Jazz Setlist, April 18-24: Pepper Adams, Mark Whitfield, Esperanza Spalding, and Andrew White
Thursday, April 18
The Smithsonian's "Take 5!" series that's been unfolding this season has been a fascinating experiment: the works of jazz's more gifted, prolific, and often overlooked composers, played by local D.C. musicians specializing on those composers' instruments. One of the writers in question is Pepper Adams, best known as the fastest, howlingest baritone saxophonist anyone's ever heard. Adams did his highest-profile work with more prominent composers, like Charles Mingus and Thad Jones; hence his own writing tended to get lost in the shuffle. But it's been undergoing a bit of a rediscovery and reappraisal lately, making this a prime opportunity for D.C.'s best bari players to explore it. That, of course, means Brad Linde and Leigh Pilzer, joined in the pursuit by Brooklyn-based Adams acolyte Frank Basile as third baritone, and an ace local rhythm section (pianist Hod O'Brien, bassist Tom Baldwin, drummer Tony Martucci). 5 p.m. at the American Art Museum's Kogod Courtyard, 8th and F streets NW. Free.
Saturday, April 20
Like most jazz, what you hear in Mark Whitfield's recordings doesn't give you the big picture of what you see in his performance. He leans forward, and pulls the guitar away from his torso as he plays it—a sense of the cartoonish machoisms that Chuck Berry brought the instrument, and '70s arena-rockers made de rigeur. It's an odd mismatch with Whitfield's clear, confident tone and (generally) traditional repertoire, but a perfect fit for the wildly deft double-timing that marks a great Whitfield performance. He's got beauty and fireworks, indeed, and in the early '90s it helped mark him as the "It" young guitarist. He's never stopped. This Friday and Saturday finds him in a special trio performance with D.C. area bassist Kris Funn and drummer John Lamkin, two who can match Whitfield for both beauty and fireworks. 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $27.
Photo: Bill Morgan
Monday, April 22
At this point, does Esperanza Spalding need any introduction? There's no "voice" of a generation in jazz, per se, but Spalding is surely the face of hers. The Grammy-winning bassist and vocalist is the person most of America thinks of immediately in any mention of young jazz musicians, a woman with a grounding in the tradition who also has a jones to break out of its confines. She's examined a number of aspects in it in her short career (she's 28), the most recent being Radio Music Society: one entry in a growing repertoire of music that uses soul, hip-hop, R&B, and some pop in seeking to return jazz to the forefront of cultural conversation. And she (and her compatriots) is onto something, which means her star will only continue to rise. Esperanza Spalding performs at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th Street NW. $39-$49.
Photo: Harry Wad
Tuesday, April 23
April 23 will officially be proclaimed Andrew White Day in the District of Columbia. That, of course, is in honor of the legendary scholar and musician Andrew White, D.C. native and resident. White is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist: he spent two years as principal oboe in the American Ballet Theatre; was electric bassist for Stevie Wonder and Weather Report; and had a good dozen high-profile saxophone gigs. He's also a scholar of John Coltrane, and has published hundreds of transcriptions of Trane's solos. On Tuesday, he'll be releasing 138 more, as part of a master class on Trane at Blues Alley—part of the club's annual Big Band JAM. That night he will be performing with another saxophone great, Ernie Watts, at the Georgetown jazz institution. White and Watts perform at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $30.