Explore Washington D.C.

My Washington: Giovanni Russonello

The writer, jazz evangelist and sometime piano player shares his favorite D.C. spots.

Twenty-six-year-old Russonello has penned music features and profiles of jazz legends for Jazz Times, Washington Post, New York Times and NPR. As the head of CapitalBop—a go-to webzine for finding the best, the “different” and the up-and-coming in the city—he organizes shows for the D.C. Jazz Festival and his own D.C. Jazz Loft, a monthly throwback to all-night jam sessions in the come-as-you-are tradition. The March 8 show features the Allyn Johnson Trio. See the CapitalBop website for details.

Describe the local jazz scene.

Strong, deeply rooted, wildly diverse and constantly evolving.

How did you get into this particular genre?

I played piano as a kid and fell in love with jazz around the time I was in junior high. Growing up in D.C., I went to jazz clubs, and my uncle, a drummer, made mixed tapes for me with musicians like Herbie Hancock on them. I studied more and listened to records, and it all came together.

How did you start CapitalBop and D.C. Jazz Loft?

During breaks from college, I would go out to clubs and noticed few people were there, especially young people. The music was fresh and young, but it wasn’t on people’s radar. With so much innovation and excitement in the D.C. scene, it deserved to be heard. CapitalBop began with a comprehensive calendar that also featured reviews and interviews. Out of that, we grew as show presenters.

Where do you go to discover new talent?

Bossa Bistro in Adams Morgan, and some really great young musicians are playing gigs at Dukem’s Ethiopian restaurant on Thursday nights.

One to watch from here?

Sam Prather and his Groove Orchestra. He’s a remarkable musician and singer who is bridging the divide between improvisation and what people call “bedroom production,” where you put all the pieces together on your laptop.

Favorite vista?

Biking down 13th St. NW from Columbia Heights by Cardozo High School, at the top of the hill where it starts to plummet down to Florida Avenue. You can see Catholic University’s chapel and the Capitol. It’s a rugged mix of the real city with intimate highlights from our little skyline. When the sun is setting over that hill, it’s divine.

What’s a must for visitors?

Go-go music. The drumbeats you hear while driving down the street are as ubiquitous a sound as a car engine. People are raised playing conga drums because it’s an inherent part of being from D.C.

Your next trip?

Capetown, South Africa for the jazz festival there

One thing you never leave home without?

My notebook. It’s very small and fits in my pocket. I picked it up for cheap or for free—can’t remember. It has a little floral pattern on it that people like to laugh at.