Arts Desk

Your Week in Experimental Music: Atomic, Alexis Descharmes & more

D.C. has seen no shortage of interesting fringe music lately, but this week is a particular highlight reel of slightly out-there stuff (especially if you count Andrea Centazzo's solo performance in Baltimore last night). Here are four shows worth checking out to stimulate your ears and brain:

Tonight: Atomic at Twins Jazz. This Swedish/Norwegian five-piece group somehow sold out Twins Jazz in 2007 and proceeded to bring the house down with a uniquely catchy brand of high-energy free jazz. The quintet's music is accessible and melodic enough to appeal to a audience that's broader than just free-improv freaks, and it plays with a heart-pumping intensity that anyone can understand. Worthy of particular note is drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, a prolific avant-jazz drummer who is as fun to watch as he is to hear. Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. Call (202) 234-0072 for set times and ticket price.

Tonight: Alexis Descharmes at La Maison Française. Your other option for tonight is a solo performance by this French cellist, playing a number of contemporary pieces by the likes of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály. Descharmes recorded Saariaho's complete cello works for a definitive 2006 recording, and this is a rare chance to see a live rendition of one of those pieces, "Spins and Spells." La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW. 7:30 p.m. $20.

Saturday, March 6: Jason Kao Hwang/Edge at Joe's Movement Emporium. Violinist Jason Kao Hwang made a name for himself as one of the few performers bringing distinctly Asian influences into a jazz context. His quartet Edge is unique (its current formation consists of violin, trombone, bass, and percussion) and appealingly melodic, pushing the boundaries of jazz while still remaining solidly within the genre. The group's recordings have showcased Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, but Saturday's show will instead feature Steve Swell, a tremendous talent on trombone. Joe's Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Rd., Mt. Rainier, Md. 8 p.m. $15.

Sunday, March 7: National Gallery of Art New Music Ensemble at the National Gallery East Wing. This is perhaps the most exciting of this week's events: the debut performance by a brand-new NGA New Music Ensemble. The performers come from a veritable who's-who of modern music ensembles, including Alarm Will Sound, red fish blue fish, and more. They'll be performing electro-acoustic pieces by Iannis Xenakis, Edgard Varèse, and more, with the performers scattered around the cavernous East Wing atrium. The confluence of avant-garde music and architecture that should make for a memorable experience indeed. National Gallery East Wing, 401 Constitution Ave NW. 6:30 p.m. Free.

Photo of Atomic above by Shiho Yabe, courtesy Atomic's website.

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