Jazz Setlist, May 3-9: Jazziversaries
Friday, May 4
Miles Davis' classic Second Quintet lasted just four years. John Coltrane's great quartet lasted three. No matter how magical a jazz band's chemistry, it's hard to hold together that group of varying personalities, egos, and visions. So it says something that the magnificent trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and his quintet have stayed together five years—and counting. It's a remarkably motley crew: tenor saxophonist JD Allen, pianist Danny Grissett bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Each has a unique vision and a strong career of his own; in fact, if you heard them elsewhere it may genuinely never occur to you that they'd appear on the same stage. The thing that brings them together and keeps them together is Pelt: the force and grace of his playing, the elegance of his presentation, and his combination of deep respect for the tradition and chance-taking boldness. He's a splendid bandleader, an outstanding composer, and one of the finest trumpeters of his generation. The Jeremy Pelt Quintet performs 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18.
Saturday, May 5
Guitarist Mark Mosley is also celebrating an anniversary. This month marks seven years since he began his regular D.C. gig, Saturday nights at Sala Thai Restaurant on U Street. All too easily, jazz fans dismiss the guys playing the room at a busy restaurant, and God knows that restaurant patrons barely notice them; they are, after all, hired to provide background. That doesn't mean there's not worthy and eminently listenable music going on there. Mosley, an educator in Baltimore County, is a master craftsman on his axe who plays traditional jazz standards and his own originals, as well as dipping his toes in the waters of funk, fusion, and smooth jazz. His first love, however, is the blues, and you can hear them soaking through every note, every chord, every phrase that emanates from the guitar. That's why Mosley and his trio (also with Bagwhan Khalsa on bass and Jesse Moody on drums) have managed to stick around Sala Thai for so long: not because they lapse into the background, but because they complement the place with music as spicy as chilli sauce. The Mark Mosley Trio performs from 7-10 p.m. at Sala Thai, 1301 U St. NW. Free (but buy something).
Wednesday, May 9
You can hear the smile in Tessa Souter's contralto singing voice. It's got the sheen of a dark stained wood, glassy and unblemished, at times sultry but at times forthright. Always, however, it's characterized by that auditory smile. She's pleased to be with you, pleased to be singing, pleased to work with the startlingly fresh and poetic lyrics that she writes. Souter is as rich and ambitious a wordsmith as she is a vocalist; her 2012 recording Beyond the Blue sets her verses to the music of classics by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and Ravel, among others. (If ever you wondered why jazz musicians all seem to have advanced degrees today, folks, here's a pretty solid hint.) Armed with an ensemble that includes saxophonist Don Braden and accordionist Victor Prieto, Souter's in hefty company, matching her admittedly strong voice with strong instrumental voices. That smile, though, will undoubtedly cut through the clouds.1 Tessa Souter performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.