Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, Dec. 16-22: Christmas out the Jazzhole

Actually, the big jazz-related event of this week is HR-57's final day at its 14th Street location. That happens Saturday night, with the sorta-jazz-I-suppose singer AJay Parham on the schedule for 9 p.m. However, Parham will actually be the host and leader of a closing-down-the-house jam session, so bring your booze and your instruments and celebrate the venue's crosstown move in style.

The rest is Christmas music. Here are the highlights:

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Friday, December 17
As I've mentioned before, traditional jazz gets the shortest shrift from the jazz world. It's regarded as a relic, an antique object from a peculiar time and place that's mostly associated nowadays with old cartoons and those weirdly sped-up silent film reels. But the traditional New Orleans jazz ("hot jazz"), in all its rawness and polyphony, is great music—and it's just really, really fun. It's "sloppy drunk sounding," as a friend of mine put it. That's why the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is so justifiably famous and beloved, and packs the house everywhere they go. A healthy portion of the crowd, more often than not, comprises people who otherwise don't call themselves jazz fans. PHJB is every bit the party catalyst that, say, The Black-Eyed Peas are, and really, is there a better reason to party than the holidays? Hence, they're here for a Christmas concert—"Creole Christmas"—that will have you dancing in the aisles. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs at 7:30 and 9:30 at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, 2700 F Street NW. $45.

Photo: Wikimedia user Infrogmation.

Tim WarfieldSaturday, December 18
Straightahead hard-bop saxophonist Tim Warfield, a native of York, Pennsylvania but a D.C. favorite, told me in 2008 that he'd been working for over a year on an album of Christmas jazz. In December 2010, that album has yet to see the light of day. But Warfield, with his swinging, sinuous, soul-tinged tenor, continues to work that repertoire at this time every year. They're the songs we all know, your "What Child Is This" and "Silent Night" and whatnot; what makes them interesting is Warfield's sharp edges and the dark undertone he brings to his playing, a new perspective on the "Joy to the World" ilk. That said, Warfield's trying out the proceedings with a different band this year, including a gifted young trumpeter named Philip Dizack and a sultry, low-voiced singer, Joanna Pascale. The program will be about two-thirds vocal, another new development—and an excellent reason to go. Warfield performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.

BCJOMonday, December 20
We can't really call Christmas concerts a tradition for the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, being that it's their first year of existence and all. We can call them an ambitious undertaking, however. Members of the band have worked close to a month on preparing arrangements for their two holiday performances (of which this is the second). It's music that draws on the long history that Christmas and big bands have together: The BCJO is performing the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn treatments of "The Nutcracker Suite," plus charts by the great Claude Thornhill and Stan Kenton. Last week, they also broke out a simply gorgeous rendition of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born." Take your holiday with a twist. The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra performs at 8:30 and 10:30 at Bohemian Caverns, and are asking for canned food donations for the Capital Area Food Bank. $15 ($10 with two cans' donation).

Photo: Sebastian John

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