Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, August 9-15: Balkanized

Eastern Blok

Thursday, Aug. 9
Creating jazz improvisations from the music of the Balkans and other Eastern European countries is a fairly new development in the music, at least on this side of the pond. Really, it started in the early '90s with Dave Douglas and his Tiny Bell Trio. But it's evolved from there into an easy-access medium for the exploration of possibilities in jazz. For proof, take the Chicago-based quartet Eastern Blok. Spearheaded by acoustic guitarist Goran Ivanovic, a virtuoso of classical guitar and diligent scholar of Balkan and Mediterranean music (he's a native of Serbia), the band incorporates all of these stylistic roots—which include Europe and the Middle East. That's a world-music stew in and of itself, but in come his jazz-schooled bandmates Doug Rosenberg (reeds), Matt Ulery (bass), and Michael Caskey (drums and percussion). It's beautiful, exotic, exploratory music presented with a warm, welcoming vibe. Eastern Blok performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW.

Friday, Aug. 10
Jeff CoffinThis writer has precious little to say in praise of The Dave Matthews Band—in my younger days I once stood guard at a bar's jukebox to keep his music from being played. But the DMB has an insanely great saxophonist by the name of Jeff Coffin. Better still, Coffin is a bandleader in his own right, fronting an omnivorous jazz ensemble called The Mu'Tet. In one track, you might hear them move through slinky funk-rock, gregarious swing, New Orleans-inspired brass band fervor, punkish attitude, electronic experimentation, and sleazy lounge music—and sometime in the evening, you will see and hear Coffin break out two saxophones and play them simultaneously. A big part of the band's ability lies in its bassist, too: Felix Pastorious, son of the legendary Jaco, is a brash but slippery stylistic chameleon whose chemistry with the leader is nothing short of joyful. The Jeff Coffin Mu'Tet performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue. $25.

Sunday, Aug. 12
Jazz LoftYou'll have already read about the goings-on that brought CapitalBop's wonderful Jazz Loft series to Eckington art space Hole in the Sky. But let's talk about the artists that are performing at the concert. I first heard the headliner, 21-year-old Braxton Cook, one night at an HR-57 jam session when Cook was still in high school. I was chatting with the manager at the back of the venue when a flashing, shouting alto saxophone sound cut between us like a sheet of glass. "Who's that?" I asked in surprise. "That's Braxton," said the manager, using a name that was already well known around town. "He's something, huh?" Indeed he was—a mainstream player with stunning command of his instrument and confidence to match. He returns to school at Juilliard later this month, but does perhaps a victory lap at Hole in the Sky with his quartet. Also appearing is 33 1/3, a free-jazz trio led by trombonist Gary Gill that hearkens back to the 1960s golden age of the avant-garde, and bassist Steve Synk, a regular on Adams Morgan's jazz front who appears here with his 21st-century-informed group pH Balance. 7 p.m. at Hole in the Sky, 2110 5th St. NE. $10 suggested donation.

Tuesday, Aug. 14
Donvonte McCoyAnother month, another superb artist-in-residence at Bohemian Caverns. July's virtuoso performances by the great bassist Tarus Mateen are a tough act to follow—but if anyone can do it, it's trumpeter Donvonte McCoy. Remarkable for his dark, thoughtful tone and for the gymnastics with which he wields it, McCoy is on the shortlist of the D.C. area's finest trumpet players. And, like Mateen, he's a musician who refuses to be hemmed in by the notion of "genre." Classic soul, R&B, searing funk, rock, and hip-hop all make their ways into the heart of McCoy's music, but it's not some sort of compensating on the trumpeter's part; he can swing as hard as anyone, anywhere. You can hear him on Mondays with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, but there's no substitute for a band with him at its helm. Donvonte McCoy performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $10.

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