Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, March 24-30: No Straightahead Here

Kevin Eubanks

Thursday, March 24
You could be forgiven if his nearly 20-year association with Jay Leno made you think Kevin Eubanks was a mediocre hack, too—forgiven, but you wouldn't be correct. Before he Jaywalked, guitarist Eubanks (the second of three musical brothers from Philadelphia) was a member of the M-Base Collective, the Brooklyn-based pool of musicians who made revolutionary musical and rhythmic structures in the 1980s. As a soloist, though, he's tended toward the fusion domain, albeit with a refreshingly progressive current running through it. The rock-ish textures still fool some critics into thinking Eubanks has watered his sound down, labeling his latest album, Zen Food (Mack Avenue), as pop-jazz; if you're tempted to agree, listen to Zen Food yourself...and try to hum any of the tunes you hear. Better yet, go see him play! Kevin Eubanks performs at 8 and 1 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $30.

Friday, March 25
Donvonte McCoyDonvonte McCoy first appeared in this column two weeks ago when he was appearing in a solo set at Twins; at the time, I praised his "fluid, bouncy legato line, blinding speed...and hearty quicksilver tone on his horn." Having heard that solo set, I have to qualify my description. No question of his fluidity or legato (though McCoy also has some staccato tendencies), but his playing also has a tremendous capacity for languid, deliberate pace, and his tone has a smoky undertone both on trumpet and flugelhorn. His range, in other words, is wide and magnificent. That's apparent in the sets he performs weekly with his quintet at Eighteenth Street Lounge, where large insertions of funk and hip-hop, and the soulful stylings of singer Mavis Waters, infiltrate his spacey jazz music. It's something special. The Donvonte McCoy Quintet performs at 10:30 p.m. at Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th St. NW. $10.

Sunday, March 27

Marshall HawkinsOne of my items in this week's Best Of D.C. issue ("Best Instrument: Bass") inspired an open question from walking jazz library Larry Appelbaum: "What ever happened to Marshall Hawkins?" What an opportune time to ask! Hawkins is performing at a homecoming concert this weekend. He's sharing top billing with New Orleans clarinetist Evan Christopher; both of them work with Christopher's ensemble Clarinet Road. Christopher is a deep scholar of the clarinet styles that flourished in the early jazz of New Orleans, and has built his career on extending the elements of those sounds into the contemporary jazz milieu—accordingly, he calls his music "contemporary early jazz." Christopher got his musical education at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts near Palm Springs, Calif.—which is how he met Hawkins, the D.C. native and bassist who has been the school's jazz head since 1985. Teacher and student bring it home at 4 p.m. at All Souls Unitarian Church, 16th and Harvard streets NW. $20.

Tuesday, March 29
RadioheadIt's probably no surprise to anyone who watches jazz these days that Radiohead's oeuvre is popular and fertile ground for jazz musicians. Brad Mehldau's piano renditions are the stuff of myth at this point, and on the best album of last year, Christian Scott's Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, the best track was a cover of Thom Yorke's "The Eraser." Well, D.C.'s jazz musicians are as eager to blaze those trails as anyone else, and a group of the most adventurous among them— tenor saxophonist Bobby Muncy, trumpeter Joe Herrera, guitarists Rodney Richardson and Greg Loman, bassist Blake Meister, drummer Larry Ferguson, and vocalist Lena Seikaly—have come together under the auspices of the "Radiohead Jazz Project." Their mission, obviously, is to explore the British band's work in depth. Given the players involved, it can't help but be a stirring encounter. The Radiohead Jazz Project performs at 8 and 10 p/m/ at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.

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  • Serdar

    Mr. West,

    Great article on DC's bass heritage. Thank you. Since you've mentioned his name, the event honoring Butch Warren at the UDC Jazz Studies Program this month was all the area jazz enthusiasts' favorite:

    I wanted to make a small contribution to your "local bass legends" list by adding a very important name from our area:


    Born in 1940 in Farrell, Pennsylvania, Steve started playing Yugoslav folk songs on the piano with his grandfather when he was 11 years old. At 13 he started studying trumpet, inspired by listening to Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Horace Silver. As soon as he was out of high school, he went to New York to study trumpet.

    He spent three years in New York, listening almost every night to the jazz giants of the late fifties. By the time he was 20, his trumpet playing was good enough to get him into the U.S. Army Band, so he came to Washington in 1961 for three years of service. There he began his love affair with the bass, moonlighting steadily as a bassist in the fertile DC jazz club scene. Steve’s mentor was Charlie “Bird” Hampton, then and now one of Washington’s great jazz saxophonists.

    From his first touring and recording gig with the Trio ESP, Steve moved up rapidly in the world of jazz bassists, playing and recording with Andrew White, Roland Kirk, Stanley Cowell, David “Fathead” Newman and Eddie Harris. Other jazz greats he has performed with since include Cedar Walton, McCoy Tyner, Hank Jones, Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Harry “Sweets” Edison, James Moody, Archie Shepp and Blue Mitchell.

    Steve is also in great demand as an accompanist for singers; he has played with everyone from Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams and Donny Hathaway to Anita O’Day, Roberta Flack, Betty Carter and Shirley Horn. He accompanies Shirley on several of her Verve releases.

    Steve has toured with Red Norvo, Tal Farlow, Al Grey and most recently, with David “Fathead” Newman. In addition to his previous 57 recordings, he has several on Mapleshade including Portraits in Ivory and Brass with Jack Walrath and Larry Willis (Mapleshade #02032) and Every Rung Goes Higher (Mapleshade #08232) with Willis and Steve Berrios plus singer Kenyetta.

    - - -

    I hope Mr. Novosel soon receives the recognition he deserves in your well-written articles.