Arts Desk

Picks for the DC Jazz Festival’s Opening Weekend

Randy Weston/Akua Allrich

The goods at this year's DC Jazz Festival are fairly evenly distributed, so you won't have to fret the usual backload. (Well, there's still MegaFest, but we'll get to that later.) There's nothing slow about opening weekend, which offers a wealth of great music.

FRIDAY
It's a new take on an old idea: The two-week incarnations of DCJF had a rough structure of local jazz in the first week, national artists the second. This year, performances at The Hamilton pack in a double feature every night. For tonight's concert, the festival couldn't have chosen better. Opening is one of our great local singers, Akua Allrich. She possesses a rich alto voice that she works through strong, hornlike cadences; she's jazz at the core, but augments her singing with a generous helping of neo-soul. Then comes the sui generis master who gives "Afro-jazz" a meaning all its own. Randy Weston, the pianist, bandleader, and composer, transforms his concerts from a mere musical performance to a tour through the realms of the Mother Land, with the dense rhythms and tradition-derived melodies that come with it. If you find yourself imagining a flight over African landscapes as he and the band play, that's exactly how it should be. Allrich and Weston perform beginning at 8:30 p.m. at the Hamilton, 14th and F St. NW. $27.50-$38.

SATURDAY
There's an awfully confrontational charge to the name Tarbaby, no? Well, the all-star trio that consists of pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Nasheet Waits doesn't necessarily want to throw racial tension in its audience's face. They use the name in its sense from the "Uncle Remus" folk tales, as a trap in which one doesn't want to get stuck—which is how they feel about exploring any one musical place. They have a profound ability to start with an intoxicating melody, then unfurl it into abstract experiment. Even the melodies themselves run the gamut. Swing, bebop, funk, free, hip-hop—it's all worthy, and it's all up for grabs. All that said, Tarbaby doesn't flinch from tackling racial and political issues in its work—the tune called "Jena 6" should make that clear. But if you're ready to grapple, you're welcome into the music. Tarbaby performs with Kris Funn and Corner Store at 9 p.m. at The Fridge, 516 1/2 8th Street SE. $10.

SUNDAY
Mark TurnerFifty years of commanding figures like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Michael Brecker, and Joshua Redman have brought an emphasis to the tenor saxophone as a power instrument. Mark Turner doesn't lack for power; his playing has elements of Coltrane just as every saxophonist's since Trane does. But Turner reinjects some of the cool, reined-in intellect of the Lester Young/Warne Marsh school of saxophone, and it's earned him a following. In fact, he's very possibly the most influential saxophone player of the last 20 years. And like a lot of players who earn praise like that, he is very much a musician's musician—doing fine, working steadily (mostly as a sideman) but without really reaping the benefits of his accolades commercially. That doesn't need to be the case, however, and this is the opportunity you've been needing to go and see for yourself what the critical fuss is about. The Mark Turner Quartet performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $25.

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