“It’s word of mouth, man,” said Carter, who grew up on the music in his native Harlem. “We’re just trying to keep this jazz thing going.”
Monday Night Jazz at Vicino — which, in theory, goes off every other week on Sligo Avenue, though it’s sometimes more frequent, and sometimes less — is a modest (all right, divey) demi-space that emerged organically in a churning pocket of suburban redevelopment. It’s a half-mile south of the Fillmore, the shiny new Live Nation concert hall in the heart of Silver Spring.
Though the existence of Vicino’s as a jazz joint isn’t exactly threatened by the arrival of the imported nightlife franchise, one cannot help but notice the difference in buzz and scale. The Fillmore, which features mass-appeal music and exists clear on the other side of the cultural galaxy, was crammed to 2,000-person capacity on its opening night this month for a concert by hip-hop singer Mary J. Blige.
At Vicino, where 55 people might fit downstairs for a really hot show and a good night means the Carters don’t lose more than $40 or $50, it takes two years to draw 2,000.
The artists who play the room — Danny Mixon, Bootsie Barnes, Mycah Chevalier, Ralph Penn — aren’t among jazz’s best-known names. They aren’t marquee musicians in a genre decades past its peak.
“Jazz is not the popular music of the day,” shrugged Carter’s son, Chad, who was the impetus for the family’s foray into presenting live music.
Underground jazz adventure
One recent Monday evening, Chad Carter, looking natty in a dark suit, his shirt cuffs French, was crooning a Gershwin standard in front of the Buck Hill Quartet.
“In time the Rockies may crumble / Gibraltar may tumble / They’re only made of clay / But our love is here to stay,” he sang. The sound was warm and resonant, and Buck Hill, an old jazz cat who has accompanied legends, added sweet colors from his clarinet.
“Blow it, Buck!” Felipe Jose shouted from a table in the back of the small room. His wife, Sherry, nodded. “Mmmm, yeah,” Jose said.
There were 40 people who had paid for admission to the club, though none went as far back as the Joses, local music hounds who happened to be eating upstairs, in Vicino’s main dining room, when the Carters began their underground jazz adventure. The sound wafted up. The Joses were intrigued.