Weekend in Jazz | 4.18-4.20: Jazz’s top brass at Blues Alley, plus young D.C. sax star Braxton Cook

Saxophonist Braxton Cook, left, pictured with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, performs at Bohemian Caverns this weekend. Courtesy braxtoncook.com

by Giovanni Russonello & Allen Jones
Editorial board

D.C.’s own Braxton Cook has been on tour recently with the famous Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. He returns to his hometown for his quartet’s first weekend at Bohemian Caverns, where he’ll give us a taste of what he’s been cooking up in New York City. Cook recently released his debut EP, titled Sketch, in which he blends his jazzed-out knowledge of the saxophone with his soulfully constructed original compositions. The great Jon Faddis brings fellow trumpeters Terell Stafford, Lew Soloff and Tom Williams to Blues Alley to perform arrangements that put a special focus on the instrument that expanded jazz’s focus beyond the piano in the early 20th century. At Twins Jazz, you’ll find Thad Wilson, a local trumpet expert in his own right, leading a band that mixes modern music styles with old standards. You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, APRIL 11

cb picks:

  • Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra, American History Museum, 3 p.m.
  • Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington tribute, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • ‘Triumphant Trumpets,’ Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Thad Wilson, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Braxton Cook, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Dukem, 11 p.m.

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m. | The National Museum of American History celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month with free performances every Friday afternoon. This week, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra — one of the District’s most reliable emissaries of the traditional jazz repertoire — performs in a slimmed-down combo format. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Tribute to Dizzie Gillespie and Duke Ellington, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | What began as an experiment over a decade ago continues today as one of Washington’s greatest weekly traditions: Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Jazz Night.” This week, Local masters of the music perform some classic compositions by the fathers of jazz. Lenny Cuje on vibraphone, Chuck Redd on drums and vibraphone, Tim Whalen on piano, James King on bass, and Tom Williams on trumpet and drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Weekend in Jazz | 4.11-4.13: Blues Alley’s piano week brings Cyrus; guitar focus at Levine Music

Jeremy Pelt plays this weekend at Bohemian Caverns. Courtesy jeremypelt.net

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The D.C. Jazz Loft isn’t the only exciting show this weekend (though with the great Lena Seikaly, Lenny Robinson and Dan Roberts all on board, we’re pretty excited about that one). Cyrus Chestnut, the fabulous Baltimorean pianist, is at Blues Alley all weekend in the culminating event of its weeklong piano series. At Levine Music, its weekend-long jazz festival presents two guitar-focused shows, one each on Friday and Saturday. The famed trumpeter Jeremy Pelt makes a visit to Bohemian Caverns those nights, as well. And don’t miss our D.C. Jazz Loft on Sunday night. You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, APRIL 11

cb picks:

  • Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m.
  • Elijah Jamal Balbed, Loews Madison, 8 p.m.
  • Howard U. Jazz Ensemble, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Levine Jazz Quartet, Levine Music, 7 p.m.
  • Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeff Antoniuk, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Pelt, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Dukem, 11 p.m.

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m. | The National Museum of American History celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month with free performances every Friday afternoon. This week, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra — one of the District’s most reliable emissaries of the traditional jazz repertoire — performs in a slimmed-down combo format. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Howard U. Jazz Ensemble, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | What began as an experiment over a decade ago continues today as one of Washington’s greatest weekly traditions: Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Jazz Night.” This week, the Howard University Jazz Ensemble – which each year produces a few more of D.C.’s promising young musicians – will perform under the guidance of its long-time director, Fred Irby. The group tends to play alternative-minded big band arrangements of jazz classics. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Show announcement | Lena Seikaly, Dan Roberts & Lenny Robinson at the April D.C. Jazz Loft

DC Jazz Loft

Click for hi-res version.


It’s Jazz Appreciation Month. The museums and clubs are packing in the amazing programming, but to appreciate the breadth of what’s happening on a thriving jazz scene, on the ground level, check out this Sunday’s D.C. Jazz Loft, Lena Seikaly, one of the most exciting new vocalists (and composers) in the area, will lead a band. So will Dan Roberts, a fabulous young piano player who’s headlined at the Atlas Performing Arts Center and been praised by JazzTimes for his funky eclecticism, and Lenny Robinson, a powerful drummer and bandleader who’s been a loft favorite from our earliest days.

 
Doors at Union Arts open at 7, and the music will be going til late. Update: Come by 9, and we’ll give you a free Belvedere vodka cocktail. We got it, why not share it? The loft is (otherwise) BYOB, and a donation of $15 for the musicians is suggested. When you get to Union Arts, enter through the back entrance (turn into the parking lot off of 4th Street NE). See you there! Continue reading

Weekend in Jazz | 4.4-4.6: Mining the divide between art forms, plus two great jazz vocalists

The Revive Big Band performs on Saturday at the Kennedy Center. Courtesy revive-music.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Two bands arrive this weekend hawking their own ideas about the close relationship between jazz and hip-hop. On Friday and Saturday at Bohemian Caverns, the trumpeter Russell Gunn teams up with Dionne Farris, a well-known hip-hop and soul singer. (Read our interview with Gunn here.) And on Saturday at the Kennedy Center, the Revive Big Band performs as part of the One Mic: Hip-Hop Worldwide festival.

For fans of jazz vocalists, there are two very different performances to choose from in the Maryland suburbs: On Friday, Cécile McLorin-Salvant, the jazz tradition’s greatest young advocate and apostle, performs at the Montpelier Arts Center. On Sunday, the uncategorizable Buika brings her mix of Flamenco, West African music and jazz. You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, APRIL 4

cb picks:

  • Bobby Sanabria: Jazz Edcuation Workshop, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m.
  • Airmen of Note, American History Museum, 3 p.m.
  • Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché, American History Museum, 6 p.m.
  • Marshall Keys, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Cécile McLorin-Salvant, Montpelier Arts Center, 8 p.m.
  • Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Dukem, 11 p.m.

Terell Stafford & Monk Institute Students, Dept. of Education, 11:30 a.m. | The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, among the country’s top farmsteads for young musical talent, holds onto some dear principles about jazz’s sometimes-contradictory place in our national identity: The music teaches us about democracy and cooperation, reminds us of the difficulties that Blacks and other minorities have always suffered in this country, and symbolizes a meritocracy. Both the music and the message will be on display at this event, billed as a “live jazz informance.” It features performances and discussion with Terell Stafford, a star trumpeter and educator, as well as current students in the organization’s National Performing Arts High School Program. Free, but RSVP required (to nicole.carinci@ed.gov). View event on calendar | Event website

Bobby Sanabria: Jazz Education Workshop, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m. | The percussionist Bobby Sanabria is among the most respected Latin jazz musicians of his time; he’s also a remarkable educator, passionate and learned about the interwoven threads of North and South American history, and how they helped produce Afro-Cuban music. (His three-CD educational set, The Journey, proves his ken.) Here he leads an educational workshop on Latin jazz. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Airmen of Note, American History Museum, 3 p.m. | The National Museum of American History celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month with free performances every Friday afternoon. This week, the Airmen of Note — the Air Force’s big bang — performs its repertoire, ranging from classic mid-20th-century music (think Glenn Miller) to more contemporary jazz. The band is buoyed by a few especially strong improvisers, including Tedd Baker on tenor saxophone and David McDonald on drums. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché, American History Museum, 6 p.m. | After leading an educational workshop at 1:30 p.m., the renowned Afro-Cuban percussionist Bobby Sanabria performs here with his Quarteto Aché. The group is named for a force that, according to Nigeria’s Yoruba religion (which thrives today in Cuba as well), connotes the spiritual power to effect change. Sanabria’s group has its own kind of musical life force, no doubt: It’s in the clopping weave that its combination of piano, bass, saxophone and percussion create, and in Sanabria’s folkloric chants — full up with verve and wisdom. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Marshall Keys, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | The alto saxophonist Marshall Keys presents a group of musicians here from various generations, with the goal to collectively celebrate the spirit of soul. He plays melodic lines that dance like Maceo Parker’s, and his band-leading is in the same vein as that of classic soul patriarchs with a focus on groove. Joining him will be the trombonist Greg Boyer, the pianist Mark Meadows, the bassist Herman Burney, the drummer Keith Kilgo, and even the tap dancer Jason Holley. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Interview | Russell Gunn on blasting across boundaries & his new project with Dionne Farris

Russell Gunn plays at Bohemian Caverns this weekend with Dionne Farris. Courtesy nicotoulouse.com

by Allen Jones & Giovanni Russonello
CapitalBop contributor & editorial board

More than just a jazz trumpeter, Russell Gunn uses sounds to expound on a life in the musical trenches. His compositions on Love Requiem and the Grammy-nominated Ethnomusicology Vol. 1, both released in 1999, showed his ability to stretch the art form to his own expressive needs. In his work ever since, he has pushed the envelope with his ideas of how a jazz album can sound.

After a stint on the scene in St. Louis, Gunn came to New York as a member of the Oliver Lake Quintet, during jazz’s neoclassical period of the mid-1990s. He stood out with a focused trumpet sound rooted in bebop and the blues, but bolstered by a prescient vision that made room for the influence of hip-hop, funk and jazz’s avant-garde. It didn’t take long for him to make his debut at Lincoln Center as a part of Wynton MarsalisBlood on the Fields opera. This would be a promising course of action for any young musician, but what he did with this platform is the most interesting.

Gunn says that his first musical inspiration came from LL Cool J, and it makes sense: Golden age hip-hop is arguably just as strong and fertile an influence as is his knowledge of Lee Morgan’s catalogue. To introduce his latest solo album, Ethnomusicology Vol 6, he uses a humorous skit involving a record label executive and his evil minion, discussing the trouble that Gunn plans to wreak on the jazz establishment. He is certainly an iconoclast: Sometimes Gunn will layer a familiar set of jazz standard chord changes over a hip-hop drum machine and turntable scratches, and add his own melody. Or he’ll use his horn as the dominant texture while a variety of synthesizers swell underneath, and throw a sample from a movie on top of it all.

This weekend, Gunn presents his most recent project, a collaboration with the soul singer Dionne Farris that resulted in the 2013 album Dionne Get Your Gunn, during a two-night run at Bohemian Caverns. We caught up with Gunn to discuss his career, the state of jazz and what he likes about co-leading a band with a talented vocalist from outside the jazz world. Continue reading

Weekend in Jazz | 3.28-3.30: Jon Batiste, Sunny Jain, Kris Funn, Mickey Bass and much more

Kris Funn performs on Friday at the Hill Center. Before the performance, he speaks to the Washington Post’s Chris Richards. Courtesy dcmusicdownload.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

This Friday night, D.C. bass powerhouse Kris Funn brings his funky quartet, Corner Store, to the Hill Center. Before his performance, he will be interviewed by the Washington Post‘s pop critic, Chris Richards. At Bohemian Caverns this Friday and Saturday, another top-flight bassist, the hard-bop icon Mickey Bass, presents his Manhattan Burn Unit band.

And on Saturday night, the Hamilton and the Howard Theatre both have exciting shows: Sunny Jain at the former, and Jon Batiste’s Stay Human band at the latter (read our interview with Batiste here). You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, MARCH 28

cb picks:

  • Antonio Parker, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Lyle Link, Loews Madison, 8 p.m.
  • Tim Whalen Septet, Twins Jazz, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Mickey Bass & Manhattan Burn Unit, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Climax Sports Bar & Lounge, 11 p.m.

Antonio Parker Quintet, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | The alto saxophonist Antonio Parker’s playing is doggedly swinging, soulful and colored by a bright, aggressive tone. He casually sprinkles neo-soul and R&B influences into his otherwise straight-ahead bop. His improvising can show a redolence of Kenny Garrett. Here he features the trombonist Reginald Cyntje, the pianist Darius Scott, the bassist Cheyney Thomas and the drummer Keith Kilgo. $5 cover, free for children under 16. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Interview | Jon Batiste on NOLA, modern music and Stay(ing) Human: ‘There’s room for everybody’

Jon Batiste, second from left, brings his Stay Human band to the Howard Theatre this weekend. Courtesy Peter Lueders

by Allen Jones
CapitalBop contributor

At age 17, Jon Batiste moved from the hospitable musical community of New Orleans, where he was part of a well-known musical family, to the up-tempo world of New York City. He began studies at Juilliard, and immediately became recognized as a virtuoso heir to his hometown’s rich musical tradition. Both a virtuoso pianist and an artist with a personal vision, Batiste champions a concept that he calls “social music” — the ultimate goal is to bring people together.

While studying at Juilliard, where he went on to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Batiste assembled Stay Human, a four-piece band featuring fellow students. The band’s first album, My N.Y., was recorded during impromptu performances in the New York City subway system; it finds Batiste mixing original compositions with popular songs of all genres, all performed on his Harmonaboard — a handheld keyboard that Batiste blows into while playing chords and melodies with his hands.

On Stay Human’s first studio release, 2013’s Social Music, Batiste sings, preaches and plays both Harmonaboard and piano over an array of beats — variously inspired by New Orleans tradition, classic hip-hop and neo-soul. The band’s two-horn frontline adds a bouncing energy. Stay Human has toured the world, playing not only at concert halls and clubs but also in classrooms and local communities, always with the goal of expanding the music’s accessibility. Batiste has just finished a tour of the American South, where he visited a youth detention center, performing concerts and speaking to the children there about the power of social music to heal and bring people together.

On the piano, Batiste’s playing style harkens back to the flowing but barbed phrasing of Thelonious Monk, and the elusive dynamic evolutions of Ahmad Jamal. It will all be on display this Saturday at the Howard Theatre, when he performs in a presentation of the Washington Performing Arts Society. In the interview below, he offers a more vivid picture of how he hopes Social Music can serve us, and how his background has led him to where he is today. Continue reading

Announcement | This Sunday: One Mic festival’s panel on jazz and hip-hop, featuring Derrick Hodge

One Mic

Click for a hi-res version of the flyer.


You knew it was only a matter of time before the Kennedy Center undertook an earnest, deep-in-the-stacks celebration of hip-hop: The genre has been working its way into the canon for years, no matter whether the establishment was paying attention. Well, now it is. One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide begins today at 6 p.m., with a free show at the center’s Millennium Stage.

Over the next three weeks, the festival will celebrate many of the crisscrossing streams that have fed into and flowed from hip-hop. (The iconic emcee Nas’s performance with the NSO Pops at the end of this month is sure to be a highlight.) There are also a handful of satellite events happening around the city in association with the festival, and CapitalBop is thrilled to be co-sponsoring one of them. This Sunday, don’t miss the free panel discussion Young Lions & Lionesses: Jazz in a Hip-Hop World. The panel’s major star power comes in the form of Derrick Hodge, one of the world’s best young jazz bassists and music producers. He plays bass in the boundary-blurring Robert Glasper Experiment, and is also the musical director for the R&B singer Maxwell’s ensemble.

The other panelists will have loads of insight and experience to share too: Dr. William Smith is a jazz saxophonist as well as an author and scholar on the intersection of jazz and hip-hop; DJ 2-Tone Jones is well-known for his Shaolin Jazz Project, blending Wu Tang Clan tracks with classic Blue Note Records instrumentals; Gerald Watson is a formidable organizer and presenter who helped Jones realize Shaolin Jazz; and the singer Tamara Wellons imbibes many influences, from jazz to hip-hop to soul to house. The discussion will be moderated by the veteran journalist John Murph, who has covered jazz and hip-hop for such publications as DownBeat, JazzTimes, NPR Music and the Washington City Paper. Continue reading

Weekend in Jazz | 3.21-3.23: Washington Women in Jazz Fest finale, Amiri Baraka tribute & more

Amiri Baraka. Courtesy blues.gr

Amiri Baraka, center, shown with musicians and actors in front of his Spirit House in Newark in 1966. Courtesy blues.gr

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

This weekend marks the end of the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. The best way to celebrate is on Friday night, at Westminster Presbyterian, where Shannon Gunn performs with the Bullettes. On Saturday, Howard University honors the legacy of the poet, jazz critic and activist Amiri Baraka with a star-studded tribute called “In the Tradition.” On Friday and Saturday nights, the saxophonist Craig Handy performs with his organ-driven, New Orleans-themed band, 2nd Line Smith. You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, MARCH 21

cb picks:

  • Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes (WWJF), Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, BoheImian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Climax Sports Bar & Lounge, 11 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes (WWJF), Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | Led by Shannon Gunn, a talented trombonist and teacher who plays in the well-loved Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, this all-female big band plays traditional tunes as well as original material. The band includes the pianist Amy K. Bormet, the drummer Lydia Lewis and other prominent players on the D.C. scene. This show marks its third annual appearance at Westminster Presbyterian as part of the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Interview | Craig Handy on Mingus, major labels and that irresistible New Orleans second line groove

Craig Handy. Courtesy craighandy.com

Craig Handy performs this weekend at Bohemian Caverns. Courtesy craighandy.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Craig Handy, a bright and tuneful post-bop saxophonist, is among the assortment of artists recently signed to OKeh Records, the Sony imprint that began releasing albums again last year after a long, dormant stretch. (It hadn’t been jazz-specific since the early 20th century, when it pressed vinyl featuring the likes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.) The label returns at a complicated time, new formulas being tested and experiments arising in unexpected places. Of everyone on OKeh’s roster, which ranges from established stars like Bill Frisell to newcomers such as James Brandon Lewis, Craig Handy may be the most emblematic of what’s happened in the industry over the past 20 years.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the young saxophonist from Oakland apprenticed himself to some legendary personas, playing in the bands of Art Blakey, Roy Haynes and Abdullah Ibrahim. It was a good time to be climbing the ladder in the traditional fashion: Buoyed by a revival of interest in classic, midcentury jazz and by the CD sales boom (people were buying up reissues of their favorite vinyl records by the score), labels like Blue Note and Verve reinvested in the music. But by the early 2000s, digital downloading and changing tastes had popped the CD bubble and musicians with expertise in traditional jazz now saw limited options for industry-backed prominence.

Handy was one of those guys. He put out four strong albums between 1991 and 2000, then didn’t release anything under his own name for the next 13 years. In the meantime, he toured continuously with three well-known ensembles that play Charles Mingus’ repertory, and kept his solo career going. Handy’s sharp but flowing improvisational ideas — like ice water on a hot day, sipped or sprayed playfully in your face — and the lessons he’d picked up from his mentors kept him exploring. A few years ago, he settled on an idea for a band. With his quintet, which he titled 2nd Line Smith, Handy enmeshed the age-defying, classic dance music of New Orleans with another distinctly soulful American tradition: organ-driven jazz.

Handy arrives in D.C. today with 2nd Line Smith to begin a two-night run at Bohemian Caverns. In an interview last week, the saxophonist discussed how his band came together, how he intends to use his newfound platform, and what he learned from his years in the Mingus ensembles. Continue reading