Jazz Setlist, April 7-13: The Afro-French-Dutch Connection
Friday, April 8
Hey, remember about three weeks back when it was Settles Week at Twins Jazz? The only drawback to the whole thing was that we never got to see D.C. jazz's power couple, tenor saxophonist Brian Settles and vocalist Jessica Boykin-Settles, take the stage together. Well! Now's the time to correct that little oversight. The lean, edgy horn and the flawless alto voice will finally come together in one show this weekend, heading a quintet of local friends and favorites—pianist Amy Bormet, either C.V. Dashiell or Quincy Phillips on drums, and either Karine Chapdelaine or Corcoran Holt (a Washingtonian gone NYC). As one observer pointed out with 100 percent accuracy, the only thing better than a Settles is two; don't miss this one, kids. The long-awaited family summit will take place at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $20.
Photo: Carlyle Smith.
Saturday, April 9
"Africa! Africa!" intones the narrator at the beginning of Randy Weston's 1960 masterpiece Uhuru Afrika. That pretty much says it all. Though he's in many senses a disciple of Thelonious Monk, Africa—all of it, in all its glory and all its blight—is Weston's first, last, and most essential influence. He studied it (and its diaspora) since childhood; incorporated musicians from many of its countries and traditions into his music; lived for several years in Tangier, Morocco, where he owned his own jazz club; and named his long-running band African Rhythms. Weston turned 85 years old yesterday, and in that twilight year he is nonetheless pushing forward with two ambitious projects. African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, written with D.C. jazz journalist Willard Jenkins, was published last fall; simultaneously, his new sextet record The Storyteller hit the shelf. Both projects will surely be in focus when he performs with a scaled-down version of African Rhythms (a trio, with bassist Alex Blake and percussionist Neil Clarke, plus special guest drummer Lewis Nash) at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club, 2700 F St. NW. $30.
Sunday, April 10
When I was researching the story for our Best Of DC issue about great local bassists, one of the titanic names mentioned by nearly every person I talked to was James King, a native of Houston who's been playing, recording, teaching, and mentoring in the District for almost 35 years. Alas, I was unable to reach King for an interview in time for the piece, but he's readily available and magnanimous as a musician. His is a sound that's similar to that charging D.C. bass style, aggressive but with a slightly more complicated flow of syncopation than Washington's unrelenting pound on the 2-and-4. Or that could be just King's virtuosity, not content to show itself off on only half the 4/4 measure. Will we ever know for sure? Well, one great way to find out is to catch King's solo performance as the opening act of Joe Herrera and Rodney Richardson's still-alive-and-kicking Sunday Jazz Lounge, this week scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and located at Bloombars, Columbia Heights' DIY space that serves up art instead of booze. Bloombars is at 3222 11th St. NW. $10.
Monday, April 11
Although jazz is redefined by whomever plays it—no matter where they may be—it's not a stretch to call pianist Martial Solal the personificaton of French jazz. Frankly there's a good argument to be made for his personifying all of European jazz: More than anyone else's in history, his music is equal parts European classical tradition (Bartok, Stravinsky, Messiaen) and American jazz (Tatum, Powell, Evans). If you know those names, you know the vast swath of technique and concepts that they encompass, and can imagine the thick brew it would take to blend them. Solal does it with ease and aplomb, sweeping America and much of Europe into one grandiloquent and inescapably modern sound. Solal is not for the timid, but it's worth it. He performs at 8 p.m. at the Library of Congress' Coolidge Auditorium, First Street and Independence Avenue SE. Free.
Tuesday, April 12
If Martial Solal is a heavy bramble of European and American piano, Dutch player Michiel Borstlap is a light, welcoming embrace of the very same piano lineages. Borstlap has all the rich melody and tonal clarity of a Mozart piano sonata on his 2010 album Solo; he answers Solal's Messian and Tatum with Glenn Gould and Keith Jarrett, complex turns, and runs that nonetheless sound airy and pleasing to the ear. If he lobs some bigger musical ideas past you in the process, so much the better. Of course, this is only one facet of Borstlap's far broader artistic canvas; he's got a trio, a fusion quartet, and, on 2008's Eldorado, a funk and hip-hop/jazz ensemble. He's an experimenter, in short, and that's what he'll be doing on the grand piano. It just happens that he does it with a painterly beauty and palette. Michiel Borstlap performs solo piano at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Photo: Eddy Westveer.