Nag Champa

Creating Infrastructure at Eaton Hotel, 'The Turn Around' Featuring Nag Champa by Maxwell Young

A Weekly jam session hosted by Jamal Gray and Nag Champa Art Ensemble. Flyer via  Wild Days

A Weekly jam session hosted by Jamal Gray and Nag Champa Art Ensemble. Flyer via Wild Days

Since its grand opening in September, Eaton Hotel has leveraged traditional hospitality models to amplify arts and social change. The boutique, mid-century modern hotel—once a bus terminal located on K Street—has quickly become a community hub for locally-based artists thanks to the activist mindsets of its cultural coordinators including Sheldon Scott and Sebi Tayac.

Starting this Sunday, Eaton is opening its doors to Nag Champa Art Ensemble for a weekly jam session, live at their rooftop lounge Wild Days, called The Turn Around.

Anyone familiar with Nag Champa (and if you’re not, check out their performances at The John F. Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum) knows how integral their improvisation and live sets are to their musicianship. Although listeners are patiently waiting for a full-length project, or at least something consumable via streaming platforms, it’s a real treat to hear how they adapt and contort their catalogue for each performance. No two sets sound the same.

We asked the band leader and producer of Nag Champa, Jamal Gray, about how The Turn Around will be different from past performances. “It’s a chance to give listeners more of an insight into our creative process, and watch us build themes from scratch,” he said. “We’re going to be using this time to work out material for the album and other production work.”

Nag Champa band members from left: L.D. Lee, Jamal Gray, Dajando Smith, and Allen Jones with Anderson .Paak (center), (Not pictured: Elijah Easton and Kwesi Lee). Photograph by Maxwell Young

Nag Champa band members from left: L.D. Lee, Jamal Gray, Dajando Smith, and Allen Jones with Anderson .Paak (center), (Not pictured: Elijah Easton and Kwesi Lee). Photograph by Maxwell Young

The series will be an exploratory body of work as Nag Champa is set to also feature notable friends, musicians, vocalists, and DJs from D.C. and beyond. Their first guest is Dreamcast who recently received a profile in the Washington Post ahead of his album dropping January 2nd. Gray equates the upcoming jams to the Soulquarian movement that is highlighted by works from Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and others.

“It’s a similar vibe to when Questlove and The Roots began hosting weekly jam sessions in the mid 90s. A lot of great artists came through those sessions,” he said.

Ultimately, The Turn Around is about fusing together the rich musical context of Washington, D.C. with the jazz energy of New York while keeping contemporary roots. “We’re aiming to bring back that vintage U Street vibe and mix it with the jazz loft energy of New York,” Gray explained.

Enjoy the first session of The Turn Around tomorrow at Wild Days at Eaton Hotel from 2pm until 8pm.

Wild Days (top floor)

Eaton Hotel

1201 K St. NW

Washington, D.C. 20005

Funk Parade 2018 This Saturday by Maxwell Young

funk parade 2018.jpg

Funk Parade is a one-of-a-kind day fair, parade, and music festival celebrating Washington D.C.'s vibrant music and arts as well as the unifying spirit of funk throughout the historic U Street neighborhood.  If you're looking for a glimpse into the groups and faces who make up the music and art communities of the District, the fifth annual Funk Parade is an experience you don't want to miss.

It’s the largest collection of local musicians playing on one day.
— Jamal Gray, Director of Uptown Art House
Kwesi Lee of Nag Champa performing at Funk Parade 2017.  Photograph by Maxwell Young

Kwesi Lee of Nag Champa performing at Funk Parade 2017.  Photograph by Maxwell Young

The U Street corridor has long been a cultural pulse for the nation's capital.  For instance, following the armistice of World War II, the heavyweight victory of Joe Louis, and the 2008 election of President Obama, the neighborhood streets erupted in "typhoons of joy."  The soul of live music resides on the sidewalks and hallmark venues as well.  District-born jazz musicians Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway were staples of the defunct Bohemian Caverns, which now serves as a back-drop for local street performances.  The Lincoln and Howard theaters have amplified premiere acts nationwide from genres including jazz, soul, blues, and hip hop.

Sparked by a vivid dream of musicians, marching bands, neighbors, and strangers rejoicing in the sounds of the District, founders Justin Rood and Chris Naoum have consolidated this rich tradition into a day of movement, education, and good vibrations.  This year on Saturday, May 12 there will be festivities during the day and night at various stages and venues around the U Street corridor.  Read on for details regarding sets, showtimes, and destinations.

Day Fair 1-7pm (see other stage info here)

DC As Funk Stage

One Love Massive

625 T St. NW

One Love Massive is an artist collective that embodies the belief that music is a unifying force that defies all classifications and can unite D.C.  Its operations are actually in the U Street neighborhood where they will be hosting some of the District's most recognizable talents including Malik DOPE Drummer (3:40pm), Pinky Killacorn (3:55pm), Sir E.U (6pm), Ace Ono (2:25pm), and WInzday Love (1:50pm) throughout the day and evening.

Evening Music Festival 7pm 'til late

Funk Parade Lincoln Theater Showcase

1215 U St. NW

7:30pm showtime

Funk Parade has partnered with Trillectro--another DMV music festival--to host a night showcase at Lincoln Theater.  For $15 ($20 at the door) listeners are guaranteed to be in a groovy pocket for the duration of the show.  Heavy-hitters Ari Lennox, Mannywellz, and Dreamcast grace the stage.  Moreover, the lovely Ayes Cold, Native Sun, and Underdog will be on the ones-and-twos--I'll vouch for them any day of the week.

Uptown Art House Experience at Flash DC

645 Florida Ave NW


The Art House gets back to the vibrations of live music following its audiovisual production, The Landing at the Kennedy Center.  Commanding one of the grooviest joints in the District, Flash DC, Uptown Art House will be hosting the incomparable, enigmatic Nag Champa Art Ensemble.  Expect to hear some new sounds from the veteran musicians as they prepare to release their debut project '68.  Special guests include electronic DJs Ledroit and St. Clair Castro.

OTHERFEELS Funk Parade Showcase at Local 16

1602 U St. NW


Founded by James Scott, OTHERFEELS has created an intimate experience of bourgeoning DMV artists through carefully selected performance bills, a radio show, and most recently a cocktail bar in Adams Morgan called Loves Me Not.  On Saturday, the label will host percussionist and pianist FootsXColes as well as BlaqueStone.

Funk Parade at Velvet Lounge

915 U St. NW


With music performances both downstairs and upstairs from 12pm to 3am, Velvet Lounge will be quite the gathering place.  Odd Mojo returns to the venue following an epic release party for her new album Channel Yo Mojo.  She is joined by R&B, neo soul group Not.Alone and PNMA.