Jazz Setlist, October 6-12: The Colossus Returns
Friday, October 7
We all know easy-listening trumpeter Chris Botti, right? He wasn't always such light, soft fare. He moved to New York City in 1985, the story goes, to establish himself as the baddest young bebop trumpeter on the scene. But something happened there to scare him away from that goal, sending him running into shopping-mall PA systems all over the country. What made him give up on conquering jazz? He heard Roy Hargrove. There's an apocryphal element to that story, but anyone who's heard Hargrove's trumpet has to believe the bulk of it. He has a beautiful tone, blowing pear-shaped notes with a smooth, affecting vibrato, and a fondness for the high register of his instrument. And talk about momentum: At the wildest tempos and most chaotic arrangements, he plays lines that swing so hard they all but get up and dance off the stage. (Indeed, Hargrove himself often can't resist dancing while he plays them.) Find me a trumpter who can hear Roy and not be intimidated into making Muzak—that's a story that would strain credulity. The Roy Hargrove Quintet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40.
Saturday, October 8
Edmar Castañeda, a 33-year-old from Bogota, is different. Sure, he plays improvised jazz. It’s just that he plays it on a harp. And he plays jazz that’s rooted deeply in the many folk-musical traditions of his native Colombia. Neither of these is completely new; there have been a few harpists in jazz, Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane being the most prominent, and Charles Mingus experimented with Colombian music. But Castañeda marries these two out-there concepts, presenting them in an unconventional trio featuring soprano saxophonist Shlomi Cohen and percussionist/drummer Dave Sillerman (whose zoo of odd cymbals, chimes, and bells ensure that he’s a percussionist first, drummer second). Castañeda is a serious virtuoso on his instrument, threading remarkable runs of melody and chords with his right hand while his left keeps a thumping foundation that sounds for all the world like an electric bass. It's a bold direction, unique and beautiful, that's got Castañeda on its way to becoming a major figure in world jazz. He performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.
photo: Maciej Jaros.
Sunday, October 9
In a week where national and international acts are dominating D.C.'s jazz locales, CapitalBop has once again managed to pack a tremendous punch of local talent into one night at their monthly series of DC Jazz Lofts. How do these guys keep up the pace of masterly showcases of our small, flourishing scene? Well, for starters, the small scene keeps growing, with new talents emerging and established ones finding new ideas to explore. But more importantly, Giovanni Russonello and Luke Stewart are tirelessly dedicated to bringing about rich dioramas of what D.C. jazz is, what it's capable of, and where it's going. This time around, the talent on display includes modern soul-jazz vocalist Akua Allrich, a favorite on U Street who lives up to the jazz-singer tradition of making one's voice resemble a horn; lyrical bassist Herman Burney, one of the standard-bearers of the D.C. bass tradition whose new album Offering was spotlighted in City Paper a few weeks ago, performing duets with stellar trombonist Reginald Cyntje; Anthony Pirog, a cerebral, idiosyncratic guitarist who raised eyebrows recently with his performance of a Terry Riley work in Silver Spring; and, as always, a freeform jazz jam to cap off the evening. It runs the gamut, in other words, and as such you have no excuse for missing it. The Jazz Loft takes place at 7 p.m. at the Red Door Loft, 443 I St. NW. $10.
Monday, October 10
Eighty-one years old and becoming exceedingly frail, saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins still throws himself into his tenor saxophone onstage. It’s actually a little frightening to see a man of grandfatherly age thrusting head and shoulders down towards his horn with force that would cause back spasms in much younger men. Then again, listen to the sounds he’s making. Rollins’ sax tone is a brazen—at times even vulgar—display of muscle. His rhythms are not just powerful, but unique, and Rollins finds new uses for space and accent in tunes he’s played since adolescence. Spry young accompanists scramble to keep up. The 2011 Kennedy Center honoree chews melodies to bits and reassembles them, Frankenstein-like, before bringing them back home. Rollins’ body may be aging, but it channels his energy just as vitally as his horn. Sonny Rollins returns to Washington for his annual performance at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. $35-85.