Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, Nov. 24-Dec. 1: Thanksgiving-Challenged Edition

Yes, Turkey Day is here! And what else can that mean but that jazz clubs close for the holiday, and when they open back up for the weekend many of us won't be in town to go to them? So while there's a pretty good option for the Thanksgiving nontravelers, most of the action comes after the weekend.

Benito GonzalezFriday, Nov. 26
He's come and gone, now residing in New York, but Benito Gonzalez remains one of the finest pianists ever to pass through the nation's capital. The Venezuelan born pianist does bring a slight Latin touch to his playing, but is better characterized by his burning, elastic post-bop sound—think Herbie Hancock with more fire in his belly, and you're on the right track. That fire manifests itself on Gonzalez's new album Circles, which features an all-star cast of three saxophonists (Ron Blake, Azar Lawrence, and Myron Walden), bassist Christian McBride, and beat-smearing drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. It's a fantastic record—all the more reason for Gonzalez to celebrate its release. His working quartet features Lawrence on tenor sax, plus DC bassist Herman Burney and drummer Ronnie Burrage. It goes down at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.

Tony GreyTuesday, Nov. 30
These days when we talk about jazz fusion, it tends to be older musicians continuing on paths they set out decades ago. Aren't there any young players exploring the possibilites of fusion? Why, yes! There's Tony Grey, 35, an English bass player who happens to be the nephew of guitarist John McLaughlin but determinedly follows his own muse. Namely, Grey shuns the fast-loud-and-chopsy tag that so often follows fusion. He's chopsy, certainly, and can play fast, but he's much more interested in conveying emotions...and, in the case of his new CD Unknown Angels, a sense of intimacy. The pyrotechnics act in service to that approach; it's still jazz-rock fusion, but the "rock" part skews closer to singer-songwriter confessionals than to the Hendrixian explosions of the first fusioneers. It's a good fit for 8 and 10 PM sets in the close atmosphere of Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $18.
Photo: Morrice Blackwell.

Gerald CleaverTuesday, December 1
Gerald Cleaver is one of those great drummers who can turn on a dime from one style of jazz to another and not even blink—and yet he seems most at home in the avant-garde. Cleaver came of age in the hard-driving Detroit music scene, learning from its gritty soul and swing traditions; all of it is still in great evidence when he plays free behind Henry Threadgill or Matthew Shipp, or as leader of his own groups like Veil of Names and Farmer by Nature. He has also just started a new and deeply exploratory quintet, this one simply named the Gerald Cleaver Group. Joining him are vocalist Jean Carla Rodea, saxophonist/clarinetist Andrew Bishop, trumpeter Dave Ballou, and bassist Michael Formanek. If some of these names are less familiar to you, it might help to hear a more renowned local name: Ed Ricart, the DC experimental musician and producer whose New Atlantis Collective is presenting this show—always a recipe for intrigue. The Gerald Cleaver Group performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz. $15.

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