Jazz Setlist, May 24-29: Lena Seikaly, Mike Reed, and The Young Black Mechanics
Friday, May 24
She's not Janine Gilbert-Carter or Sharón Clark—D.C. long-timers with serious credentials—but Lena Seikaly is nonetheless probably the city's most visible jazz singer. She's a young artist, with a smooth, deep, oaky voice, and phrasing and control that belie her youth. She's also renowned on the scene for her beautiful and progressive approach to composition. That said, her current project is not original music. Looking Back, the CD whose release she celebrates this weekend, is an exploration of the still strong, but nevertheless overlooked, songs of the 1920s and '30s. Yet she renders them with all the warmth and intelligence with which she renders everything. Seikaly is frankly incapable of anything less. Lena Seikaly performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.
Sunday, May 26
Mike Reed just insists on swinging. The Chicago-based drummer, composer, and experimentalist (he's a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, or AACM) thereby confounds the usual criticism of the avant-garde as being counter to jazz tradition. Those lines often seem drawn, though, to except people like Ornette Coleman, whom nobody could accuse of not swinging or not playing the blues. So it is with Reed, who's got a very strong tie with Coleman: He loves melody, wears the blues on his sleeve, and as a drummer he often sounds a great deal like Ed Blackwell did in the Coleman quartet. But Reed's got tricks of his own, too, making novel use of textures and instrumentation in his People, Places, and Things ensemble. It makes him an intriguing joy to listen to. Mike Reed’s People Places & Things performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15 advance, $20 door.
Wednesday, May 29
The name of the band, The Young Black Mechanics, is all by itself enough to pique the interest. Throw in the presence of bassist Luke Stewart, drummer Warren Trae Crudup III, and multi-string player Michelle Webb, three of the area's most enterprising musicians, and it's a can't-miss. For a trio, the affair is astonishingly eclectic (thanks in large part to Webb, who plays guitar, oud, mandolin, banjo, and lap steel). Still, you can't quite say that they erase or demolish distinctions between genres; that would require acknowledging those distinctions in the first place. No, what the Young Black Mechanics do is conjure up a heady brew of sounds, drawn from a variety of traditions (rock, jazz, and P-funk are just the tup of the iceberg) but sounding fantastic together. This is a new ensemble with a lot of promise; let's help keep them in business. The Young Black Mechanics perform at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.