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All that jazz

Chaka Khan on her two-night Birchmere engagement, her performance m.o. and why she can’t get enough Joni Mitchell

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An Evening with Chaka Khan
A Rare Jazz Quartet Performance
Monday and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
SOLD OUT
The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA

Chaka Khan plays the Birchmere Monday and Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Chaka Khan Enterprises)

 

Legendary singer Chaka Khan, who’s gearing up for a two-night limited engagement at the Birchmere Monday and Tuesday, took a few minutes on the phone from her Los Angeles home to talk about her upcoming concerts, her philosophies of live performance and why she can’t get enough of her hero Joni Mitchell.

BLADE: Tell us a little about what you have planned for next week at the Birchmere.

KHAN: It will be a nice mix but everybody should know going into it, there will be jazz. I think everybody will be happy though. I’m gonna do some Joni Mitchell songs, a lot of my jazz songs and then I’ll do some of the hits that people know me by.

BLADE: Have you been touring with this kind of show or is it a one-off? I know you’ve done many jazz concerts in the past.

KHAN: Oh yes, for years. But these are just one offs.

BLADE: And you’re going to Japan in the new year for a tour?

KHAN: Yes

BLADE: Jazz or other stuff?

KHAN: That will probably be more of my contemporary stuff with some jazz in there too.

BLADE: And for a show like you have planned at the Birchmere, approximately how much of the material will be stuff you’ve recorded versus standards or other material that you haven’t recorded?

KHAN: Let’s say about three-fourths of the stuff you’ll hear is stuff I’ve recorded.

BLADE: Joni Mitchell is another singer who did significant jazz work alongside her pop stuff. Which of her songs will you be covering? I’m sure you’ll be doing, well, of course right now I can’t think of it, the song from “Wild Things Run Fast” that you recorded.

KHAN: “Ladies Man,” yes of course I’ll be doing that.

BLADE: Yes, that’s it. I could totally imagine you singing “Moon at the Window” too.

KHAN: Yes, that’s another good one. I’m doing a few others of my favorites, I mean I could go on and on and on, but some of my favorites at the moment like “Hissing of Summer Lawns,” “Sunny Sunday” and a few others. I’ll keep some surprises.

BLADE: So it sounds like you’ve gotten to know Joni a little. Have you been able to spend time with her and get to know her beyond just expressing your admiration?

KHAN: Oh yes, we’ve spent a good bit of time together.

BLADE: I’ll get back to your concerts in a second, but this is fascinating since she’s become rather reclusive. What’s she like one on one? I know she’s quite outspoken.

KHAN: Yes, very outspoken. She’s really a philosopher at heart. She’s truly one of the brightest geniuses we have. Certainly a musical genius but in every other way as well. I love to just listen to her talk and speak on current events and blah blah blah, you know, all sorts of things. She’s just so buried in, you know, what’s going on. She knows everything, as you can tell.

BLADE: Did you like her last album “Shine”?

KHAN: Oh yeah, I like everything she does.

BLADE: Do you think she’ll record again?

KHAN: Well she’s moved up to Canada again and I think she’s kind of chilling a bit but I think she’s writing. I hope so. I’d be devastated if she never did another album.

BLADE: When you’re singing, from a vocal standpoint, how is the interpretation different than say, funk or pop?

KHAN: Well, it’s really not. I approach them all the same, with the same spirit. Some require a little more technique. Jazz requires a bit more of a cerebral application than the songs I’ve been doing, you know, for a hundred years. So it’s good. I just love singing jazz and I love singing other people’s stuff that I really relate to. Some I relate to so much, it feels like I actually wrote it. So, you know, the fundamental approach is the same.

BLADE: What kind of musicians will you have with you?

KHAN: We started out with just a quartet but we just added a horn player. I think we’ll have some singers too because some of the more contemporary stuff I’ll do will require that.

BLADE: How long are your shows? Do you feel you have to play a certain amount of time or sing a certain number of songs for people to feel they’ve gotten a full evening of entertainment?

KHAN: Well usually there’s a time limit with the promoter. I could go on singing all night if I had the opportunity, but yeah, it’s usually about an hour to 90 minutes.

BLADE: Is it vocally taxing to sing for that long or even during a two-hour concert?

KHAN: No, not at all.

BLADE: Lots of other singers, like Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin, have primarily had pop or R&B careers but done lots of jazz on the side here and there. Do you like their jazz material?

KHAN: I like “Good Morning Heartache” (Ross) and a lot of the Billie Holiday stuff she did. But you know, when I get in my car, I put on Miles Davis, Ella, Joni — that’s who I listen to. The originals.

BLADE: What will you be doing for Christmas?

KHAN: Working.

BLADE: Recording or giving concerts?

KHAN: A tour. Singing. Working. I almost always work through the holidays and on my birthday.

BLADE: Do you feel any sense of camaraderie with the other singers who came up and got their start in Chicago, like the Staple Singers for instance?

KHAN: Absolutely. I know most of the Chicago-based singers. You know, we have paid a certain amount of dues by coming up there. There’s a mark of excellence you earn. Chicago’s not an easy audience. It’s like the “Gong Show.” They will totally gong you if you’re not up to part. You have to have your stuff together coming out of Chicago. You go through a great deal of training and pay a great deal of dues coming out of that city singing.

BLADE: When you’re on stage and doing music that’s more loose and has more room for interpretation, to what degree are your vocal flourishes and interpretive nuances planned ahead of time as opposed to either totally spontaneous or ways you’ve sung certain lines and phrases other times?

KHAN: I’m totally spontaneous. When I’m on stage, I connect to some higher force actually. I often truly and honestly have to ask, “Was it a good show?” because I go into what you’d kind of call a hypnotic state. That’s how I know this is my calling.

BLADE: Is it hard to get to that place?

KHAN: It takes a little while. I’m usually a little nervous for the first three songs or so. I want to please, so usually during the first few songs I’m a little nervous, feeling out the crowd before I go on and then once I’m on and warmed up, I’m totally cool.

BLADE: So what about your gay fans? Are they any more vocal or exuberant than other fans? Or do you even think of your fans as being gay or straight?

KHAN: Oh please. I definitely have the gay audience and they have been the most supportive of me hands down. I truly truly do appreciate my gay audience because they’ve been there for me when times were tough and I find them, I don’t know, less fickle or something. … They really love the artists they love and it’s for real. I really like that.

BLADE: For songs in a show like you have planned at the Birchmere, especially the material you haven’t recorded, where do the arrangements come from?

KHAN: Well I arrange all the vocals. And I’ve worked with many different, really great producers over the years so they’ve done some of them. But I play bass and drums so I truly have a true musical understanding of every aspect of it. I have to say I really have a hand in it all.

BLADE: But jazz can be so improvisational — to what degree is it mapped out ahead of time, “OK, we’ll have a sax solo here, then …”

KHAN: Well what we do is I give the musical director a list of the songs I want to sing, then he rehearses the band and then once they’ve got it down, I go in and I’ll do a rehearsal, a run through and anything I want to change musically, that’s what we do.

BLADE: And who is your musical director for these shows?

KHAN: Melvin Davis

BLADE: Thank you for your time, Miss Khan. And happy Thanksgiving.

KHAN: And the same to you.

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Miscellaneous

The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished

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From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Miscellaneous

D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory

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housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.

 

Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.

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Miscellaneous

Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms

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crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
$81,000
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
$85,000
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

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