Jazz Setlist, February 27-March 5: On Greater U Street
Thursday, February 27
There's a multidimensional aspect to theThe Greater U Street Jazz Collective's name. The quintet, populated by veteran D.C. jazz musicians, looks to remember and uphold the legacy of jazz life and culture, and through it the legacy of African-American life and culture, in D.C. U Street has long been the core of that culture, of course, but the "Greater" is a reminder that there's a whole community surrounding that core. It's also a reminder that we're not talking about a single moment in time, but rather a long, rich history. Consider the title track of GUSJC's new recording, Ballin' the Jack: It was written in 1915 and the album's original songs (mainly written by bassist Thomas View) celebrate the sound of that era and of every era in jazz thereafter. That makes it an important release by an important D.C. band, which also includes trumpeter Carl McIntyre, saxophonist Russell Carter, pianist Pete Frassrand, and drummer Art Cobb. The Greater U Street Jazz Collective (with special guest guitarist Akbar Sharrieff) performs a CD release party at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Friday, February 28
His outwardly gentle tone that cloaks a sharp, percussive tack and astonishing intelligence. I'm describing Gerald Clayton as a person, and as it happens, this is the perfect description of his piano playing as well. His fingers are not just on the keys, but on the pulse: Clayton (29 years old, the son of bassist John and nephew of saxophonist Jeff) can swing with the best of them, but he also works with funk and hip-hop rhythms and modalities. It never comes off as a desperate attempt to sound contemporary, or as a sop to Ezra Pound-style creative dicta. It's simply what he hears, as the most important developments in the music tend to be. The Gerald Clayton Trio, featuring Joe Sanders on bass and Eric Harland on drums, performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. (sold out) at the Kennedy Center Terrace Gallery, 2700 F Street NW. $26-$30.
Saturday, March 1
There was a time, if you had eyes on the Baltimore jazz scene, that Alex Norris was the trumpet king. Actually, from all reports, that time began when he was still in high school in Columbia and continued through his years at the Peabody Conservatory and afterwards as he gigged, sat in, and jammed with all comers both in Baltimore and DC. He left for New York in the mid '90s and found success there too, playing with the Mingus Big Band, Lonnie Plaxico's band, and Andy Farber, among others, but found his way back to Baltimore and now teaches at Peabody. He never severed his D.C. connections, either. Just have a look at his sidemen for this weekend, and you'll see it's packed with the area musicians who were coming up at the same time he was: Andrew Adair on piano, Jeff Reed on bass, and Howard "Kingfish" Franklin on drums. There's also the small matter of saxophonist Troy Roberts, who didn't come up in the area—he's from Perth, Australia. But he's extraordinarily talented and a more than worthy addition to this evening's festivities. The Alex Norris Quintet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz. $16.
Tuesday, March 4
Rare are Thad Wilson's performances these days, and rarer still are his performances at Bohemian Caverns. The trumpeter spent a long time in the venerable basement, leading the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra in its old Monday night residency. He led a smaller band there a few times after the residency expired in 2009, but his sporadic appearances have more often been at places like Westminster Presbyterian and HR-57. In March, however, Wilson—always a great trumpeter and often quite a lovely composer—becomes the artist in residence at the Caverns. He'll hold court there every Tuesday night, likely with different ensembles each time; Wilson favors quartets, and tends to use local stalwarts in his rhythm sections. It'll be nice to have him back for a while. Thad Wilson performs at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $10.
Photo courtesy DC Blues Society