Jazz Setlist, Aug. 18-24: The Usual Suspects
The dog days continue, at least in terms of high-profile gigs coming to town. On the other hand, D.C. still has a glut of great local players working regularly. Whether you've seen them or not, it's a great time to drop in with open ears.
Thursday, August 18
Until I say that the ensemble plays New Orleans jazz, you may not grasp the proper pronunciation of Yamomanem. Indeed, the group proudly touts its foundation in "D.C.'s secondline scene" (which so far consists of...Yamomanem). If the group first smacks of more middle-aged white guys playing cornball renditions of 1920s black music, then boy, you're in for a surprise. Sure, they play your Jelly Roll Mortons, your King Olivers, your New Orleans Kings of Rhythm, and they play it with the stomping foursquare rhythms of early jazz. Sort of. Because they also aren't shy with booming, 21st-century funk beats, or with the more lilting (but no less aggressive) rhythms of the Caribbean. In the past I've said that these elements "gleefully subvert" New Orleans jazz. But that, perhaps, is unfair: The aforementioned New Orleans musicians were happy to use elements of whatever they could find useful in their music, and that included Caribbean accents and ragtime (surely the contemporary equivalent of funk). But why bother with that discussion? It's fun, it sounds great, so go see 'em! Yamomanem performs at 10 p.m. at Haydee's, 3102 Mount Pleasant St. NW. Free.
Friday, August 19
Boy, oh boy, is Donvonte McCoy something. His is a dark, slightly foreboding trumpet sound, full and hearty though it is; but we tend to associate brighter, gleeful tones with the kind of fearsome chops McCoy also puts on display. But there's plenty of range and versatility in there too. He's got great and flexible time, fluid motion, and an affection for soulful textures. McCoy swings and bops with the best of them, but he puts those soul touches into his quintet, along with doses of funk and hip-hop and trippy outer space. It's appropriate for the atmosphere of the Eighteenth Street Lounge, where they practice their black magic every Friday night, and it's a fantastic time that you don't need to be an ESL-style dance music-junkie to appreciate. Just grab a cocktail and a couch, and hold on tight. The Donvonte McCoy Quintet performs at 10:30 p.m. at Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th St. NW. $10.
Sunday, August 21
Brian Settles is always busy, but lately it seems he's been busier than most. The tenor sax man fronts an acclaimed and creative local trio; works frequently with his wife, the wonderful vocalist Jessica Boykin-Settles; and often travels to New York to work in progressive ensembles there. But Settles has a progressive ensemble of his own, the quintet he calls Central Union (also featuring brilliant young D.C. native Corcoran Holt on bass), who's just released an astonishing recording. Secret Handshake (Engine Studios) is exciting music, skewed and irregular compositions with sudden twists and turns that beguile even as they warp the perceptions—oh, and no shortage of free-blowing tunes, either. It's a flexing of Settles' avant-garde muscle, along with some of his most truly creative impulses, and he's celebrating it with a release party that brings Central Union to D.C. for the first time. The ensemble performs at 7 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh St. NW. $15.
Tuesday, August 23
Once upon a time, Butch Warren was the house player for Blue Note Records and a member of Thelonious Monk's band. Today he is practically exile in his hometown (D.C.) after a difficult life and career. Nonetheless, he remains one of the most respected living bassists in jazz. He's the reigning king of the aggressively zesty D.C. bass sound. All reasons that if you haven't seen him play, well, you simply have no excuse. Warren's steadiest gig these days is on Tuesday nights at Tryst in Adams Morgan, where he leads a trio called the Butch Warren Experience (which often expands to include any number of musicians) and maintains a link to the deepest, headiest days of the bebop revolution, plus a booster of blues and that uniquely Washington sound. How often do you get to see living jazz royalty—and with no cover at that? Butch Warren performs at 7 p.m. at Tryst, 2459 18th St. NW. Free.