Jazz Setlist, June 16-22: No Rest From the Fest
So you think D.C. jazz and the festival season cool off a bit following the DC Jazz Festival? Ha! For right on its heels comes the Nordic Jazz Festival, which weaves back and forth between Twins Jazz on U Street and the Finnish and Swedish embassies. It's worthy of a Setlist all its own, and as it happens Arts Desk has one, courtesy of the great Christopher Porter.
But that ain't all, either.
Friday, June 17
Though he spent much of his career tagged as "the guy who sounds just like Charlie Parker," Sonny Stitt had actually developed much of his playing style without ever hearing Bird—and though he did become a devout disciple of the alto sax legend, Stitt soon switched to tenor and developed a more distinct sound of his own, moving back and forth between tenor and alto saxes until passing away in 1982 in our fair city. But being unable to play both at the same time (and favoring tenor more and more over time), Stitt began hiring other altoists to support him; in later years, one of these was Baltimore's Arnold Sterling. Sterling idolized Stitt and though their tenure together was very short, Sterling does have significant elements of his sound and wears the association like a badge of honor. Witness his billing this week at Westminster Presbyterian as "Stitt-Man." It's a tribute concert to Stitt, and it comes with a fine band lineup: Matvei Sigalov on violin and guitar, Benjie Porecki on piano, Steve Novosel on bass, and Percy Smith on drums. They hit at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Monday, June 20
Strange though it may sound, it’s The Flail’s deep knowledge of and respect for the history of jazz that makes it so unpredictable. You’ll hear the New York quintet (trumpeter Dan Blankinship, tenor saxophonist Stephan Moutot, pianist Brian Marsella, bassist Reid Taylor, and drummer Matt Zebroski) open its set with a catchy but lopsidedly rhythmic number—à la Thelonious Monk—and settle in, thinking you know what you’re in for. Then the group will knock you on your ass with a gospel-steeped New Orleans tune, send you reeling with a sprawling free improvisation, and finish you off with a swing-era romp. Yet there’s a core to the collective’s sound, a tense post-bop that manifests itself in uneasy harmonies and themes, and releases with stylistic costume changes. More important, The Flail has a killer pianist. Brian Marsella alone is worth the price of admission, but as it stands, he’s merely the anchor of a group that shows how flexible the standard trumpet-and-tenor quintet can be. The Flail performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.
Wednesday, June 22
Bobby Muncy has been far less visible this year, since the bizarre loss of his weekly gig at U-Topia in January. But he's kept busy, gigging where and when he can in town as well as giving private lessons on his instrument (tenor saxophone) and completing the formation of the DC Jazz Composers Collective, who are also working on their first recording. But Muncy is still a working musician, and one who tries to mix things up; in his case, as a progressive postbop composer who's generally dedicated to performing his own material, "mixing things up" means throwing in a straightahead gig every now and then. Hence, Muncy's put together an ad hoc quartet (guitarist Jon Rogerson, bassist Blake Meister, and drummer Andrew Hare) that will perform standards and some straightahead jazz tunes—Muncy says he might throw in a few originals here and there—but the formidable ability of the musicians will open things up a bit and give room for some serious adventures. The Bobby Muncy Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.