Arts Desk

Jazz Setlist, Jan. 31-Feb. 6: The Singers

Friday, Feb. 1
Monterey Jazz FestivalFestival season is a long way off, but there are a few events that remind us of their imminence: the Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival, a traveling iteration of Monterey Jazz, stops tonight at the Kennedy Center. That event takes place every September in Monterey, Calif., but its organizers also like to assemble groups of all-star performers from its most recent lineup and send them out on tour, an advertisement for the festival that happens to serve up extraordinary creations in its own right.  "All-star" is definitely the word for it this year: Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Lewis Nash are in the band. They are fronted, however, by a real legend: vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Her role as a performer is not limited to singing; Bridgewater is a powerful personality on the stage, commanding and sassy and hilarious. Monterey marketing notwithstanding, she's got these great musicians behind her because she deserves them. The Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour performs at 7:30 p.m. (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $38.

Friday, Feb. 1
Jessica Boykin SettlesWe'd have to say that Jessica Boykin-Settles is underexposed, especially lately. The enormously gifted vocalist has been woodshedding it lately; last spring she left her position as an adjunct vocal professor at Howard University to devote attention to honing her own craft, and she hasn't really been on the bandstand since. But few who previously heard her sing wouldn't have thought she needed any further study. Her supple contralto has the weight and feel of a sweetened alto saxophone, except that it tops the horn for flexibility. With seemingly little effort, Settles' harmonies challenge not only your ear, but her own musicians, who can sometimes find themselves in a multicolored mixture of sound that nobody in the house could ever have predicted. If that's what she sounded like before she went in to refine her stuff, imagine what she's capable of now. Jessica Boykin Settles performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U St. NW. $16.

Wednesday, Feb. 6
Akua AllrichNo matter how many times it's said, it doesn't become less true: Akua Allrich is up to her eyeballs in soul. The woman mines such a deep, rich vein of musical flavor that not only do the musicians around her fade into invisibility when she sings, most of the other singers in town do, too—even when they're just sitting at home. Much of the power is purely in her voice, a fearsome, visceral thing that fills the room as soon as it begins. But there's also her delivery: Allrich has tremendous control, beautiful articulation, the ability to wrap herself in a song and wear it like a warm coat. And of course, that unquantifiable thing, soul. It rings through her forthcoming CD, Uniquely Standard, whose release she celebrates with this concert. Akua Allrich performs at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $17.50.

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