Jazz Setlist, Oct. 20-26: Potpourri
Thursday, October 20
Fusion! Boy, has that word been a mindfuck for 40 years of jazz. But the blending of jazz with rock—and just about everything else it encounters—has undergone a revitalization in the last decade or so, particularly in Europe. One of the performers leading the charge across the Atlantic is the trumpeter Eric Vloeimans. There's plenty of reason to associate Vloeimans with the sounds made by fusion-era Miles Davis; he's got the spare, lyrical trumpet sound and the varying approach to the instruments timbre, and in his Gatecrash quartet he makes use of a similarly textured rhythm section (Jeroen van Vliet on Fender Rhodes and keyboards, Gulli Gudmundsson on bass, Jasper van Hulten on drums). But Vloeimans sticks to those basics, not the wild diversity of palettes that Miles used. He also has his own way with phrasing, including a uniquely wide-stroke vibrato and a warm, welcoming wash. It's something special, indeed. Eric Vloeiman's Gategrash performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.
Friday, October 21
Jacky Terrasson is just wonderful. One of the major talents to emerge in the 1990s, he's developed a warm touch on the piano that seems to light up every key he plays, and that stays somehow soft and careful even in his determined flurries and his angular harmonic jags. Terrasson has for many years been one of the faces of straightahead jazz—but even the straightahead is not so straightahead these days, as a generation raised on funk, R&B, and hip-hop begin to ascend the jazz ranks. So Terrasson, like any artist worth his salt, changes with the times. His 2010 album, Push, is mostly standards and originals (with a quick side of Michael Jackson), but with a new rhythmic urgency and sparks of electronica. It helps that his current trio includes two of the most progressive-minded members of that new generation: bassist Ben Williams and drummer
Jamire Williams Justin Faulkner. Together they make arresting music. The Jacky Terrasson Trio performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $22.
Saturday, October 22
"Note placement" isn't a frequently used term in jazz criticism, but this writer would argue that it's what makes Russell Malone a truly great guitarist. While he has a stinging, note- and mind-bending sound that's easy to sink one's teeth into, not enough can be said about his ear for harmony and rhythm—as separate and united concepts. Count Basie, they said, could swing on one note; that was about his knowing where exactly his punctilious tone-at-a-time phrasing could fold into the ensemble to excite the rhythm just right. Likewise, listen to any Malone record. He has a remarkable ability to know just where to play a single note, or a phrase, or where to lengthen or shorten or alter an existing phrase so that it persuades the music to go where he wants to take it. That's most obvious in the rhythm, but it has a remarkable effect on the harmonies, too. If Malone chooses to harmonize with the piano here, or to unison with the bass there, or to lay down different chords throughout the song, it can change how the entire ensemble and song are perceived. That attention to detail is what makes a brilliant musician. Russell Malone performs at 7:30 p.m. (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Gallery, 2700 F Street NW. $30.
Monday, October 24
You may know Allyn Johnson as D.C.'s powerhouse jazz pianist. He's more than that. He is also the heir to and flamekeeper of the legacy of Calvin Jones, one of the most astonishing polymaths ever to traverse the local jazz scene. Born in 1929 and raised in Memphis, Jones—who played trombone, bass, and piano—came to Washington in the mid-50s as a member of the U.S. Army Band, and here he stayed after his discharge to work as a musician, composer, bandleader, and educator who in the late '70s established the Jazz Studies program at the University of the District of Columbia. Jones passed away seven years ago this week, at the age of 75, leaving massive shoes to fill. Johnson, who succeeded Jones as director of UDC Jazz Studies, leads a gala tribute to the maestro at UDC's University Auditorium. It features the UDC Jazz Ensemble, the program's student big band; vocalist Krislynn Perry; saxophonist Bruce Williams; and DC's own Calvin Jones Legacy Ensemble, which includes Johnson, bassist Steve Novosel, Lyle Link, trumpeter Douglas Pierce, and drummer Howard "Kingfish" Franklin. The celebration begins at 7:30 at University Auditorium (Building 46 East) on the UDC campus, Connecticut Avenue and Windom Place NW. $20.