Jazz Setlist, October 3-9: No Shutdown in Swingtown
Not yet, anyway.
Friday, Oct. 4
You often hear jazz described as "laid back." But so many of its greatest practitioners could never be described that way. Does Coleman Hawkins sound laid back? John Coltrane? Sonny Rollins? Of course not. And neither does Tedd Baker, the lead tenor saxophonist in the U.S. Air Force's Airmen of Note. Baker has a sound that's firmly in the Rollins lineage: burly, unfurling forcefully with long, low lines that often hit even lower accents (the saxophonistic equivalent of the soul singer grunting "UHH!") He never seems to tire, either; those supercharged lines will be coming as surely and confidently at the end of a set as they were at the beginning. You don't have to take my word for this, mind you—the city is full of jazz musicians who hold him in high regard, including the marvelous ones playing with him Friday night. That would be pianist Andrew Adair, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Howard "Kingfish" Franklin. They play Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $16.
Photo: Herman Burney
Saturday, Oct. 5
Writer and columnist Stanley Crouch has said that "no single artist after [Charlie Parker] has been more important to the development of fresh form in jazz than Ahmad Jamal." It's true. Jamal's is a less totemic name—partly because he's spent his career based in Chicago, rather than all-important New York—but he reshaped not only the piano, but the small jazz ensemble. He created new ideas about timbre, group interplay, and arrangement. More than anything, though, he was the foremost in making music out of the spaces between the notes. The influence of that work is immense; if you listen to the Miles Davis 1950s Quintet, you're more or less listening to Ahmad Jamal orchestrated for five players. That's why it's long overdue to bring Jamal in to headline at the Kennedy Center, where fellow pianist and Artistic Advisor for Jazz Jason Moran will be opening for him. Ahmad Jamal performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $38.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
Whenever Roy Hargrove is back in town, it's cause to celebrate. Not only is he a trumpet badass; he's a virtuoso player with a quicksilver, pathos-tinged sound from whom soul comes as effortlessly as breathing. Not only is he a terrifically versatile bandleader, who turns to large ensemble arrangement and progressive, hip hop-imbued fusion as quickly and deftly as his lead of his quintet. Not only is he a masterful composer who wrote perhaps the best single jazz tune of the past decade, "Strasbourg/St. Denis." On top of all that, the man just oozes cool. He's an elegant dresser and a tacit speaker who just plays his butt off and pushes his band members (including local natives Ameen Saleem (bass) and Quincy Phillips) to do the same. It's jazz music at its most suave paradigm: the hip dudes who walk in, take the stage, and blow everybody away. The Roy Hargrove Quintet performs Tuesday through Sunday, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40.
Wednesday, Oct. 9
The sonic architecture of Tim Berne's pieces is just mind-boggling. The saxophonist, who's been one of the kings of the New York avant-garde since the mid-'70s leads a quartet called Snakeoil (Berne on sax, Oscar Noriega on clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano, Ches Smith on drums and percussion) whose self-titled debut CD was among the most acclaimed of last year; this one ups the ante. The music is not freeform, per se, though it contains elements of freeform improvisation; not fully melodic, though melody plays a terrifically important part. It's more like a carefully constructed sculpture garden of sound, using whatever materials within that criterion can be useful. Soft, delicate detail merges with humming drones, merges with chaotic tumbles of noise, merges with sturdy lyrical and blues figures, merges with stampeding percussive salvos. The unifying factor is their precision, the sounds being punctiliously assembled and carefully (if dexterously) wound through by its players. It's a hard concept to argue with. Tim Berne's Snakeoil performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $33.50.
Photo: Matt Brown