Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, May 26-June 1: In Pharoah’s Army

Thursday, May 26

Pharoah Sanders

The great Albert Ayler once placed himself as the Holy Ghost in an avant-spiritual jazz trinity. Coltrane was the Father. The Son? That would be Pharoah Sanders. A tenor saxophonist like the others in the trinity, Sanders was the voice of raw spiritual fervor on Coltrane’s last and most difficult albums, then a tremendous figure in his own right who leaned more toward modal jazz. His early, mantra-like composition “The Creator Has a Master Plan” was so beautiful and profound that no less than Louis Armstrong recorded a version of it in 1970. Sanders has continued in that vein ever since, with the lyricism and trancelike repetitions of modal jazz superceding his impulses to travel into freer territory. But that doesn’t mean he’s any less adventurous—which is why he achieves the kind of reverence in which figures like Ayler parallel him to Jesus. Nor is Ayler the only one: When fellow spiritualist Kahil El’Zabar performs in D.C., he is virtually guaranteed to open his set with the frenetic, revival-like piece called—surprise—“Pharoah Sanders.” Pharoah Sanders performs at 8:30 and 10:30 PM at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $42.

Friday, May 27
Antonio ParkerRecently, at the re-opening of HR-57 on H Street, I discovered something I'd never noticed before: Antonio Parker is a powerful blues player. The D.C. alto saxophonist, a fixture on the scene for around 15 years, is a lyricist to be sure, but has one holy hell of a wallop in his phrases, and as firm a grasp of the blues in his phrasing and harmonies as any musician in Washington. It puts him in good company, a worthy successor to the alto saxophone lineage of Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and Ornette Coleman. Parker sounds like none of these classic players—and that's the best news of all. He's found a niche in a long tradition of tough but melodic alto players, and yet found a fully arrived distinction of his own. Or, put simply: Antonio Parker is a treasure. He performs at 9 p.m. at HR-57, 816 H St. NE. $8.

Sunday, May 29
Nistha RajAs you might have guessed, Fourth Stream takes its name from the "Third Stream" movement established by Gunther Schuller in the late '50s. Nominally a cross between jazz and classical, the spirit of the Third Stream ran much deeper, and is actually much closer to what Fourth Stream aspires to: an all-music fusion with jazz, with particular attention to the catch-all category of "world music." The logical name for it is "world jazz," but that's insultingly simplistic. Third Stream is a little better (if only because it's more ambiguous), but these days the much broader term "Creative Improvisation" is preferred. But Fourth Stream aims to go it one better, incorporating that additional lineage of...the unknown. In that case it's helpful to have extremely knowledgeable members like my colleague, DCist jazz correspondent Sriram Gopal, who's the trio's drummer; he's joined by fellow smarties Rob Coltun (guitar) and Geoff Rohrbach (keyboards). They're also joined by some special guests, but the foremost of these is certainly the Indian American violinist Nistha Raj (pictured), stunningly skilled in western and eastern classical musics and more than equipped to apply her wondrous abilities to the Third/Fourth Stream. They perform at 8:30 PM at Bossa Bistro and Lounge, 2463 18th Street NW. $5.

Then, of course, comes the DC Jazz Festival. We won't go into it here; however, Arts Desk will have day-by-day previews of recommended shows throughout the fest's 13 days. Stay tuned.

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