Jazz Setlist, April 1-7: Big Bad Bassists and More
Thursday, April 1
Yes, there is and will be an entry for Ron Carter in this column for every appearance he makes in town—he's earned it. Carter has been the most important bassist in jazz for nearly all of the 50-plus years he's been a part of it, including, of course, his work for Miles Davis' seminal '60s quintet as well as solo outings and appearances on over 2,500 recordings. The licks and accompaniment patterns you hear in the work of Christian McBride, Robert Hurst, and Derrick Hodge all have roots in Carter's sound. His virtuosic stylings are unmistakable, however, with their speed, self-made language, and fluidity; for a spectacle that exercises the eyes as much as the ears, have a look at his fingerwork on the fretboard. That can be done tonight, the beginning of his three-night stand of 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. sets at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $40.
Saturday, April 3
Then again, there is another preeminent bassist of his era—this one in the world of New York's downtown avant-garde scene. It could only be the great William Parker, a staple of the free-jazz underground since he worked on the loft-jazz movement in the '70s. His body of work is massive, including projects as a sideman (most notably, David S. Ware's formidable quartet) but perhaps even more as a leader and composer in his trios, quartets, collectives, and his challenging big band, the Little Huey Creative Ensemble. However, in this project—presented by D.C.'s magnificent Transparent Productions—Parker works in a duo with his wife, Patricia Nicholson Parker, in a show that has as much to do with performance art as music. The Parkers present an evening of bass, dance, poetry, and experimental film that they are calling “Sounds, Dance Through Flickering Light As The Police Question Kicking Bird.” Given the gifts of both, the promise of this performance is immense. William and Patricia Parker perform at 8 p.m. at Joe’s Movement Emporium’s Meyer Performance Theater, 3309 Bunker Hill Road in Mt. Rainier. $20.
Monday, April 5
This evening's most exciting jazz event is not a performance, but a film: the documentary My Name Is Albert Ayler. Ayler, a saxophonist, was one of the most radical, influential, but ultimately mysterious figures of the last 50 years. He used elements of folk songs, blues, and New Orleans marches to strip the music down to its most furiously visceral roots with a sax timbre that could flay the paint off your walls. And yet he insisted that his music aspired to the utopian idyll of the 1960s America in which he operated, a strange and compelling dichotomy that keeps his work vital even today. He also remains an enigma, especially in his never-quite-explained death in November 1970. The film examines all of this in depth, and will screen at 7 p.m. at the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free.
Wednesday, April 7
What would steel drums, those instruments of the Caribbean, sound like playing jazz changes and phrasing? Why, it would sound like Victor Provost. A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Provost brings the sounds of reggae and calypso into his playing, which has led him to a storied career at only 29—including an appearance at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy, in 1999 and a full-time teaching job at Hyattsville's Cultural Academy for Excellence. He is also an accomplished freelancer in Washington and a leader in his own right—in fact, he holds court every Wednesday night at JoJo Restaurant and Bar with one of the city's premier rhythm sections: bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Nathan Jolley. Percussion-heavy, certainly, but melodic in ways that will leave you in exhilaration. Provost performs 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at JoJo, 1518 U St.t NW. Free.