Jazz Setlist, Nov. 28-Dec. 4: Holiday Edition
Friday, Nov. 29
My God, Odean Pope is 75. It's no small thing to remind oneself of this, that tenor saxophonist Pope has been part of the jazz community since the mid '60s. He spent almost 25 years working in bands led by iconic drummer Max Roach, but left plenty of time and space for his own innovative projects like the fusion band Catalyst and the nine-horn-strong Odean Pope Saxophone Choir, the latter making quite a splash in the 1980s. Pope has gotten around, in other words. Still, one has to keep coming back to this fact, because Pope has never lost that taste for the cutting edge. Or, for that matter, the energy of a much younger man. He'll delve into hip-hop stylings or avant-garde slashes, then back into bebop blowing sessions, with vim and vigor that leave you struggling to keep up just as an audience member. Pope is a treasure. He performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25.
Saturday, Nov. 30
One of the ablest and most expansive pianists in the area, Tim Whalen, premiered a septet back in July. That performance was part of the ongoing Wayne Shorter celebrations of 2013. But Whalen's got a lot of jazz history he wants to work through, and in particular has more elders of jazz to pay tribute to. Two of the all-time great pianists, Cedar Walton and Mulgrew Miller, left us this year. Over this weekend, Whalen will offer his arrangements of Walton's (Friday) and Miller's (Saturday) music. But of course, Whalen is also a skilled and accomplished composer in his own right, and one doesn't let opportunities like this one pass without demonstrating the possibilities of one's own work. That makes three great pianists whose music will be in the spotlight, performed by a terrific septet: Whalen, trumpeter Joe Herrera, alto saxophonist Marty Nau, tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker, trombonist Matt Niess, bassist Eliot Seppa, and drummer Dave McDonald. They perform Friday and Saturday nights, 8 and 10 p.m., at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $17.
Tuesday, Dec. 3
Twenty years ago, Takoma Station was one of the hippest jazz venues in the District. It was one of the founding institutions for what would blossom into D.C.'s second golden age of jazz. Or, as one musican told me with gusto, "This was where the cats would hang out!" Things are a little different at Takoma Station these days; the stage is mostly populated by go-go and R&B bands. On Tuesday nights, though, the jazz magic still happens, by way of a jam session led by killing guitarist Glenn Wiser. Wiser leads a house band (including keyboardist Elliott Levine, all by himself a reason to stop in), but a small and dedicated cadre of local musicians also takes the stage whenever he calls them up. Like any jam session it can be a little rough around the edges. But it's fun, and it takes place I the convivial atmosphere of what's still a swingin' tavern. The Tuesday Jazz Jam Session begins at 7 p.m. at Takoma Station, 6914 4th St. NW. Free.
Wednesday, Dec. 4
Let's not mince words: Gregory Porter is the most soulful male jazz singer to come along in...who knows how long? But he doesn't play to stereotype on that front, i.e., Porter is not a belter. If you're looking for a descriptor, he's somewhere between a crooner and a bluesman, and it's not going to get a whole lot more specific than that. He's got no shortage of emotional intensity, but it's wrapped in a package of total control and technical precision. And oh, God, is it beautiful. Porter captures the best of the Stax/Volt singers (think Otis Redding) along with the deepest and most thoughtful of the blues and jazz singers (think Jimmy Rushing), and the smoothest of the Motown vocal groups (think David Ruffin). Fates willing, we've got a long time yet to come of the man in the wraparound hat. Gregory Porter performs at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $32.50.