This Week at Twins Jazz: The Settleses
In case you've forgotten, there are two ongoing weekly concert series at U Street's Twins Jazz this month: the Sunday Jazz Lounge on (duh) Sunday nights and the Washington Women in Jazz Festival on Wednesday Nights. Both have particularly fine installments this week, featuring, incidentally, the two sides of a married musical couple.
Sunday Jazz Lounge
If you haven't seen the Joe Herrera-Rodney Richardson Quartet yet, you're missing out. There are few sounds in the District of Columbia that are more lovely than Herrera's trumpet and Richardson's guitar playing a melody in tandem—especially if the melody is one of Herrera's sumptuous originals. The rhythm section is pretty special, too. Eric Harper is fond of the bass' middle range, and plays around it with a fantastic staccato virtuosity. Dave McDonald, meanwhile, is a monster; he plays sometimes with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra (along with Herrera and Richardson), but that ensemble doesn't afford him quite the room to work out that he has at Twins, where he plays with the force (and sometimes the volume) of a wrecking ball.
What makes this week stand out, though, is the Sunday Jazz Lounge's trademark solo opening act. This third installment features one of Washington's supreme musicians on any instrument: tenor saxophonist Brian Settles. His serpentine style (with a hidden layer of muscle) is remarkably compatible with mainstream jazz, funk and R&B, and the furthest reaches of the avant-garde (he works regularly with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson). The very idea of a solo Settles set is captivating. And for $5, how can you go wrong?
Washington Women in Jazz Festival
You may recall that when the festival opened on March 2, I called vocalist Lena Seikaly "one of the contenders for D.C.'s best singer." One other person could make a claim for the title, and it's Jessica Boykin-Settles. Married to the aforementioned Brian, she possesses a clear alto voice, incredibly precise technique, and beautiful control; she can sing soft and sultry, as though beckoning from inside a dark room, or joyous and free, whatever the tune demands. It'd be something to see her and Seikaly duke it out on stage, but it's hard to argue with this lineup: Boykins-Settles will split the stage with the powerhouse baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer, a magnetic player whose sleek but barreling sound is probably as close as we'll ever come to harnessing the spirit of bari innovator Harry Carney. They'll play each other's sets, too, accompanied by pianist Amy Bormet, bassist Karine Chapdelaine, and drummer Lydia Lewis. $15 and worth every penny.
Twins is located at 1344 U St. NW.