Jazz Setlist, March 8-14: It’s All Happening at the Dunes
Thursday, March 8
If there is one thing we can safely say about developments in D.C. jazz, it's that the avant-garde is on the upswing here. Transparent Productions is running full blast with its monthly series at Bohemian Caverns; and the new season of jazz at the Kennedy Center includes saxophonist Anthony Braxton, a marriage of jazz institutions that was previously unthinkable. And then there's amazing performances like the one happening tonight in Columbia Heights—a veritable diorama of experimental jazz. It opens with homegrown avant-gardists DC Improviser's Collective, guitarist Jonathan Matis, saxophonist Mike Sebastian, and drummer Ben Azzara. Then comes the main event: a quartet led the great Swiss trombonist and composer Denis Beuret, who's also an aggressive experimenter with electronics. Accompanying him are Philadelphia saxophonist and flutist Elliott Levin and two free drummers of major stature: Chicago's Weasel Walter and New York's Marc Edwards. Players from around the country, Europe, and our own backyard...talk about a summit. They perform at 8 p.m. at The Dunes, 1402 Meridian Place NW. $10.
Saturday, March 10
Kenneth Whalum III, however, is not free jazz. Or avant-garde. What he is, however, is an up-and-coming saxophonist on the New York scene. He's an acoustic player, but with a modern R&B edge that marks him as part of what this year might best be called—and I am now naming—jazz's "Radio Generation" (as suggested by two banner new albums, Robert Glasper's Black Radio and Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society). Indeed, Whalum and Glasper have worked together before; Whalum, for that matter, is also the saxophonist with Maxwell, which gives him R&B bona fides. But that's just a fraction of what Whalum can do, as can be heard on his monster 2011 album To Those Who Believe. He's not a big-name commodity now, but just you wait. Actually, don't wait—at least any longer than Saturday night, when he performs with his band at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20.
Sunday, March 11
Yes, it's absolutely true: CapitalBop's Jazz Lofts make Setlist almost every month. But hey, it's only because they keep coming up with high-quality showcases that can't be ignored. Take, for example, the March edition. It's an action-packed, multicolored spree of jazz, mesmerizingly in and sublimely out, old guard and young lions. Joseph Bowie, the great avant-garde trombonist and stalwart of the St. Louis creative music scene, is the evening's most special guest, doing a duet performance with DC drumming great Nasar Abadey. But there's more, of course: Jessica Boykin-Settles, one of the city's great vocal talents and educators, fronts a quartet of her own, and thrillingly original bassist Eliot Seppa leads a trio through his own compositions and some interpretations of the standards. And, of course, the open jazz jam that ends the night. How can we not spotlight that? It starts at 7 p.m. at the Dunes. $10 (suggested donation).
Tuesday, March 13
Being that it's still March, it's therefore still Guitar Month at Blues Alley. And one of the featured players in that monthlong program is one of the cleanest, most virtuosic guitar sounds you've ever heard: the one that comes from Jimmy Bruno's instrument. Bruno is a professional in the best, most distinguished sense of the term—he spent many years working as a session musician in Los Angeles, and actually spent time leading the band for Frank Sinatra. (Those are credentials you can take to the bank.) He's also an accomplished music educator, and a highly visible one: Bruno runs an online jazz guitar school of his own. But for your purposes, he's simply got a crystal-clear, bright, sweet tone and an endless range of technique. He's an eminence, and a valuable experience in concert. Bruno plays at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.