Jazz Setlist, November 21-27: Save the Caves!
Thursday, Nov. 21
As I've noted, the older (pre-bebop) styles of jazz have a very small toehold in D.C. and even more diminutive press coverage. The former, those of us who write about jazz can't do much with; the latter, we can and should. Especially when the practitioners of those styles have the sheer vitality of Yamomanem. Their leader, sousaphonist Monty Montgomery, is a New Orleans native who grew up immersed in the culture of the street music in that town. He plays the music of the New Orleans diasporic (African American, Latin, Caribbean) traditions in their prime—the 1920s through the '50s—but hits the rhythms even harder, because the band doesn't disregard the rock and funk developments that have arisen since that prime. It's got emotional weight, but it's also party music, and it's fun... like music is supposed to be. Yamomanem performs at 9 p.m. at Haydee's, 3102 Mount Pleasant St. NW. Free.
Friday, Nov. 22
If you live in or D.C. and are passionate about jazz, you know full well what a boon to the community Bohemian Caverns has been over the past few years. U Street has a world-class jazz venue, one with heaps of history to its name (it opened in 1926, has hosted virtually every major artist in jazz's lineage, and even hosted a massive pop hit when Ramsey Lewis's "The In Crowd" was recorded there in 1965). More importantly, it's one whose respect for the music and musicians is exceeded only by its respect for its audience, offering them high-quality jazz in an intimate setting with no bar minimums. So its monthlong closure after a car ran through its wall has been a body blow for D.C. jazz. Those of us who love jazz and the Caverns now have a chance to do something to show it. A group of area musicians has organized a benefit performance to help the club and its beloved owner/booker, Omrao Brown, regain some of the expenses it's incurred during this fiasco. Calling itself the Bohemian Love Collective, the group includes pianists Allyn Johnson, Federico Peña, and Janelle Gill; saxophonists Lyle Link, Tedd Baker, Marshall Keys, and Brad Linde; bassists Michael Bowie and Kris Funn; and drummers Quincy Phillips and Corey Fonville on drums. All of them, and likely any number of other local musicians, will be performing: "It's not going to be a free for all jam-session," says Peña, one of the organizers, "but also a bit less structured than a performance by a single entity." Make it a point to hit this one. The benefit takes place Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. Cover (with all proceeds benefiting the club) TBD.
Sunday, Nov. 24
There are two versions of Boston's goofily named Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica. There's the actual orchestra-sized one, a sprawling 22 pieces that celebrate and spoof the music of "exotica" (read: faux tropical) musicians like Esquivel. Then there's the quintet iteration, which has the same basic conception but with much less gleeful sprawl. It's less interested in sending up the genre than in sincerely exploring its possibilities. The quintet, featuring leader/vibraphonist Brian “Mr. Ho” O’Neill, flutist Geni Skendo, bassist Jason Davis, oud player Tev Stevig, and percussionist Shane Shanahan, focused on mood and musical complexity when they performed in D.C. last July. They even used classical music: baroque elements and arrangements of George Gershwin's Preludes for Piano. But there's still that element of affectionate parody, too, which means you might be in for a different kind of show this time. Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Wednesday, Nov. 27
"Musician's musicians" are having a good month at Blues Alley. The latest one on the schedule is tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, a 15-year member of the New York City jazz scene. Escoffery is a protege of the late altoist Jackie McLean (though he sounds nothing like him) and a longtime member of trumpeter Tom Harrell's quintet. Those two associations, coupled with his smooth but penetrating sax sound—albeit one that readily erupts into brawny paroxysms—put Escoffery into the top-call position among saxophonists in straightahead jazz; you may not hear his name so much, but he's well known to the guys whose names you do hear. There's good reason to suspect that Escoffery is extending his reach beyond straightahead jazz, though; his current touring quintet includes trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, whose music has taken a recent turn into plugged-in jazz, and keyboardist Rachel Z, who has long since settled into that. 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.