The Nighthawks take care of blues and business at Jammin Java

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

Loyal followers of the blues band The Nighthawks of 2012 know that the group they hear Saturday evening at Jammin Java has been evolving for 40 years. Now, with their founder, vocalist and harmonica player Mark Wenner still at the helm, the current iteration of the quartet is considered by many as the best of the best.

"That's how I feel," said Wenner. "I put in all that time to get what I got now. All the other incarnations of the band were the stepping stones to get me to this point."

The Nighthawks of 2004 took on lead guitarist Paul Bell, a D.C. player, who had been paying his dues in a guitar town known for exceptional performance. The band also invited bass player Johnny Castle to join them. In the D.C. guitar stable, Castle was crossover gold because he glided through genres from hard rock to bluegrass. In 2010, the Nighthawks' legendary drummer, Pete Ragusa, announced his decision to follow other musical avenues. That was when Mark Stutso joined the group.

Onstage
The Nighthawks 2012 Tour
Where: Jammin Java Music Club and Cafe, 227 Maple Ave E, Vienna
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Lobby Bar opens 5 p.m.
Info: $20, 703-255-1566; jamminjava.com

"[We] have more fun and play better than ever now," Wenner continued. "It's just a take-care-of-business, teamwork outfit. Everybody wants to be there, everybody's pulling their weight, everybody's consistent and professional and it's a joy."

The quartet will perform primarily from its two latest CDs, "Last Train to Bluesville" and "Damn Good Time!"

"With the 'Last Train,' we're tipping our hats to the founders of the D.C. Blues Society, an all-star cast of characters who really carried the ball along here for decades -- and have all passed on," Wenner explained.

And because they have fans who've been coming to Jammin Java for 40 years, the group also plays selections from the older albums that the former Nighthawks have been known for.

"The crowd at Jammin Java knows what we're up to," Wenner said. "We feel comfortable and the audience is totally with us."

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Author:

Marie Gullard

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner