Jazz Setlist, July 26-August 1: Countdown to the Doldrums
Yes, folks, August will soon be upon us, and it's traditionally the slowest month for jazz in D.C. (Hell, it's the slowest month for D.C., period.) But July, in its final week, seems determined to give us the goods.
Thursday, July 26
I've already heard this four-night trio gig at Blues Alley credited to drummer Jimmy Cobb; just as frequently, though, it's been mentioned as guitarist Larry Coryell's gig. If you thought organist Joey DeFrancesco was topping the bill, you would be equally correct. Any one of these greats could pull off the leadership role, but it's really a meeting of equal greats, who are combining to pay tribute to another grouping of equal greats. The trio salutes the music of Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, two of the most soulful cats of their era, by working through their individual and collective aesthetics. A soul summit, if you will. Cobb, Coryell, and DeFrancesco perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $35.
Saturday, July 28
Notwithstanding the real elder statesmen, like Buck Hill, Butch Warren, and a few others, the "old guard" of D.C. jazz is the group of musicians that began making their careers here in those oh-so-distant days of the 1990s. You've seen many of them, no doubt many times—Thad Wilson, Reginald Cyntje, Antonio Parker, Keith Killgo, etc. These days they tend to frequent the stage at another '90s staple, HR-57. Among those establishment players is bassist Cheyney Thomas, whose rock-ribbed work is all but a living textbook for the kind of foundation the bass is supposed to provide. Of course, Thomas also likes to provide countermelodies, which is above and beyond the foundation he's supposed to provide, but who's complaining? Especially when they've got the hearty, terrifically deep sound that he puts into them. Thomas is often a utility player in D.C., but recently he's been tearing up the H Street NE stage as the leader of his own straightahead ensemble. That's the Cheyney Thomas Quartet, which performs at 9 p.m. at HR-57, 1007 H St. NE. $12.
Sunday, July 29
Saxophonist Bobby Muncy has been in residency at Twins throughout July, and every week he seems to bring in a different ensemble. For this last outing of the month he's with his free quartet, Kung Fu Bastard, for its second gig ever. In fairness, KFB is really as much a project of guitarist Anthony Pirog, and it's unquestionably a unique ensemble. The combination of tenor saxophone (and sometimes soprano sax and bass clarinet), electric guitar with effects, six-string electric bass, and traps creates a flexible, ever-changing sound that drapes itself over the sharpest and strangest of abstractions (Muncy and Pirog's original, and difficult, compositions). "Kung Fu Bastard is an equation in which there is no constant," I wrote of their debut performance back in May. It's an incredibly exciting project with boundless potential, and having seen one performance, the prospect of another is mouth-watering. Kung Fu Bastard performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Tuesday, July 31
Another great local musician is ending his residency this week. Tarus Mateen, the extraordinary bassist who's been July's artist-in-residence at Bohemian Caverns, has made some brilliant music during that tenure. Like most bassists, in the area and in the world at large, Mateen gets relegated in the minds of most observers to the back line, the guy who holds down the rhythm and the chords and whose job is mostly to go unnoticed. See Mateen in a leadership position, and you'll never be able to see him that way again. He's a conceptualist all his own, a rhythmic general who also creates a magnificent shroud of melody to ornament his grooves, and a man who hears no distinctions between musical styles. At the same time, though, Mateen will give you a renewed appreciation for his instrument's supporting role in jazz. Is that a contradiction? Certainly. But you'll never hear a contradiction that's more majestic. Tarus Mateen performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $10.
Photo: Bruno Bollaert