Jazz Setlist, July 14-20: The Slowdown Starts
Yes, it happens every year in July and August—the steady stream of jazz in D.C. slows to a trickle. Summer sluggishness is nothing new in our fair city, and God knows it ain't exclusive to the jazz scene. You're probably slowing down, too, and the music is just trying to match pace with you. And anyway, slow doesn't mean dead; there are still plenty of ways and places to wash (or swing) the summertime blues away.
Saturday, July 16
The name Allyn Johnson is one of the most frequently mentioned in this column, and for damn good reason. He is the king of D.C. jazz piano, plain and simple. Johnson is a D.C. native and was still in college at UDC 15 years ago when he co-founded the Young Lions Trio, joined forces with the late Cafe Nema, and jump-started the city's jazz revival. Today Johnson is the director of the UDC Jazz Studies program from which he graduated; heads the gospel-jazz outfit Divine Order; continues to work with The Young Lions, fusing hard-swinging bop with funk and hip-hop flourishes; and plays piano in every other circumstance he can, flexing his muscles in lightning-fast, unstoppably charging lines that recall Oscar Peterson. Johnson is destined to follow Duke Ellington and Billy Taylor into the lineage of great Washington jazz pianists. He performs with the Allyn Johnson Trio at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Monday, July 18
Bucky Pizzarelli is a living legend. A jazz family patriarch, the 85-year-old guitarist began working with the Vaughn Monroe big band during the Second World War, then moved on to several decades of tours with Benny Goodman and a long stint in Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show band. He's worked with everyone from Toots Thieleman to Sarah Vaughan to the Three Sounds; guitar legends Les Paul, Kenny Burrell, and Wes Montgomery; and, acknowledging his debt to the guitar work of Django Reinhardt, played extensively with Reinhardt's greatest partner, violinist Stephane Grappelli. These days Pizzarelli's most frequent collaborator is his guitar-playing son, John, with whom he frequently appears at Blues Alley and other local venues; as ever, though, the elder Pizzarelli likes to keep his options open. In this case, that still groups him with one of his favorite bassists, Nicki Parrott, but also with one of D.C.'s longtime stalwarts, drummer and vibraphonist Chuck Redd. They perform at 6 p.m. on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free.
Tuesday, July 19
While the District's bop-based jazz has been thriving, its progressive, avant-garde aspect has been rebuilding from the ground up, beginning to bear real fruit in the past two to three years. Perhaps the most gratifying of those fruit-bearers is tenor saxophonist Brian Settles. He was known for years as the melodic but sinewy and driving lead tenor in the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra, and with somewhat looser aesthetic on his own and in Lenny Robinson's Mad Curious trio. But Settles has always been a sonic adventurer, frequently taking trips to Brooklyn for work with fellow travelers like trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and guitarist Mary Halvorson before unveiling a splendidly edgy working band in D.C. with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Tiacoh Sadia. He's also been leading another band, Central Union, on a wonderful new album (Secret Handshake) that freely wanders inside and outside of the lines to communicate its message—which can often sound cool and eerie, and sometimes as oddly lo-fi as the Sun Ra "Saturn" recordings, but offers up a unique concept of composition, arrangement, and playing by a man who sounds, at all times, only like himself. Fitting that settles should be the latest in the new Artist in Residence program at D.C.'s jazz citadel. He performs at 8 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $10.