So far, the future has been disappointing. Instead of floating above the city in our flying cars, we have to walk down the sidewalk, dodging a bunch of jerks on electric scooters. We’re all carrying videophones around in our pockets, but nobody wants to talk on them. Our clothes still have all these buttons.
But out in clubland, the future occasionally sneaks up on us — like on a recent Monday night inside Bin 1301, a cozy wine bar on U Street NW where the jazz keyboardist Bee Boisseau was leading a venturesome quartet, using his synthesizers to mutate a Herbie Hancock-ish lullaby into a brash cyborg hymn. Candlelight flickered as listeners sipped pinot and chatted about the humidity. Radical music, relaxed atmosphere. Maybe this was the 21st-century nightlife that science fiction promised us?
“Yo, that touches my heart because that’s my goal, bro,” Boisseau says, lighting a cigarette out on the sidewalk between sets. “I want to be futuristic. The progression in my mind is Monk, Hancock, Glasper. I got next.”
Originally from Richmond, where he studied with James “Plunky” Branch, Boisseau relocated to the Washington area last year to play with the great R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn. But every Monday, you’ll find Boisseau leading his own band at Bin 1301, learning how to get vulnerable in his improvisation and follow a groove wherever it needs to go.
And what about the wine bar regulars? What will they get out of coming to see him next week and the week after that? Boisseau takes a thoughtful drag on what’s left of that cigarette and says, “Jazz is whatever you need it to be.”
What a cool, invigorating way to think about the shape of jazz to come. It’ll be a music that serves the imaginations of those who listen to it.
Show: Mondays at 8 p.m. at Bin 1301, 1301 U St. NW. Free.