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Home Rule Music Festival keeps the spirit of Black Fire Records alive

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Within the Seventies, Washington-based Black Fireplace Data was concurrently an incubator and reliquary of D.C.’s African American music and tradition and a residing image of the Black Energy and Black Consciousness actions. Charvis Campbell wished to have a good time it.

“We needed to do one thing within the spirit of Black Fireplace,” mentioned Campbell, proprietor of Petworth’s HR Records and head of its adjoining nonprofit, the Home Rule Music and Film Preservation Foundation. To begin, he invited Richmond-based saxophonist James “Plunky” Department — who co-founded Black Fireplace with native jazz DJ Jimmy “Black Fireplace” Grey (who died in 1999) and led a jazz band known as the Oneness of Juju for the label — to carry out in D.C. in 2021.

“I used to be so enamored with this man,” Campbell recalled. “The tales he instructed, the music — he simply had all of it. And on the way in which out, I talked to Plunky, and I used to be like, ‘We obtained to do a documentary. Any approach I might help?’ He mentioned, ‘Positive, let’s discuss it.’”

It wasn’t a subject properly lined in music historical past. Primarily a jazz label, Black Fireplace was a small area of interest operation whose gross sales had been principally concentrated within the D.C. space. Exterior the Beltway, most of its artists and recordings had cult followings at finest.

Alternatively, its founding in 1975 coincided with the start of D.C. dwelling rule (which the “HR” of Campbell’s operation refers to), itself a microcosm of the period’s rising African American political, social and financial consciousness. And it had significance past symbolism: Black Fireplace’s roster slowly expanded past jazz to incorporate soul, funk and the primary recordings by the genre-bending band Expertise Limitless — later often called E.U., one of many premier artists on D.C.’s go-go music scene. (A decade after its Black Fireplace debut, E.U. would carry out “Da Butt” in Spike Lee’s “Faculty Daze,” bringing go-go maybe its brightest worldwide highlight.)

It was a legacy price commemorating.

Buoyed by a grant from HumanitiesDC and a Kickstarter crowdfunding marketing campaign, Campbell constructed a workforce to provide “The Black Fire Documentary,” a 28-minute movie that chronicles the label by archival footage and about two dozen interviews (together with, full disclosure, this author).

However that wasn’t sufficient, Campbell determined. “Black Fireplace” wanted an actual splash.

The Residence Rule Basis was already sponsoring a live performance and movie sequence at the Parks, an outside group house on the former Walter Reed campus. “The lightbulb got here on,” Campbell mentioned. “Why don’t we get Plunky, attempt to get E.U. and [other representative artists], and have a day of music, after which conclude the day with the exhibiting of the documentary?”

Department shortly agreed. Jimmy Grey’s son Jamal, a D.C.-based musician and curator, additionally signed on to assist the Residence Rule Basis arrange the pageant, slated for June 11 on the Parks. Though E.U. was already booked for a live performance in Virginia, lead singer Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott dedicated to a special date to host a workshop on go-go music and tradition.

Added to the proceedings are artists who didn’t file for Black Fireplace however represented the identical period, ethos and aesthetic. If E.U. can’t make it, TCB — one other beloved and long-standing go-go band — can. Doug Carn, a non secular jazz pianist (and a frequent presence at D.C.’s Bohemian Caverns within the 2000s and 2010s), recorded within the Seventies for Oakland, Calif.’s equally constituted Black Jazz label. He agreed to carry out and to direct a meditation workshop. CapitalBop, D.C.’s stalwart jazz advocacy group, is presenting an octet led by saxophonist David Murray, arguably essentially the most iconic avant-garde jazz artist of the Seventies and ’80s.

Add in DJs to open the proceedings, on-site concessions by Denizens Brewing and Anxo restaurant and cidery, and even a particular single-edition Residence Rule journal (in homage to Grey’s previous Black Fireplace journal), and a day of music and movie turns into a full-blown Residence Rule Pageant.

Department and Oneness of Juju shut the musical program, with the saxophonist then starring within the climactic documentary.

There’s a sure unusual irony in celebrating Black Fireplace — emblematic as it’s of the largely bygone “Chocolate Metropolis” conception of D.C. — on the Parks at Walter Reed, whose mixed-use redevelopment is a logo of up to date gentrification within the capital metropolis.

But there’s additionally a notice of victory in it. Within the midst of recent condominiums, a constitution college and a Entire Meals, previous D.C. as soon as once more makes an indelible mark.

“I feel we’re hitting all the important thing elements and beneath the guise of making an attempt to comply with the spirit of Black Fireplace and Jimmy, if we will,” says Campbell. “It’s laborious in these footsteps, however we’re doing our greatest. And we’re actually enthusiastic about it.”

The Parks at Walter Reed, 1010 Butternut St. NW. homerulemusicfestival.com.

Date: June 11 from 3 to 9:30 p.m. (Rain date is June 12.)



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