Jazz Setlist, Sep. 30-Oct. 6: We’re in It for the Monk
Friday, Oct. 1
The Airmen of Note are a fine attraction all by themselves, aren't they? This is Washington—we know a thing or two about military bands—and "the Note," the Air Force's jazz ensemble, has a storied history of great players and even better arrangers (Sammy Nestico, Mike Crotty, Alan Blaylock) who've both maintained the band's roots in the days of Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps band (this year, incidentally, is the Note's 60th anniversary) and kept them refreshingly current. So what else do they need? Well, they don't need anything, but if you happen to add in super-accomplished guitar innovator Kurt Rosenwinkel, who adds to their classic-but-modern matrix with the worlds of hip-hop and 21st-century atmospherics...well, now you have less a concert than an event, a milestone. Miss it at your own risk. The Note perform with Rosenwinkel at 8 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. Free.
Sunday, Oct. 3
One of the things that sets jazz apart as a musical form is that you can't simply give the talented stars an unassuming accompaniment that will stay out of their way and not make waves. The greats need to play with other greats, to humble, challenge, and inspire each other. Think Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, Count Basie and Lester Young, Bird and Diz, Miles and Coltrane. Perhaps we're not seeing a combination quite on THAT level, but putting the breathtaking vocalist Gretchen Parlato and enfant terrible bassist Esperanza Spalding onstage together is certainly a spectacle unto itself. The two would top any list of rising jazz stars under 35; Spalding is a bass prodigy, the youngest teacher in the history of the Berklee College of Music and an attention-grabber in mainstream music as well as jazz; Parlato doesn't get quite the hoopla, but is every bit as accomplished and perhaps even more of a virtuoso on her built-in instrument. (Spalding, by the way, is a singer too, one with an awful lot of radiance to match Parlato's subtlety.) What will happen when we put them together? God knows, but it'll be amazing to behold. Spalding and Parlato perform at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. $35 – 85.
Monday, Oct. 4
The major event of the week, as it happens, is also one of the major jazz events of the year: the annual Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. The world's most prestigious jazz musicians' competition this year spotlights the voice. Gretchen Parlato, mentioned above? She's a Monk Vocal Competition winner. So is Tierney Sutton. Jane Monheit is a past runner-up. In short, the Monk is a career launchpad like no other, and (with a few recent exceptions) it happens right here in our fair city, so you can watch an artist being made. And, oh, by the way, the final round will also incorporate a concert paying tribute to the Great American Songbook, with performances by the competition's judges: Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves...and this other woman you might have heard of. Aretha something. Finkel or something like that. The Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition & Celebration of The Great American Songbook takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $35-75.
Tuesday, Oct. 5
We at Setlist have no wish to pass judgment on anyone, but if Anat Fort doesn't move you then something's the matter with you. The Tel Aviv native plays in the post-Keith Jarrett lineage of freeform piano, lyricism with delicate, almost whispered notes that blend and overlap like pieces of colored glass, into heretofore unknown shades of sound and color. That's just one layer, though. Fort can also adopt a more declarative touch, climbing spryly up the chords with a gentle but sure sense of swing, and a classical model of phrasing that has more in common with Mozart. In any configuration, though, Fort's piano notes strike deep, combining jazz tonality with a unique sense of melody and chord voicing that radiates color and beauty—and profound emotion. The evidence is available on Fort's exquisite new trio CD And If (ECM), with bassist Gary Wang and drummer Roland Schneider, as well as on the bandstand. The Anat Fort Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.