Jazz Setlist, March 6-12: Go See Lewis Nash
Friday, March 7
Yeah, yeah, I know. Both of the Lewis Nash Quintet's shows at the Kennedy Center are sold out. But you know what? Call and check. Stand in line for cancellations at the box office. Sneak the fuck in. (Errr, no, do not sneak the fuck in.) It would be unconscionable not to recommend the Kennedy Center debut of an ensemble led by one of the premier drummers of his generation. Nash apprenticed with singer Betty Carter, whose name is synonymous with "challenging." She would jump musicians through more hoops than circus dogs until they could play anything, in any key and any meter. Nash has that ability in spades, but adds to it that ephemeral quality of taste. He doesn't overplay, but has that remarkable skill for showing you, through subtlety—he's probably the finest brush player of the last 30 years—what a bad cat he is. And when you consider that he's supported here by trumpeter Terrell Stafford, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, pianist Renee Rosnes, and bassist Peter Washington...like I said, missing out is unconscionable. Go stand in line. The Lewis Nash Quintet performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club, 2700 F St. NW. $26.
Saturday, March 8
The jazz world has considerable overlap with the singer-songwriter world—or it at least holds a considerable draw for singer-songwriters who like to flirt with the outer edges of the tradition and style themselves as "jazzy." Setlist doesn't spend a lot of time on those musicians, usually for good reason. But every so often there's a singer-songwriter with a genuine feel for the harmony, rhythm, and improvisation of the jazz tradition, and perhaps even the chops to back it up. Enter Vancouver pianist Laila Biali. One healthy sign that she's serious about the music: She writes instrumentals, so she cares about having the tune itself say something, instead of just being an unobtrusive bed for her voice. Indeed, her piano music is quite sensitive and careful in its lacework, and sure at every turn of the melody. And while her original vocal songs are quite good, Biali also devotes substantial time to interpreting the work of others, from jazz standards to pop music past and present (with a special emphasis on Canadian composers). She's the real deal, folks. Laila Biali performs Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $16.
Sunday, March 9
Shannon Gunn loves Count Basie. That's a good thing—if you're going to lead a big band, the leader of the swingingest big band of all time is probably a good role model to have. Gunn, a trombonist, is at the helm of Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes—an all-female big band with a special affinity for the timeless swinging feel that characterizes Basie's book. It's "timeless" in the sense that it draws from both the Swing and Bebop eras of jazz, but never feels like a 1940s nostalgia trip. Again, that's the Basie sound, keeping the band going through its leader's 1984 death and beyond (the Basie Orchestra is still working, and actually performed at Strathmore last month). His name keeps coming up here for a reason: Gunn and the Bullettes are about to record their second album, Bullettes Play Basie. And you're invited. They record at noon "jazz brunch" at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $5 in advance, $10 at the door.