Jazz Setlist, January 5-11: Requiem for a Record Store
Honestly, folks, the best thing jazz fans can do this week is help the good people at Melody Records unload their inventory so they can walk away from their venerable store with something to show for it. Even when the city was flush with record retailers, Melody was far and away the best for jazz, and even now they've got a formidable stockpile on offer. Go in, spend your money, and give the owners and employees a little something to live on after the store closes.
As for the concerts:
Thursday, Jan. 5
Age is one of 82-year-old Mose Allison’s lyrical preoccupations...and one of his distinctions. The singer/pianist was born in Mississippi at a time when jazz and blues were more or less interchangeable—and in his music, they still are, along with R&B and even postwar pop crooning. Though Allison says his genre-blurring has made it difficult to maintain a steady audience, those who’ve remained loyal include Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, The Who, and The Pixies. It's a long string of generations that's been listening to Mose—but that says everything about his consistency and nothing about his energy. Allison’s got a furiously rhythmic, blindingly piano technique, and his voice, wise but youthful, has the knowing wink of a southern man who still knows how to get down. He makes the advancing years seem all but irrelevant. Allison performs with his trio at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Saturday, Jan. 7
Setlist hearts Elijah Balbed. Did you notice? We get excited about his work as a leader, as a sideman, and as the vanguard of the youngest generation of DC jazz saxophonists, and we're not shy about saying so. We are thrilled to hear the new album he's promised for 2012 (more on that story as it develops), and just as thrilled about his new band, a quintet. It's a—relatively straightahead assemblage that features Samir Moulay on guitar, Andrew Adair on piano, Gavin Fallow on bass, and Lee Pearson II on drums. That "relatively" is an important qualifier, though: Balbed often leads the group through a set of standards, but they don't let it restrain them from taking the music in strange and adventurous new directions. The Elijah Balbed Quintet performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15.
Sunday, January 8
It may seem strange to recommend Eric Johnson, a guitarist who flaunts his debt to Jimi Hendrix and his blues-guitar-pioneer predecessors loudly and proudly, in this column. In fact, it's not too far-fetched at all. Johnson's breakthrough came when he was the guitarist for Austin area fusion band The Electromagnets—and in fact, his artistic development stems less from Hendrix than from John McLaughlin, the man who adapted Hendrix's innovations for the Fusion Era. You can hear it in his clear, tasteful, deceptively complex lines, even when he's singing blues-rock songs: This man is a craftsman, a technician, a guitarist's guitarist made for the delicacy and details of jazz, and it shows. Eric Johnson performs at 7:30 p.m. at The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria. $35.
Wednesday, January 11
Rodney Richardson is one of the area's premiere jazz guitarists. He has regular gigs in the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra with the Funk Ark, last year co-conducted a sharp experiment with trumpeter Joe Herrera via the "Sunday Jazz Lounge," and is a favorite sideman around the city. But his own major project, the Rodney Richardson Organ Trio, has been on the sidelines recently. That changes in 2012, with the organ trio roaring back into Twins Jazz to take its rightful place as the cream of D.C.'s soul-jazz crop. Richardson is accompanied by Will Rast, easily the organ king of Washington, and Larry Ferguson, the hard-driving drummer who proves that you can lay out soul on the trap kit. And admit it, you've been longing for that gritty, churchy, irresistably groovy sound of the organ trio to hit your ears again. The Rodney Richardson Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Photo: Allie Carroll.