2nd Saturday Cafe swing jazz band keeps toes tapping, heads bobbing

Low-key, cozy nightclub pleases loyal patrons

May 09, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sitting still is not easy at a performance of the Tom Principato and Rusty Bogart Swing Guitar Party band. So infectious are the rhythms that a quick survey at a recent performance at the 2nd Saturday Cafe in Columbia revealed feet tapping, heads bobbing and veggies plunging in and out of the dip in time with the beat.

The intimate nightspot was tucked cozily into historic Oliver's Carriage House, home to Kittamaqundi Community Church, near Town Center.

On the second Saturday each month, the 19th-century former stable is transformed into a hopping nightclub, boasting a bar, hors d'oeuvre buffet and live entertainment. Tables seat about eight apiece, allowing ample space to sit with friends, or to make new ones.

"It's very cozy, very low-key," said Jan Schmidt, a Columbia resident and frequent cafe patron. "You wear your jeans and just talk to people."

Guy Clatterbaugh, who attends Kittamaqundi Community Church, started the 2nd Saturday Cafe last year.

"I like to listen to good music," said Clatterbaugh, an engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in North Laurel. "I wanted to start something that was for smaller bands and bands that weren't getting much attention."

But the cafe's success prompted Clatterbaugh to change course and go after high-profile acts in recent months.

"It's gotten a lot bigger this year," he said. "Now I'm committed to having name bands. I try and get the best local bands in the Northern Virginia-Washington-Baltimore area."

This was Principato's second 2nd Saturday appearance - he performed in December with his other band, the Tom Principato Band, playing an eclectic mix of rock, jazz and blues for which he is noted.

"I love it, it's a breath of fresh air," Principato said. "It's nice to have a venue where there's not a television on in the background.

"When people are right up in your face, it's an easier forum for direct connection," he said.

Principato and Bogart, both accomplished jazz guitarists, converged to form the Swing Guitar Party band in October as a weekly "jazz jam session" at Bankok Blues restaurant in Falls Church, Va., Principato's hometown.

For Principato, 49, the repertoire of Swing Guitar Party is reminiscent of the music that hooked him when he was 11. "It's a chance for me to stay connected to the players that got me excited about playing the guitar to begin with," he said, citing guitarists Chet Atkins, Les Paul and Charlie Christian. "It's a celebration of their music."

For Bogart, 50, swing jazz is typical of what he has played throughout most of his career. "I had an early appreciation for that kind of stuff," said Bogart, a Nashville native who took up the guitar when he moved to Alexandria as a teen-ager.

Performing jazz is his way of "preserving an art form," he said. "Musical integrity is very important to me."

Swing jazz music dates to the 1920s, but refers primarily to guitar duos and big band dance music of the 1930s and 1940s, said Paul Bollenback, adjunct jazz guitar professor at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, who took guitar lessons from Principato as a teen-ager.

"To swing is a rhythmic concept that is related primarily to jazz," Bollenback said. "It gives the listener a feeling of movement. It's any music that has a good rhythmic flow."

There was plenty of rhythmic flow on a recent Saturday night, as the group cranked out a combination of borrowed jazz tunes, including Thomas "Fats" Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" and original pieces like "Midnight Groove," inspired by Kenny Burrell's "Midnight Blue."

Principato, sporting his signature black fedora, and Bogart, both on electric guitars, jammed with Swing Guitar Party band members Scott Giambusso on bass, Rob Leebrick on snare drums and Cesar Vanegas on conga drums.

The term "party" in the group's name was especially fitting - it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the 100-plus patrons or the musicians.

"I love jazz and blues guitar, I look for jazz everywhere I can find it," said Columbia resident Susan Kleinberg between sets.

Kleinberg and her friends only wished there were room to get up and dance.

Debbie Trumbull, also of Columbia, had a solution.

"You do chair dancing," she said.

The 2nd Saturday Cafe will feature the Scott Peaker Project, a jazz band, on Saturday. Reservations are required. Tickets and information: 410-715-0543.

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