Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, April 29 – May 5: Vijay Iyer, Marcus Strickland and More

Vijay Iyer

Thursday, April 29
Pianist Vijay Iyer, perhaps the moment's most critically acclaimed jazz musician under 40, has taken several different paths with his music, including extensive work with avant-garde visionaries Steve Coleman and Wadada Leo Smith. Among his most frequent and fruitful explorations, though, is of his Indian heritage, filtered through jazz's language. It's something he's undertaken with several projects, and Tirtha is one of the most interesting: a trio featuring Iyer, guitarist/vocalist Prasanna, and tabla player Nitin Mitta. Whatever you're expecting to hear, though, it's not what they'll play: It's not as exotic, not as seamless, not as clever, not as good. But if what you hope to hear is exciting and fresh, you'll certainly get that part in spades. Iyer and Tirtha perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike in Rockville. $28.

Friday, April 30
Chinese-American violinist Jason Kao Hwang is a leading figure in the Asian American Jazz movement, where he blends American music with Japanese and Korean elements as well as those of his own heritage. But that’s not enough culture-crossing for Hwang, who keeps seeking out new musical traditions to fold into his own mixture. As luck would have it, his D.C.-based friend Ayman Fanous is doing the same thing. The Egyptian-born improv guitarist touts flamenco player Paco de Lucia and free-jazz mastermind Ornette Coleman as his major heroes, and reflects his Mediterranean roots by (among other things) doubling on the Greek bouzouki. Put them together on stage, and you have an improvised sound that’s even more textured in its use of cultural traditions than it is in its interplay of string instruments. Does playing in an Episcopal church add yet another layer of fusion? That’s yet to be determined. Hwang and Fanous perform at 8 p.m. at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 728 23rd St. NW. $15 (suggested donation).

Saturday, May 1
Marcus StricklandMarcus Strickland jumps freely, and imaginatively, back and forth between acoustic and electric jazz. Consider the tenor saxophonist's work with trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and experimentalist Dave Douglas, the respective figureheads of the traditionalist and progressivist movements in jazz. Strickland, though, finds a comfortable and unique niche in all settings. That also applies to his own bands—Strickland leads both the Twi-Life group, which flirts with electro-funk and hip-hop, and a straight-ahead trio. It’s the latter that appears at Bohemian Caverns Saturday night, featuring Hans Glawischnig on bass and Strickland’s identical twin brother E.J. on drums. The trio performs at 8:30 and 10:30 at the Caverns, 2001 Eleventh St. NW. $25.

Tuesday, May 3
Gabriel AlegriaNo doubt you've been reading this Setlist and saying to yourself, "Yeah, but where's the Peruvian jazz, dammit?!" A perfectly understandable reaction, my friends, but of course the Peruvian jazz is right here. Or, more accurately, it's at Blues Alley, with a performance by the world's foremost Afro-Peruvian jazz expert, Gabriel Alegria. "Expert" is not said lightly: Alegria holds a Ph.D. in jazz studies, and in his home country heads an organization (JPI) with the specific mission of promoting jazz and cultural exchange in Peru. And he's also a hell of a trumpeter with a gorgeous sound, which is what's most important. Alegria performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.

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