Jazz Setlist, December 1-7: Friday Night Double Feature
This, folks, is one of those rare weeks where I'm recommending two shows on the same night. Make it out to both.
Friday, December 2
The Grammy nominations were announced last night, and one of the few standouts on a terrifically vanilla list of jazz nominees (which mostly consists of a handful of old-guard darlings nominated several times) is pianist Gerald Clayton. Granted, Clayton is a legacy nominee—his father, John, is an accomplished bassist and highly respected educator. But he's earned it nonetheless: The 27-year-old is one of the hottest young piano players in the business, with an outwardly gentle tone that cloaks a sharp, percussive tack and astonishing harmonic sensibility. At the same time, one of the Grammies' most glaring omissions this year was in the Jazz Vocal Album category. There was no excuse for not nominating Gretchen Parlato, the soft-voiced, entirely original singer whose 2011 album The Lost and Found also tracked her emergence as a formidable composer. Fortunately, the Library of Congress is presenting a dual showcase for the should-be-winner and the should-have-been-nominee this evening. Parlato and Clayton's trio perform together at 8:00 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Free (with tickets; online tickets are sold out but about 70 walk-up tickets remain).
There aren't a whole lot of bands in the area with violinists as sidemen, let alone leaders. That's one of many reasons to catch a performance by Matvei Sigalov, fast gaining prominence on the D.C. scene. The native of Samara, Russia is a classically trained violinist from childhood who, in addition to jazz, has also mastered R&B, gospel, pop, soul, and Brazilian samba, plus rock guitar. He's also got a deep interest in fusion, symptoms of which include playing his violin solos through a wah-wah pedal with Wurlitzer electric piano and drums thumping behind him. At the same time he's got a sly legato that can sound for all the world like an alto saxophone. He's an original thinker, in short, and an original stylist. And he's got an absolutely killer band working with him: Harry Appleman on piano, Eric Wheeler on bass, and Nate Jolley on drums. Who's to ignore such a lineup? Sigalov performs sets at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15.
Tuesday, December 6
Dan Blake is on to something. The saxophonist has worked with such masters of the straightahead as Herbie Hancock and Danilo Perez, as well as with the architect of abstraction, Anthony Braxton. It can be hard to imagine how to reconcile those extremes—and yet, in his own music, Blake has managed to pull it off. His Aquarian Suite can be described as sounding like a warped Horace Silver hard-bop record, with the inflection and accents of gutbucket blues but harmony and phrasing on a skewed trajectory to the moon. You might also compare him to Ornette Coleman, since he uses a "chordless" (i.e., pianoless) quartet, and Coleman's song title "Blues Connotation" is a pretty apt term for Blake's musical personality. But Blake has common ground with both of those players: deep, rich irrepressible melody. The Dan Blake Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Wednesday, December 7
They called the jazz evolutions of the 1960s "The New Thing." It's become retroactively synonymous with the furthest-out sounds of the free and avant-garde, but it really covered a wider swath: Modalism, bitonality, Eastern sounds, the clattering cross-rhythms of the Miles Davis Quintet... anything that challenged the strictures of bebop's swing and chord patterns. And the man who deciphered that language for the trombone—an instrument that was often too unwieldy for postwar jazz—was Grachan Moncur III. Moncur's got credentials in the full-on free-jazz landscape, but even his most out stuff had a surprising undercurrent of pure, delicious melody. That sensibility also made him a splendid composer, one who never got anything near his due. But the Atlas Performing Arts Center's curator for jazz, Brad Linde, knows just what Moncur is capable of, and will be providing the trombonist with an 8-piece version of the Brad Linde ensemble as his accompaniment for Moncur's playing and compositions. They perform at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $35.
Photo: Todd Boebel