Jazz Setlist, November 3-9: From Flute to Banjo
Friday, November 4
The trajectory of Bill Haymon is certainly the opposite of most jazz musicians'. To wit, he started in New York—born and raised—worked his way into the jazz scene there as a flutist (and erstwhile tenor saxophonist), and eventually moved to D.C.. Ask Haymon, though, and he'll tell you that he never took his music seriously enough as a young man—today, in his sixties, he's becoming the hardcore jazz flute man he never was in the Greenwich Village of his youth. Haymon is a regular at Jazz Night at Westminster, one of the major rallying points for D.C. jazz; when he's not on the stage, he's nearly always in the audience. This weekend, though, he heads a quintet of stalwart but lesser-known area artists: Tony Harrod, perhaps best known in smooth-jazz circles but a killing guitar player nonetheless; Clifton Brockington, a tremendously swinging piano player; Efraim Wolfolk, a firm bassist who's worked in the past with the Airmen of Note; and Percy Smith, an ever steady drummer who also works regularly at Jazz Night. As always, Jazz Night begins at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I streets SW. $5.
Sunday, November 6
An unapologetic subversive, both at the piano and in the press, Matthew Shipp has often been grouped with pianistic revolutionaries Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor—an accurate, if somewhat narrow, comparison. While Shipp is unquestionably and proudly an avant-gardist, gaining his profile as the pianist in David S. Ware's pathbreaking 1990s quartet, his playing encompasses the history of jazz piano. Hidden in his labyrinthine performances are tendrils of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, and other innovators of the eighty-eights. Even if you don't hunt for those styles, though, Shipp's powerful attack is mesmerizing. His most recent trio album, Art of the Improviser (Thirsty Ear), is one of the best albums of 2011, and sure to be one of the best concerts of the year as well. Matthew Shipp performs with Michael Bisio (bass) and Whit Dickey (drums) at 7 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $15.
Monday, November 7
Am I really being fair in identifying Bela Fleck and the Flecktones as jazz? Why, no, I'm not. I admit it. The thing is, though, that it's not fair to identify the quartet as belonging to any one category, and jazz is as fair a lumping-in as bluegrass, funk, or jam-band, all of which banjoist Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, pianist/harmonicist Howard Levy, and drummer Roy "Future Man" Wooten deal in together and individually. But talk about fusion! If the goal of that ideology was to meld styles together into an insoluble whole that's also a new and unique style of its own, you'd be hard pressed to come up with someone who's had more success at it. Who else can lay a classical piano etude over bluegrassy banjo rhythms, funky bass accompaniment, and Spanish percussive colorings (as they do on "Sweet Pomegranates," the highlight of their new album Rocket Science? If that ain't jazz, maybe it should be. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane in Bethesda. $28-68.
Wednesday, November 9
A MacArthur Genius Grant winner, Miguel Zenon filters jazz through all aspects of the music of his native Puerto Rico: folk songs ("plena"), art songs, pop songs, and good old-fashioned dance music. His music, executed on his peppery, slithery alto saxophone, is beautifully designed and played, and gives off a surprisingly raw energy that can take even Zenon by surprise. Credit for that should go as well to the stunning quartet he leads: pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, and drummer Henry Cole, each one of the strongest and most in-demand instrumentalists in New York. With Zenon, however, they're something else again, and some of the hottest new jazz around. They perform at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $40.