Jazz Setlist, September 15-21: Double Caverns
There are plenty of great options this week; unfortunately they seem to have been stacked up across the same three days. Your humble correspondent has had to make some difficult choices.
Friday, September 16
It was sometime in the mid-'90s when this writer, watching crappy mid-'90s Saturday Night Live, was suddenly intrigued by one of the Saturday Night Live Band's commercial-break outros. Leader G.E. Smith yielded the floor to a gigantic, bouncer-looking fellow who put aside his trombone to blow an enormous seashell into the lead microphone. The big guy's name, it turned out, was Steve Turre, and for all the novelty of playing conch shell on TV, he actually made real (and quite complicated) melodies on the thing—which was one of a stockpile he keeps of musical seashells in various sizes and types. One supposes that if there's such a thing as a conch-shell virtuoso, it's Turre. But he's an even more imposing figure on the trombone. A Mexican-American, he has a lifetime of experience in the Latin and Caribbean music traditions under his belt, with all of the raw power and lithe dance rhythms that those musics entail. But he's also a protege of the great jazz explorer Rahsaan Roland Kirk, which means he's developed a fearsome versatility and solid footing in jazz both straightahead and experimental. Talk about a well-rounded musician. Steve Turre performs with his quintet at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $24.
Saturday, September 17
Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett is one of the last major jazz figures of whom we can say "he got his start playing in the Duke Ellington Orchestra." (Although it must also be said that Garrett joined the band after Duke had died and his son, Mercer, was running the organization.) It's also now been a quarter century since Garrett made his real breakthrough, as a member of Miles Davis' final-period band. That range establishes him all by itself as a jazz omnivore, overlooking the nearly three decades he's enjoyed as a bandleader in his own right. The simple fact is that Garrett does it all, happily devouring bop, modal, fusion, and free jazz (sometimes all in one tune). Still, he takes the time to look back, as on his 2008 recording, Sketches of MD, a reflection on Miles Davis and Garrett's time with him. That glance at the past is in keeping with Garrett's work, but it doesn't tell the whole truth—which is that he has spent his entire career embodying the present moment in jazz. Garrett performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $27.50.
Sunday, September 18
Nobody else sounds quite like Angelica Sanchez. The pianist scarfs herself in avant-garde raiment, with a dark-shaded and tightly honed polytonality on the piano and sundry other keyboards, which she plays with the rolling clusters of a harp. It's a moody, introspective sound that's further overlaid with her choice of musicians, all of them immersed deep in the vanguard: Tony Malaby on sax, guitarist Mark Ducret, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tom Rainey. They weave and overlap against her piano ponderings like a tapestry of unconventional designs and colors. But there’s something more to Sanchez’s probings. Like an electron-cloud model of the atom, she is the steady nucleus at the heart of the crackling swarm, staking out a surprisingly firm melodic realm that serves as the bond for her every musical performance. No, it’s not the easily accepted notion of melody—how could it be?—but it’s smart, confident, and unexpectedly warm. The Angelica Sanchez Quintet performs at 7 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $15.