Jazz Setlist: Gigantic
Friday, June 30
Janine Gilbert-Carter has a gigantic voice. There's no better word, and it must be written (and said) in italics: Gigantic. Moreover, it's overflowing with soul; let there be no question that Gilbert-Carter has her roots in gospel, having sung in the church since her childhood in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. The intensity of her sound would not be out of place in a blues joint, either—we're talking the archetypal blues joints of period movies, where the singer has to outdo the hubbub of bartenders and rowdy audiences to be heard at all. She does that work, too, and often doesn't distinguish between the two modes. But that, as we know, is what constitutes jazz at its most rootsy and expressive. Small wonder that Gilbert-Carter portrayed similarly outsize Dinah Washington in the acclaimed stage show Sistas Can Sang, A Tribute to Female Jazz Legends. What better place for her to perform than Southwest Jazz Night? She works with saxophonist Brian Settles, pianist Eric Byrd, bassist Wes Biles, and drummer Jeffrey Neal at 6 p.m. at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I streets SW. $5.
Saturday, July 2
It might not be out of line to suggest that Ben Williams is the face of a new golden age in D.C. jazz. The New Yorker-by-way-of-Michigan Park came up working with local bass gurus Michael Bowie, Herman Burney, and Carolyn Kellock before moving onto Michigan State University, Juilliard's Jazz Studies program, and finally the Big Apple jazz scene, where he played with edgy young musicians like Stefon Harris and Marcus Strickland, as well as straightahead artists like Jacky Terrasson and Terrell Stafford. Then he won the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition for bass, and immediately graduated from insider's favorite to The One To Watch. Well, this week in D.C., your chances to do exactly that are double. Williams' dynamic debut recording as a leader, the fittingly titled State of Art (Concord Jazz), came out Tuesday. The weekend, as well, is a homecoming party for the CD's release. This one is the event of the week. The Ben Williams Quintet performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18.
Photo: Jati Lindsey.
Sunday, July 3
On the other hand, maybe gigantic would be better applied to the sound of Greg Boyer's trombone. As I've said many times before and will gladly say again, Boyer could blow a hole through a brick wall. He's got power like you've rarely heard in your life, and he harnesses it to a spectacular sense of melody and funky groove. That's how you get a gig being the lead trombonist and horn arranger for none other than Prince, Boyer's erstwhile boss; he also did some time in the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, and also plays behind Chuck Brown, Big Band Caliente, and his own funk-jazz bands, Greg Boyer Peloton and Greg Boyer Pocket Jazz. Less traveled for Boyer, however, is the solo route; that's where the Sunday Jazz Lounge comes in. The weekly showcase for the Joe Herrera/Rodney Richardson Quartet and a rotating cast of solo openers has been on a monthlong hiatus throughout June, but in July they're back with a vengeance—and a permanent home. It starts at 8 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $5.
Wednesday, July 6
It wouldn't be quite so fair to call Rene Marie "gigantic," though. The Denver vocalist has got power behind her, no doubt, but it comes through in a subtle, breath-gilded voice that depends on emotional and dictional nuance. In short, it's about softness and how she forms her words. That's how it is on record, anyway; in person, Rene has a deeply expressive physical dimension; she moves her head and body to the music (much of it original, lots of it swinging) in a way that drives home the rhythms as indispensably as the sounds of the instruments do. Like Janine Gilbert-Carter, she doesn't confine herself to jazz; Marie's new album, The Voice of My Beautiful Country, takes her into rock, R&B, and folk songs as well, done in a fashion that's somewhere between jazz and neosoul but every inch her own. It's a feathery, beautiful music that is mesmerizing at every turn. Rene Marie performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.