Posted by: Reginald Cyntje | July 22, 2013

Jazz Night in Southwest

Jazz NightI moved to the DC area in 1997. I was young, inexperienced and eager to learn. At that time, I met some beautiful musicians who nurtured my development. There were elders who loved the music so much they created opportunities for us. Two people that come to mind are Mr. Jamal Muhammad of WPFW and Mr. Earl Banks who was instrumental in developing Jazz Night in Southwest.

Jamal Muhammad was an outspoken supporter of jazz. He would let you know if you were ‘dealing’ or BSing. I remember making a demo and taking it to Mr. Muhammad when he worked at Tower Records. He listened to it and shared the music on air. Mr. Muhammad was instrumental in planning the Jam on U @ The Lincoln Theatre and a proud member of the listening corner at many establishments keeping the musicians and audiences honest.

Mr. Banks was a driving force in ensuring Jazz was supported regularly. Many of us made lasting connections at the “Lettumplay” events. This is how you came up in the ranks. There were no shortcuts. In 1999, Mr. Banks was instrumental in helping Jazz Night in Southwest become a success. Because of Mr. Banks, I met Mr. Dick Smith. I remember speaking to Mr. Banks extensively. He would tell stories about driving musicians around so they could play at different events.

Every time I perform at Jazz Night in Southwest I think about my first time sitting in at a session in DC. I think about the musicians I first met, the listener’s corner and the listeners who have been avid supporters. I smile every time I see familiar faces. These folks have watched me grow and mature musically. Their sincerity and commitment to the music is something I respect.

I see DC becoming more of a transient city with new people coming in having no knowledge of/respect for the history. Jazz Night in Southwest reminds me of my history in this city. Once an outsider, DC became my second home.

This Friday, I look forward to seeing familiar faces and listening to Dick Smith crack jokes and tell stories.


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