Jazz Setlist, June 28-July 4: The Megagroup
Saturday, June 30
There are supergroups, and then there's Spectrum Road. But it feels like an undersell to refer to this quartet as a supergroup—how about megagroup? In the context of fusion, it's just about the only term that works: guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Colour), bassist Jack Bruce (Cream), pianist-organist John Medeski (John Scofield, Medeski Martin & Wood), and drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana (Joe Henderson, Lenny Kravitz). Kids, you'd have to bring Miles Davis back to life and put him on stage to get stronger jazz-fusion credentials than this bunch. But they're not just some self-indulgent gaggle; they're a megagroup with a purpose. Spectrum Road performs the compositions of legendary jazz drummer/fusion pioneer Tony Williams, and pays tribute to his band Lifetime (of which Bruce was a sometime member, and whom Blackman-Santana cites as her greatest influence). Williams, who died 15 years ago of complications from surgery, is well worth celebrating—and so is Spectrum Road. The band performs at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T Street NW. $50.
Sunday, July 1
I wrote several weeks ago about about the movement of D.C. jazz away from its status as "a hard bop town," and in doing so I brought up tenor saxophonist Bobby Muncy. I wrote, "Muncy, who also heads a project that interprets Radiohead songs in a jazz context, applies that project’s lessons as a composer of original, often angular, post-bop tunes." I didn't mention that there were a number of outlets that Muncy uses for applying those lessons. A founding member of the D.C. Jazz Composers Collective (which initially came together as the Bobby Muncy Quartet), Muncy also recently began working in the freeform ensemble Kung Fu Bastard, and is also the leader of any number of permutations of the aforementioned Muncy Quartet. You'll get a chance to see some of these in July, when Muncy holds down a Sunday night residency at Twins. This first iteration includes some of the area's top players: pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Blake Meister, and drummer Larry Ferguson. They perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Tuesday, July 3
The seemingly endless parade of great jazz bassists in Washington makes it hard to point out particular stars in that firmament. Fortunately, someone else already has. Jason Moran, one of the most acclaimed young piano players in the international jazz scene (who now has one foot in D.C. as the Kennedy Center's artistic advisor for jazz), has for more than a decade relied for his bass foundation on the work of Washington resident Tarus Mateen. Mateen is an extraordinary talent on his axe—however, it does bear mentioning that he's not of the DC bass tradition. He grew up in Oakland, went to college in Atlanta, and did a spell in New York before settling here. That said, he adds tremendous dimensions to the local sound: tricky and unflappable funk, concussive world music, and idiosyncratic abstraction, in addition to the hard and heavy swing that so defines Washington jazz. He is an eminently good choice for Bohemian Caverns' artist in residence program, and that's where you'll find him in July. Tarus Mateen performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $10. (Photo: Wolfgang Roloff)
Note: In this week's print City Paper, I endorsed Lou Donaldson's gig at Blues Alley. That show has been canceled.