Weekend in Jazz | 5.16-5.18: Kris Bowers eyes the throne, Roy Ayers at the Howard & more

Kris Bowers, a winner of the Monk competition and a collaborator with Kanye West, brings his group to Bohemian Caverns this weekend. Courtesy okayplayer.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Kris Bowers, winner of the 2012 Thelonious International Jazz Piano Competition, brings his shimmering, electric-ephemera sound to Bohemian Caverns on Friday and Saturday for his first weekend run in D.C. as a leader. A producer on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne, Bowers is known in hip-hop and pop circles, as well as jazz; he’s seen as one of the new jazz generation’s creative scions. Another powerful young player is also headlining on U Street this weekend: the herculean drummer Billy Williams is at Twins on Friday and Saturday.

A few elders are also coming through: The trumpet virtuoso and former Irakere member Arturo Sandoval plays all three nights at Blues Alley this weekend, and Roy Ayers — self-proclaimed “King of Neo-Soul” — is at the Howard Theatre on Friday. 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, MAY 9

cb picks:

  • Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Roy Ayers, Howard Theatre, 8 p.m.
  • Billy Williams, Twins Jazz, 8 p.m.
  • Cyrus Chestnut, Montpelier Arts Center, 8 p.m.
  • Kris Bowers, 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.

Lavenia Nesmith, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | The singer Lavenia Nesmith, who has portrayed Mahalia Jackson in one-woman shows, performs here with the type of all-star local cast we’ve come to expect from Westminster Presbyterian’s weekly Jazz Night. This concert is an album release special that features a string quartet. Nesmith brings her gospel-influenced style to bear alongside Eric Byrd, Alphonso Young, Bhagwan Khalsa Paul Carr, Lyle Link, James King, Kenny Rittenhouse, Marcia McIntyre, Michelle Ruiz, Leslie Delanie, and Elize Cuffy. $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 | 5.9-5.11: Blue Note’s diamond anniversary, D.C. Jazz Loft, Azar Lawrence & more

Derrick Hodge performs twice as part of the Kennedy Center’s “Blue Note at 75″ festivities: once with his band, and again with Robert Glasper. Courtesy revive-music.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The Kennedy Center has pulled out just about every stop imaginable for its “Blue Note at 75″ festival, which celebrates the famous record label and culminates this weekend. If you missed the chance to buy tickets for the now-sold-out major concert on Sunday, you can still make it to the free programming at Millennium Stage each night, or to the other ticketed concerts featuring artists on the current Blue Note roster: the Terence Blanchard Group on Friday night, and the Robert Glasper Experiment on Saturday.

Plus, not having a ticket on Sunday frees you up to come hang at CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft, where three of the District’s most energizing acts will be performing in intimate, bare-bones formats: Akua Allrich in duo with Kris Funn, Allyn Johnson playing solo piano, and Charles Woods playing free-form saxophone with the lone accompaniment of a drummer. 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, MAY 9

cb picks:

  • D.C. All-Star Band (Blue Note at 75), Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 6 p.m.
  • Terence Blanchard Group, Kennedy Center, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Azar Lawrence Quintet, Blues Alley, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, 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.

D.C. All-Star Band Celebrates Blue Note (Blue Note at 75), Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, 6 p.m. | District-based musicians from different musical circles come together here to play music recorded on Blue Note Records, in a band directed by the tenor and soprano saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed. They will be paying special tribute to the legendary house bassist for Blue Note, Butch Warren, a D.C. native. Joining Balbed is the alto saxophonist and flutist Lyle Link, the trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse, the trombonist Raynel Frazier, the pianist Tim Whalen, the bassist Eliot Seppa and the drummer Dave McDonald. The event is part of the Kennedy Center’s “Blue Note at 75″ celebration. Free. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

Michael Thomas Quintet, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | Tenaciously swinging and lyrically playful, the trumpeter Michael Thomas tends toward the Jazz Messengers’ strain of uncompromising hard-bop. His searing tone and dipping-and-diving improvisations have a lot in common with the work of Lee Morgan, among the most famous Messengers. He performs at this week’s edition of Westminster Presbyterian’s Jazz Night with his regular quintet: Zach Graddy on tenor saxophone, Darius Scott on piano, Kent Miller on bass and Frank Williams on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

News | Kennedy Center celebrates Blue Note Records’ 75th year with star-studded shows

The Kennedy Center is exhibiting iconic album covers as part of its weeklong celebration of Blue Note Records. Courtesy facebook.com/KennedyCenter

The Kennedy Center is exhibiting iconic album covers as part of its weeklong celebration of Blue Note Records. Courtesy facebook.com/KennedyCenter

by Allen Jones
CapitalBop contributor

The Kennedy Center this week is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records, the most iconic and influential brand in jazz. Throughout the week, the Center is hosting free concerts at its Millennium Stage featuring current Blue Note artists as well as local musicians. This weekend, the series culminates in a handful of major, ticketed events featuring stars like Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard and Wayne Shorter.

In fact there are so many shows and events as part of this celebration, they could not all fit under one roof: The Kennedy Center is collaborating with the Goethe-Institut, the Library of Congress and the German Historical Institute, which are presenting lectures on Blue Note’s history, film screenings and a photo exhibit, in addition to concerts. (All the concerts are previewed on CapitalBop’s calendar. For a full list of ancillary programming, visit the Kennedy Center’s Blue Note at 75 web page.)

Blue Note was started in 1939 by the German expatriates Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, and the American Max Margulis, first producing boogie woogie and “hot” jazz records. The three entrepreneurs developed a reputation for being unusually hospitable and accommodating  toward their musicians during recording sessions, and giving them ample rehearsal time. They recorded gems with such pioneers as Tadd Dameron, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson and Miles Davis. One of Blue Note’s most important contributions came in the late 1950s, when the label fostered the development of hard-bop, with help from the innovative recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder and recording artists like Horace Silver, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham and, later in the ‘60’s, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson. Continue reading

Show announcement | All-star lineup at an intimate D.C. Jazz Loft: Akua Allrich, Allyn Johnson & more

Click for hi-res image.

Click for hi-res image.


At the D.C. Jazz Loft this Sunday, we’re giving three of D.C.’s best acts the opportunity to perform in intimate situations that they particularly love, but rarely get to explore. It’ll be a perfect way to end what is shaping up to be a beautiful weekend, and to experience some local virtuosos in their creative comfort zones. Come out and hang with us at Union Arts.

Akua Allrich and Kris Funn will present a rare vocals-bass duet, building on their years of collaboration in a liberating format. Allyn Johnson, one of the District’s most stupendous and soulful virtuosos, will play a set of solo piano, on our new — but very old — upright piano. (When we called him for the gig, he jumped at the opportunity: “I’m there!” he said. “I love playing solo, and I never get to.”) And the saxophonist Charles Rahmat Woods, who regularly performs straight-ahead jazz at venues like Firelake Grill, will bring his avant-garde duo for a set of music in the vein of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry.

 
Doors at Union Arts open at 7, and the music will be going til late. The show is BYOB, as usual, and we suggest a donation of $15 for the musicians. 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 | 5.2-5.4: Funk Parade, avant-garde sounds in high and low places, and more

Quincy Phillips, right, will lead a band at this Saturday’s Funk Parade on U Street, where CapitalBop is curating the jazz stage. Courtesy Timothy Forbes Photography

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Saturday’s all-day, all-night Funk Parade is a highlight this weekend. CapitalBop’s responsible for booking the jazz stage at this street fair cum music festival; we’ve got Quincy Phillips and Donvonte McCoy performing energizing music outdoors throughout the day, free of charge, at U and 15th Streets. (You’ll note that Tony Martucci’s first set at Twins on Saturday is also free, thanks to the Funk Parade’s U St. takeover.)

That day’s activities are going to be popular; on the other nights, you can escape to something a little more recondite. On Friday at the Back Alley Theater (a subterranean but mythic space north of Petworth), Tatsuya Nakatani leads his minimalist Gong Orchestra; at the more high-brow Hamilton on Sunday, check out the tonal guitar hypnotist Nels Cline. Okay, okay, looking for the satisfying, straight-ahead stuff? Find it at Bohemian Caverns, the KC Jazz Club or, if you crave the perfect cocktail along with it, in the lobby of the Loews Madison Hotel. 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, MAY 2

cb picks:

  • Justin Kauflin, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Tatsuya Nakatani Gong Orchestra, Back Alley Theater, 8 p.m.
  • Christie Dashiell, Loews Madison Hotel, 8 p.m.
  • Tedd Baker, 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.

Sandra Johnson, 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.” Every Friday night, the house of God becomes a hub for fish frying, communing and jamming on straight-ahead jazz. 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.” Every Friday night, the house of God becomes a hub for fish frying, communing and jamming on straight-ahead jazz. This week Sandra Johnson sings straight-ahead jazz with the incorrigibly fabulous Lyle Link on saxophone, Vince Evans on piano, Wes Biles on bass and Jeffrey Neal on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Show announcement | CapitalBop teams up with the Funk Parade for a big outdoor concert this Saturday

Click for a high-resolution version of the flyer.

Click for a high-resolution version of the flyer.

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Earlier this week we marked the 115th birthday of Duke Ellington, who grew up bouncing from club to club on U Street and immersing himself in the sounds of D.C. In the time since his birth, America has created countless forms of music — jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, hip-hop — and the strip known as Black Broadway has been crucial to many of them. This weekend, we’re celebrating U Street’s past and present with a free, first-of-its-kind festival: the Funk Parade. You don’t want to miss this. It’s gonna be big.

All up and down U Street, outdoor stages will present music throughout the afternoon, and CapitalBop is hosting one of those stages, outside the historic M.A. Winter Building at 1436 U St. NW. The Washington Post has already pointed to our programming as a “highlight” of the day. Food and drink will be available by the stage, where two of the greatest — and funkiest — musicians in D.C. jazz will set up shop with their bands: The great Quincy Phillips will lead a trio (Phillips is the drummer for Roy Hargrove’s quintet when he’s on the road, and for the Young Lions here at home).

Before Phillips’ set, the trumpeter Donvonte McCoy will bring his own ensemble. McCoy is the leading light of late-night jazz in D.C., with regular weekend gigs at Eighteenth Street Lounge that have been blending jazz, go-go, funk and so much else since 2006. Continue reading

Audio | Celebrating Duke Ellington’s 115th birthday with Terry Teachout, author of Duke: A Life

Duke Ellington, a D.C. native, elicited such a distinctive sound from his band that it became known as the “Ellington Effect.” Courtesy wikimedia.org

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Today marks the 115th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth. Ellington, who grew up in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood and learned to play piano in the pool halls of U Street, is known as jazz’s most important composer and arranger. That’s because of the lush elegance that put his work in line with his regal personality; the quavering expressiveness of his orchestra’s sound (longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn dubbed it the “Ellington Effect”); and the walloping energy of his rhythm section — which, he emphasized, was always playing an extension of African music.

Terry Teachout. Courtesy jazzwax.com

The most notable book to come out on Ellington in recent years is Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Terry Teachout’s rigorous and readable biography. Yesterday I spoke to Teachout, the drama critic at the Wall Street Journal and a well-known jazz writer, during my radio show, “On the Margin,” on WPFW-FM. His book pulls no punches, presenting an Ellington whose hunger for glory often led him to deny his musicians the credit they deserved. But it is a powerful, comprehensive work that devotes many elucidative passages to dissecting Ellington’s music, and presents him as a towering figure who expanded the definition of American music more than perhaps anyone else, and who operated always with a strong sense of responsibility to his race and his country.

On the air, our conversation ranged from Ellington’s D.C. upbringing to his love for train travel to the way that his and Strayhorn’s compositional styles complemented each other. Hear the conversation in full below.

Terry Teachout discusses Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington on WPFW-FM

Weekend in Jazz | 4.25-4.27: Straight-ahead masters, a tribute to Charles Mingus & more

Kenny Barron performs with his star-filled Platinum Quintet on Friday at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Courtesy sfjazz.org

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

Both Kenny Barron and the Clayton Brothers belong to the last generation that experienced jazz’s mid-century heyday. In the past few decades, both have taken the hard-bop tradition and bent it to their own personal styles: Barron, who plays on Friday at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, has a prodding and constantly shifting approach to band leading, much like his tack as an accompanist; the Clayton Brothers, performing at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club on Sunday, are masters of warm harmony and hard-driving groove. (More about their music here.)

D.C. has its own powerful straight-ahead jazz tradition, and the pianist Allyn Johnson is one of its most important scions; he brings a combo to Bohemian Caverns on Friday and Saturday. (If you’re not familiar with Johnson, check out CapitalBop’s detailed profile.) Michael Bowie, increasingly known for his work with the ambitious fusion band Siné Qua Non, celebrates another “Baron” of the music on Friday at Westminster Presbyterian, with a bill dedicated to the music of Charles Mingus. And for anyone interested in an avant-garde angle on tradition, the seminal pianist Matthew Shipp presents a consideration of Duke Ellington at the Caverns on Sunday. 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 25

cb picks:

  • Airmen of Note, American History Museum, 3 p.m.
  • Michael Bowie, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Kenny Barron Platinum Quintet, Clarice Smith PAC (UMD), 8 p.m.
  • Allyn Johnson, 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.

Airmen of Note, 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 Airmen of Note — the Air Force’s big band — 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

Michael Bowie, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | Maybe you’ve noticed something when listening to Siné Qua Non, the well-thought-out fusion quintet that blends inspiration from Spanish guitar music with Caribbean rhythms and jazz improvisation, among much else: The band’s bassist and de facto leader, Michael Bowie, sways with his instrument, finds the grime in its resonant bosom, and draws out a colorful pulse. He doesn’t play this stuff like it’s a constellation of big ideas, which it is. You might not have thought to have Bowie lead a Charles Mingus tribute, but there’s commonality: The Baron liked his conceptualism deep-fried, and he had an almost tumultuous way of wresting beauty from the bass. Here Bowie will explore his legacy with help from an expert brigade: Paul Carr on tenor saxophone, Reginald Cyntje on trombone, Andrew Adair on piano and Lenny Robinson on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website Continue reading

Musician profile | The Clayton Brothers bring special synergy to Bethesda Blues & Jazz this Sunday

John, left, and Jeff Clayton bring their Clayton Brothers quintet to Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club this Sunday. Courtesy eyeshotphotos.com

by Allen Jones
CapitalBop contributor

Look around the jazz world and you’ll find bands of brothers: the Heath Brothers and the Brecker Brothers made careers of performing together, and they are only the tip of the iceberg. The musical bond between siblings sometimes grows so strong that they can seem to operate on exclusive territory, achieving a synergy that those around them can only aspire to.

The Clayton Brothers, who perform this Sunday at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club, have not attained the same level of prominence as the Heaths or the Breckers, but they too deserve consideration among the greats.

The quintet led by saxophonist Jeff Clayton and bassist John uses a hard-bop format, and draws on the two leaders’ varied interests within the realm of straight-ahead jazz. Jeff was always into classic hard-bop combos, along the lines of the Jazz Crusaders and the Modern Jazz Quartet, while John took a special liking to the sound of classic big bands and piano trios. The Clayton Brothers are one of the best hard-bop bands in the game today because they blend these influences into a sound that focuses on rich harmony and solid, tight-knit rhythm. “Blow Your Horn,” from 2005’s Back in the Swing of Things, conveys high action through fluid groove; “Wild Man,” from the Grammy-nominated Brother to Brother (2008), works a more relaxed pocket, with melody that delicately approaches a crazed climax.

John and Jeff Clayton have been playing professionally on their instruments since they were in high school in Venice, Calif. “I knew I wanted to be a professional musician from when I was nine,” remembered Jeff, 60. He carried that passion through school until one of his teachers eventually suggested he move from clarinet to saxophone, because of his seriousness about the music. That’s when he started performing in the school bands, and playing along to jazz albums in his spare time. Upon graduation Jeff immediately enrolled in the UCLA music program, where his teacher was a session musician working the Los Angeles studio circuit. Continue reading

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