally a few national names hang out at this pretty, exposed-brick and rough-wood bar. The food is down-home and the greens are great; even if it weren't the main music in that neck of the woods, the neighbors would be licking their fingers over the chicken (and using it to wash down that potent Long Island iced tea).
The sound is surprisingly warm, and the amplification not too brash (fortunately, because when the tavern is crowded -- and it's a heavy young professingles scene on the weekends -- the noise level in the main bar can be quite high). For big shows, it's best to arrive early: The joint typically becomes packed and noisy with chatter at least two hours before shows start.
-- Eve Zibart