Jazz Setlist, May 30-June 4: Festival Eve
I'm treating this week like a six-day week. Why? Well, the D.C. Jazz Festival begins next Wednesday, June 5, and it's on that day that I'll begin covering the festival in full. So consider this installment of Setlist a transition to DCJF.
Thursday, May 30
We don't get enough Joe Brotherton around these parts lately. The Tampa native has a bright, piercing sound and rhythmically acrobatic attack on trumpet—you'll never be confused about where the accented beats are. In a word, his is the sound of the proverbial "clarion call." He's worked quite a few area gigs as a sideman, but it's been a minute since Brotherton was out in front of a band at a D.C. jazz venue. His Cricket Fusion ensemble popped up at a happy hour last week, but the real goods are to be found in the Joe Brotherton Quintet hitting tonight. Accomplices in this scheme include tenor saxophonist Elijah Balbed, bassist Eliot Seppa, pianist Samuel Mungia, and drummer Ele Rubenstein. Welcome them back to the fray. The Joe Brotherton Quintet performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $12.
Friday, May 31
It seems that D.C. jazz is starting to have a real influence across the country. Just last month, Seattle debuted its own Women in Jazz Festival—inspired to do so when its founder read about Amy Bormet's Washington Women in Jazz Festival. This, in turn, inspired Bormet to call one of that festival's headliners, the experimental duo Syrinx Effect (trombonist Naomi Siegel, soprano saxophonist Kate Olson) for a musical laboratory exercise in our fair city. The Syrinx Effect, which describes itself as "contemporary, improvised chamber music with electronics," will be convening with stars of the WWJF, pianist Bormet and alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes. It's a unique interface on its face, and in performance promises to be even more unique, a tale of two Washingtons finding common ground out on the experimental edge of the music. 8 p.m. at Union Arts, 411 New York Ave. NE. $10.
Saturday, June 1
You wouldn’t think there’d be a “typical” way of playing the harp, of all things, in jazz music. But most of the half-dozen or so jazz harpists who’ve tackled the tradition work mainly in short, jabby chords, with clipped melodic phrases over top—as close to guitar technique as possible. These rules are important to know because Brandee Younger does not follow them. A classical harpist until college, Younger prefers the luxuriant glisses and lingering tones that are more common for the orchestral harp. That’s especially remarkable considering how much of her career has been spent freelancing as a studio harpist for hip-hop records (her credits include Common and Drake), where the rhythmic approach would be an even more obvious choice. Younger, then, is that much bolder; she not only plays an instrument with few jazz predecessors, she’s also determined to distinguish herself from them. Brandee Younger performs May 31 and June 1 at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18.
Sunday, June 2
Just about any instrument you'll find has some sort of lineage within jazz, no matter how obscure or specialized. Consider the seven-string guitar, whose existence simply never even occurs to any of us. But jazz plectrists ranging from George Van Eps, Howard Alden, Jimmy Bruno, and Lenny Breau have carved out a place for the seven-string. But the most famous users are the great father and son: Bucky, the elder, and the scion, John Pizzarelli. That seven-string tradition is steeped in the Swing Era, and Pizzarelli isn't an exception: He plays a garrulous swing style that's still got both feet in the pre-World War II approach to jazz, with a clipped, delicate approach to forming his lines. But that's not a bad thing. Indeed, it's by and large a wonderful thing, and Pizzarelli accentuates it with a warm, charming croon. (The warmth and charm also shines through in the stories and banter he delivers between songs.) Seeing him is always more than a pleasure. John Pizzarelli performs Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $40.