Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, July 21-27: Inverse

Inverse? Yes—in contrast to our usual weekend-heavy setlists, each of this week's picks falls on a weekday. If you can bear to brave the heatwave this week, school nights are where the action's at.

Thursday, June 21

Cyrus Chestnut

By and large, you can take it for granted that every jazz musician in the world will have a bad night. Sometimes it's a show-killer —Sonny Rollins, for example, famously wears his bad nights on his sleeve—and other times it leads to a perfectly serviceable performance where inspiration is all that's missing. But there may be an exception to this rule: I have never heard Cyrus Chestnut have a bad night. One of the wave of neo-traditionalist piano players that hit the scene in the ‘80s, Chestnut is also arguably the most pedigreed gospel musician currently working in the jazz world. His father was a church organist, his mother a gospel choir director; child-prodigy Cyrus was playing piano at church when he was six. Chestnut went on to have an equally potent jazz pedigree, graduating from Berklee and training in Betty Carter’s band along with Blanchard and Harrison’s before embarking on a career in his own right. But about 15 years ago Chestnut began with his fifth album (Blessed Quietness: Collection of Hymns, Spirituals, Carols) to create sparking gospel jazz records in addition to his straightahead work. The latter is still his specialty, bebop with profound and soulful virtuosity, but he ballasts it with intros, riffs, turns and quotes that you’ll immediately recognize as coming straight from the church. Cyrus Chestnut performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.

Monday, July 25
Joseph BowieWe all talk about how D.C. is a congregation of people from all over the United States, and we're not just talking about the people who work on the Hill. It turns out that applies to the jazz community too, and that includes the avant-garde community. Dig, if you will, the stellar lineup that's billed as The B.E.B. Ensemble. Its front line, which gives the band its name, consists of trombonist Joseph Bowie, a St. Louis native who came up through that city's free-jazz collective, Black Artists Group (B.A.G.); saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins, a member of Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; and trumpeter Lewis "Flip" Barnes, a New Yorker whose reputation is mostly centered on Manhattan's Downtown scene. These all-stars are joined by two locally based folks: bassist Luke Stewart, originally from southern Mississippi, and drummer Warren Crudup III, a native Washingtonian. Our fair city brings them together, but so does their desire to explore the outer reaches of jazz. The B.E.B. Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. at Red Door, 443 I St. NW. Donation requested at the door.

Tuesday, July 26
Maryland Summer Jazz
It seems a little misleading to call Maryland Summer Jazz a "festival," per se. What it really is is a continuing education program for local jazz musicians. We're talking full-scale immersions in jazz workshops for various genres, ensembles, venues, and playing techniques. Let's call Maryland Summer Jazz a "bootcamp," then; it just happens to be a bootcamp that kicks off with a great concert of area musicians. Well...Baltimore-area musicians, really, but each of these musicians has appeared at D.C.'s jazz venues often enough to get a pass. Vocalist Felicia Carter leads the charge; the sultry young singer with a high, come-hither voice, but an articulation drawn directly from her fellow Baltimorean, Billie Holiday. Her accompanists will be the great and powerful Amy Shook on bass, thoughtful and adventurous pianist Alan Blackmann, virtuoso saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk, and drummer Frank Russo, all of them strong enough musicians to lead the charge on their own. Hence no name appears at the top of the bill; it's just the Maryland Summer Jazz Kick-Off Concert. It happens at 8 and 10 PM at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $22.

Wednesday, July 27
Karen BachHaving just been to the 2011 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, I can testify with conviction that Denmark has one of the richest, most creative, most thriving jazz scenes imaginable—indeed, much of the Danish jazz I saw there cut the American performers to ribbons, and I'm talking big names like Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman. And one of those performers, as it happens, is now appearing in D.C. Karen Bach has chops that keep feet in the pop and classical worlds; think a European Bad Plus for comparison's sake. She also has a flair for drama in her compositions, a suspensefulness that heightens with each turn of phrase, even as that same phrase resolves the tension created in the previous one. Her trio comprises includes two New York-based musicians, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Ian Froman, and is notable for the sharp-toothed sense of encounter between the members that is firmly a part of the Danish jazz tradition. Thus, Copenhagen comes to you; don't miss it. The Karen Bach Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U St. NW. $10.

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  • Paula Phillips

    It was great to have Michael J. West mention the Maryland Summer Jazz Festival.Thanks, Michael! It actually includes four nights of concerts, two nights of jams and two weeks of jazz camps. (His City Paper blog only mentions one of the three concerts.) Students come from 16 different states including Alaska, Florida and California. While, there are many great regional artists teaching and performing this year, some of the 16 guest artists are from much further away. (Hotel rooms were furnished by The Legacy Hotel on Rockville Pike.) Pianos were furnished by Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center and Roland. For more information and to get tickets for the three remaining concerts, visit,

  • Alex Lacquement

    Thanks for writing about the Maryland Summer Jazz Festival Michael. I am here at MSJ and want to add that there is a concert tonight, Friday, July 22, at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Rockville. The concert will feature Prince trombonist Greg Boyer, Berklee guitarist Steve Rochinski and vocalist Alison Crockett with drummer Tony Martucci, bassist Tom Baldwin and Jeff Antoniuk on sax. For ticket information folks can visit There will be two more concerts next week.

  • Ken Avis

    Viva Maryland Summer Jazz! Though I've not been a participant in the 'bootcamp' the concerts are open to all and they are a joy to attend. Some of the best musicians from DC and far beyond create a festival party with constantly evolving combinations of musicians.

    Maryland Summer Jazz is an asset to the wider Metro DC region. World class music accessible to all.

  • Lynn Veronneau

    I'm a touring and recording musician and a Maryland Summer Jazz (MSJ) "alumni"! I return to MSJ when ever I have the opportunity. The stellar faculty headed by internationally renowned saxofonist Jeff Antoniuk fosters a creative and accessible environment. They push and challenge you and bring so much knowledge to the table. The 4 concerts with faculty only or students/faculty mixed are a blast. That's where I'll be spending the end of the week. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. Come, enroll and enjoy.