PICK: Hotel X at VMFA Jazz Cafe on Wednesday, Dec. 14

Ever-evolving experimental jazz group now in its 30th year.


Ever-evolving RVA “Afrodelic funk” institution Hotel X headlines the Richmond Jazz Society’s weekly concert series in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts atrium on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Few bands last three decades. Even fewer with the originally loud and experimental approach of Hotel X. Founded at roughly the same time as local salsa institution, Bio Ritmo, with significant overlap of original members, the band’s first iteration was as a ragtag, free-ish jazz ensemble with enough spiky edge to get signed by punk rock label SST, home of seminal bands including Black Flag and Husker Du.

Like a real-world hotel, the band’s denizens are ever-changing. Dozens of players have come and gone around founding member, alto saxophonist Tim Harding. (The VMFA lineup includes new saxophonist Tyler Donnelly on tenor sax; Chris Vasi on guitar; Charles Hunter on keyboard; Carter Blough on bass; Hunter Duke on drums; and James McDonald, Mike Reitz and returning former member Jeff Morris on percussion.)

Always wide ranging in scope - covering everything from Ornette Coleman to the Beatles and Talking Heads- Hotel X and its stripped-down version, Motel X, found its long-term groove through a rich admixture of material from the danceable universe of African music and the (mostly) non-U.S. African diaspora.

The current band makes it perfect for the VMFA atrium, with its open dance floor in front of ample tables, surrounded by great art, holiday shopping, with a café serving wine and beer. And it doesn't hurt that admission is free.

Hotel X performs at the VMFA Jazz Cafe in the atrium on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. Free.