Jazz Setlist, Oct. 11-17: Five Spot
UPDATE 10/12/12: Location for Sunday's D.C. Jazz Loft has been changed (see below).
An extended edition: There's too much music to cover in the usual format. Off we go!
Thursday, October 11
Setlist has given many hosannas to Robert Glasper, the 34-year-old pianist with pedigrees in both jazz and hip-hop, who might be the finest keyboard player of his generation. We haven't done so, however, since Glasper released his album Black Radio earlier this year. Jazz has rarely been so seamless in its marriage to hip-hop, and rarely so able to integrate what it means to be "commercial" in the hip-hop era. By virtue of this disc, in fact, Glasper has transcended being the finest keyboard player of his generation and become the hottest as well. He's done shots on Letterman, toured big venues all over the country, and hasn't sacrificed his credibility in the jazz world: Even the traditionalists who hate hip-hop on principle will give Glasper a pass because "That cat can play!" Lucky for us, then, that Glasper brings the vessel for his explorations, the Robert Glasper Experiment, back into our locality for a night of glorious alchemy. The Robert Glasper Experiment performs at 7:30 at the Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria. $35.
Saturday, October 13
You might have heard the name Medeski, Martin, & Wood come up in jam-band circles. That's no mistake. MMW (keyboardist John Medeski, bassist Billy Martin, and drummer Chris Wood) are big with the Phishheads and their ilk, working as they do in a funky, fusion-y, wildly freeform milieu that they refer to as "avant-groove." But the members have always been jazz players first and foremost, separately and together, and their most recent release, Free Magic, finds them stripped down to an acoustic piano/bass/drums trio. Oh, they're still as committed to the groove as they ever were, and as likely to experiment with the strange, atonal sounds that characterize both psychedelia and contemporary classical music. But they're doing it without the aid of synthesizers and processed sounds—they're weird, but they're organically weird. And, by the way, intoxicating. Medeski, Martin, and Wood perform an acoustic concert at the Kennedy Center's Supersized Jazz Club, 2700 F Street NW. $25.
Sunday, October 14
The monthly D.C. Jazz Loft is first and foremost a showcase for local musicians in an intimate, no-frills setting. It's so successful in that role that it can seem rather secondary that the Jazz Loft is also—well, a jazz loft: a worskhop for area musicians to try out new ideas in front of an audience. The October iteration of CapitalBop's signature offering, however, makes that part of the Loft's mission impossible to ignore. Its headliner, Reginald Cyntje, is premiering a unique ensemble featuring a frontline of no less than five trombonists (Cyntje, Greg Boyer, John Jensen, DuPor Georges, and Raynel Frazier). Along with Cyntje comes a trio led by vocalist Heidi Martin; her "Moon in Scorpio" project is not new, but this particular configuration, featuring only bass and drums along with her voice, is. Also appearing is saxophonist Bobby Muncy and guitarist Anthony Pirog's project Kung Fu Bastard, which Setlist has already described as perhaps the most exciting new jazz project on the scene. Now that's truly a lineup of daring, experimental stuff by proven creative musicians. Don't miss it. The October D.C. Jazz Loft takes place at 7 p.m. at
Montserrat House, 2016 9th St NW Hole in the Sky, 2110 5th St. NE (enter through the alley). $15 suggested donation.
Tuesday, October 16
Bassist Tommy Cecil is one of the elder statesmen of the Washington D.C. jazz scene, and, musically speaking, one of the most jovial. There's a certain merriment in the swing he plays, a feeling that works well in conjunction with his sure-footed melodic sense. He's also got a very deep layer of sensitivity, something brought out by his friend, L.A.-based pianist Bill Mays, on their new duo recording Side By Side: Sondheim Duos. Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim is ripe, of course, for jazz interpretation, and these two are quite the players for it. But they bring as much to each other as they do to Sondheim's work; where Mays finds the tenderness in Cecil's playing, the bassist brings out the happy bounce in the pianist. It's not only a smart and potent combination, but a deeply human one that underscores the dimension in Sondheim's virtuosic compositions. Tommy Cecil and Bill Mays perform a CD release party at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Wednesday, October 17
D.C. native Ben Williams was already a top-call bassist, a highly proficient swinger whom band leaders nonetheless called when they wanted a contemporary (e.g., hip-hop) presence in their music. Then Ben won the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, got a contract with Concord Records, and thus became a leader in his own right. His star hasn't stopped rising since. Last year he released his critically acclaimed debut recording, State of Art, and has been touring and performing heavily with his band, Sound Effect, including a spot at last year's Congressional Black Caucus Jazz Concert. Not bad for a kid from Michigan Park! And it's just the beginning—we'll be seeing big things from this fellow. Ben Williams performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $25.