Jazz Setlist, March 7-13: Jazzquester
If everybody else can make a stupid fake word out of "sequester," so can I.
Friday, March 8
"Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project" premiered last September in New York and was immediately acclaimed. A long-form, multimedia performance collaboration between Vijay Iyer—the much-talked about, award-winning jazz artist of the moment—and poet Mike Ladd, it's a difficult, harrowing experience. The work's poetry draws from the accounts of soldiers of color returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its music, written by Iyer and including improvisational work from his musicians (including keyboardist Guillermo E. Brown, cellist Okkyung Lee, guitarist Liberty Ellman, and percussionist Kassa Overall), is dense and powerful. It may be a touch overwhelming, but regardless: "Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dream Project" is an intensely ambitious, successful work, and such work deserves your attention. "The Veterans' Dreams Project" begins at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $15-38. Runs to March 9.
Saturday, March 9
The name Gretchen Parlato has been repeated and praised often enough that any jazz fan who hasn't heard her can be skeptical. But once you hear her, chances are you'll be startled anyway. She's just so different. A good singer, we tend to think, seeks out the subtleties to work with in a song. Parlato seeks out the blatancies in a song and makes them subtle, seemingly effortlessly. It takes courage to maintain such gentleness, and brilliance, maybe even genius, to express intensity within that gentleness. It's the latter that makes comments about Parlato's "whispery" voice, even if often true, entirely irrelevant. She softens her delivery, but she does not soften the blow. Gretchen Parlato performs at 8 p.m. at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. $30.
Sunday, March 10
The Sunday after this one is the opening of the third annual Washington Women in Jazz Festival, the brainchild and pet project of the multitalented pianist Amy K. Bormet, and the event is quickly becoming an institution in D.C. So it's a savvy move for Bormet to offer a teaser for this year's fest by combining it with another local institution, the CapitalBop Jazz Loft. The monthly jazz diorama at Petworth's Chez Billy is presenting a special Women's History Month edition for March. On tap for this one are three extraordinary area talents who happen to have two X chromosomes: tenor saxophonist Gabrielle Murphy, baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer, and singer Integriti Reeves. Hold on to your hats, kids, it's gonna be a barn burner. The D.C. Jazz Loft takes place at 7 p.m. at Chez Billy, 3815 Georgia Ave. NW. $15 (suggested donation).
Monday, March 11
Setlist has a tendency to neglect, unfairly, certain local greats. One of those is guitarist Paul Pieper, a longtime regular in the city's jazz haunts. Pieper is one of many dexterous jazz guitar players, fluent in the language of jazz and the blues. He's unique, though, in his tone, a raw, just slightly dirty sound that stands out instantly from the clean liquid lines most often heard in jazz guitar. Blue notes, slurs, and harsh bends work their way easily into the sound. He's also got a very pretty chordal style, one mindful of the accompanist school of the instrument (think Herb Ellis, for one). They're all reasons that he should have made this column much sooner, and why all of us should have gotten out to the clubs for him. It's a good time to make up for that, though, as Pieper is participating in Blues Alley's annual March guitar celebration. He's got a wondrous quartet, too: pianist Tim Whalen, bassist Zack Pride, and drummer Shareef Taher. They perform at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $18.
Paul Pieper and Integriti Reeves photos by Timothy Forbes Photography