Jazz Setlist, May 2-8: Nonstop Improv, Indeed
Thursday, May 2
If you're speaking to alto saxophonists under the age of, say, 40, and you ask them about their influences, it's a given that you'll add, "Aside from Kenny Garrett, of course." This is not an exaggeration. His supple, sensuous tone, preternatural rhythmic sense, and snaky short-note phrasings have all become the lingua franca of jazz alto saxophone, and it all comes directly from Garrett. He's also one of the most intriguing composers and conceptualists of his era, no doubt helped by his pedigree with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, and Miles Davis. Garrett is one of the pillars, one of the most fascinating and creative musicians out there. Go see him, now. Garrett performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. May 2-5 at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $30.
Friday, May 3
Think it'd be easier to list the kinds of music that drummer Allison Miller hasn't played? Yeah, well, Setlist is having a hard time finding any of those. She is as prolific, diverse, and equipped with as broad a skill set as any drummer working. She also leads her own BOOM TIC BOOM ensemble, in which she combines the freedom of the avant-garde with the motion of swing and the hard edge of funk and rock. It well serves the band members, which include bassist Todd Sickafoose, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, and pianist Myra Melford in some compelling but surprisingly grooving and melodious music: cutting-edge jazz that's immediately pleasurable. Miller, by the way, is a D.C.-area native (from Olney), which can only make her more awesome. BOOM TIC BOOM performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda. $25.
Sunday, May 5
Stop me if you've heard this one before. Actually, that was a trick: Unless you've been to New York's Undead Music Festival, you likely haven't heard this before. D.C., at least since its 21st-century jazz renaissance, has never hosted a Round Robin improvisation along those lines (here presented by CapitalBop, Search & Restore, and Sonic Circuits, in conjunction with the Undead Fest). What we're talking about with Nonstop Improv is a group of great musicians—horns (Aaron Martin, Brad Linde, Brian Settles, Sarah Hughes, Reginald Cyntje); strings (Anthony Pirog, Luke Stewart, Matt Dievendorf, Gary Rouzer, Janel Leppin); keys (Amy K. Bormet, Dave Vosh); and other (Layne Garrett, Thomas Stanley). One person improvises, solo, for three minutes; a second comes in and joins them for another three minutes, then the first person leaves and the second takes a three-minute solo until a third person joins; on and on until they've all had a turn. How cool is that? 4 p.m. at Union Arts & Manufacturing, 411 New York Avenue NE. $10.
Sunday, May 5
Afternoon improv yields to evening improv.
The new Chants is the first time in the studio for pianist Craig Taborn's piano trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver, though they've been together since 2005. One listen and you'll wonder what the hell took them so long. Taborn has always had toes in several pools, including the avant-garde and intensive rhythmics a la M-BASE, and incorporated all of them into his immediately distinctive piano. But he's never had such a sensitive trio with him before. The piano, for all its pyrotechnics, acts as something of a dark shroud for the astonishing, often vicious interplay between Morgan and Cleaver, even as they supplement Taborn's every move. More to the point, though, the trio actively cultivates a powerful sense of mystery in its use of space and surrealist harmony. It's some of the best music being made at the moment, anywhere. The Craig Taborn Trio performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15-20.
Photo: Matt Brown