Jazz Setlist, Dec. 2-8: Here Come the Christmas Concerts
Thursday, December 2
He calls the sound of his new album, Xmas Vibe "sort of Gary Burton meets George Winston." And while there's a kernel of truth in that, it downplays the uniqueness of what vibraphonist Charles Xavier does. He's based in the precision of jazz percussion (Xavier is a drummer as well), but works on a broader sonic pallette: Xavier uses a MIDI vibraphone, which lends him the synthesized voices of bells (church and tubular), glockenspiel, and so on, along with the guitar and bass he uses in his band. And, while he does use the kind of new-agey atmospherics of Winston, Xavier also employs a sharp edge that's closer to hard jazz-rock fusion. The moody parts are more about evoking a ruminative state of mind for the tunes, which have pangs of nostalgia and sadness—perhaps not what we like to think of at Christmas, but what more often than not we do think of. Savier's tack is just a little bit different, but pretty special. He performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Friday, Dec. 3
Guitarist Lionel Loueke hails from Benin, in West Africa, and while there's no shortage of musicians who search jazz for its African roots, few others come to mind who filter jazz through the Afropop sound. His approach is melodic and intense, but gentle; it's brought a sweet but earthy sensibility to his work with such major figures as Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, and Gretchen Parlato (perhaps his musical soulmate). But that same sweet earthiness dwells in his solo music—perhaps even more so, since it's out front and gives him more room to practice his lyricism and soft rhythms. (Functions of his whispery acoustic guitar sound, if you like.) That's surely why Loueke is fast becoming a major force in the jazz world, and one you can't miss. Loueke performs at 8 PM at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Free (but reservations required).
Sunday, Dec. 5
This summer saw the launch of CapitalBop, a website dedicated to D.C. jazz. Founder and editor Giovanni Russanello is an investigative journalist by trade, but CapitalBop isn't about exposing jazz's seamy underbelly; Russanello and his contributors are impassioned advocates who want the world to see how rich and creatively thriving our city's scene really is. It's to that end that CB will, this weekend, present its first D.C. Jazz Loft, after a 50-year tradition of musical gatherings in New York lofts. It's one of the largest celebrations of local jazz in memory, featuring a group of U Street All-Stars; the composer-heavy Bobby Muncy Quintet; and the free-jazz triple bill of the Elliott Levin Trio, Matta Gawa, and The Tri-O Trio. The summit occurs at 7 p.m. at The Red Door, 443 I St. NW. Free (but donations suggested).
Monday, December 6
Matt Wilson is the kind of musician who cheerfully refers to his own onstage act as "schtick." Imagine, if you will, the goofy but genuine wit of Dizzy Gillespie, crossed with the dry, ironic snark of the 21st-century hipster, and you've got a pretty good handle on Wilson's persona. And just as Gillespie's clowning could overwhelm his dazzling mastery of the music, Wilson's cloaks his considerable imagination and brilliant drumming skills in a music that crosses the line between post-bop and avant-garde with abandon. Witness his recent album Matt Wilson's Christmas Trio, an adventurous and experimental set with plenty of mumbles and skronks and displaced grooves, but in the facade of covering "The Chipmunk Song" and "You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch" along with more traditional and beloved Christmas carols. Just like Wilson's other work, the Tree-O (with multi-reedist Jeff Lederer and bassist Paul Sikivie) willfully traverses the borderlands of jazz, and does it with glee. They perform at 8 and 10 PM at Twins Jazz. $10.