Jazz Setlist, Sep. 22-28: The Caucus
Thursday, Sep. 22
It's the stealth jazz event of the year, the in-the-know concert that more often than not proves just how many people in this town are well-informed when it comes to jazz. Yes, every year the Congressional Black Caucus hosts its legislative conference in downtown Washington, bringing in leaders of the African-American community from around the country as well to address their top policy priorities. Well, believe it or not, jazz has some major footholds within that group of black leaders, and since 1985 the jazz world has brought its own priorities to a Jazz Issue Forum at the CBC (this year, "The Legacy of Modern Jazz Masters and Black America's Quest for Freedom")—followed by a free concert. This year, the performance includes a young up-and-comer as well as a revered elder. Ben Williams, the D.C.-native bassist who's currently going strong with his debut CD State of Art, opens the show with a quintet he calls Special Effect (saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Christian Sands, guitarist Matt Stevens, and drummer Jamire Williams. Then comes the master, pianist Randy Weston, the music's foremost explorer of the African roots and traditions within jazz; he performs with a version of his longtime band, African Rhythms (alto saxophonist T.K. Blue, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, bassist Essiet Essiet, drummer Lewis Nash, and percussionist Neil Clarke). The concert takes place in Ballroom A of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW. Free.
Saturday, Sep. 24
The best jazz album of last year was Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, a rock-influenced, socially conscious yet surprisingly muted album by New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott. Scott is the latest in the long line of Crescent City jazz trumpeters stretching back to Buddy Bolden, and has soaked up not only the heritage of his instrument but the New Orleans tradition of stylistic synthesis. Funk, hip-hop, rock, and post-bop stew together in his vision of a viable jazz for a new generation—what his uncle, the great alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, calls "Nouveau Swing." Recently, that movement has become a specialty of Bohemian Caverns, which showcases the full spectrum of jazz but has been especially sensitive to the progressive sounds that can attract a young audience. Well, here they are, and backed by the quintet of a splendid Baltimore/Washington drummer, John R. Lamkin. Scott and the Lamkin Quintet perform at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $22.
Sunday, Sept. 25
It was 20 years ago this month that Joshua Redman won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, beating out the likes of Eric Alexander and Chris Potter. In the intervening two decades Redman has evolved into one of the most widely imitated jazz saxophonists in the world. Part of it is his tone, full-bodied and both sinewy and sinuous; more to the point, though, is his commitment to always trying something new. He's delved into electro-funk with his Elastic Band; tough, outside-the-lines improvisation with his piano-less trio, and sensitive, lyrical duets with emotive pianist Brad Mehldau. Redman's newest adventure, a quartet called James Farm, is conceived as a band of equals (though Redman is the most prominent person in the ensemble) with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Eric Harland; the immediate frame of reference for them isn't post-bop, though, but post-rock—the music is moody, illuminated by Parks' electric piano and pump organ, and at times lighter-than-air, guided by Redman on soprano saxophone. It's a determined effort to maintain contact between the jazz tradition and the contemporary musical universe—and it's a brilliant success. James Farm performs at 7 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, at the University of Maryland campus in College Park. $45.