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