Jazz Setlist, June 19-23: Pre-DC Jazz Festival Weekend
This edition of Setlist stops before next Tuesday, when the DC Jazz Festival begins. Arts Desk will provide extensive coverage of the festival—the build-up weekend, though, is also a particularly good time to get out and see some jazz. Here are three good examples.
Friday, June 20
Festival aside, Friday night is perhaps the D.C. jazz occasion of the year. June is African American Music Month, and local jazz greats Allyn Johnson (piano) and Nasar Abadey (drums) are marking it with the creation of a 17-piece ensemble called the Washington Renaissance Orchestra. For those keeping count, that's five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, a three-piece rhythm section, and vocalist Navasha Daya. And a highly placed source (which is to say, Allyn Johnson) confirms that the program will include new work, in the form of an extended composition dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, written by Johnson and premiered in April at UDC. Even with a long original piece, though, the concert is sure to be thick with jazz roots: How else does one justify the title "In the Tradition"? The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, 1212 U Street NW. $18.
There's been a bit of a struggle around the U Street Jam Session, now located down the street from the Lincoln at the Bohemian Caverns. So, for clarity's sake, doors for the jam open at 11:30 p.m., even if the earlier performer is still working. With the DC Jazz Festival forthcoming, it's a great time to get the jam on your radar; next week, surely, it will be a gathering spot for the musicians who've come to the city. This week, though, it will more than likely be a post-concert hang for the musicians coming off the "In the Tradition" performance at the Lincoln. If this is so, they'll join the core trio of pianist Todd Simon, bassist Romeir Mendez, and drummer Billy Williams Jr. for some fun. The jam starts at 11:30 at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. Free.
Saturday, June 21
Any great musician resists simple descriptions, but Houston Person might be the most resistant. He's got a deep, low sound, simultaneously huge in its resonance and pinpoint-tiny—like the size of a handheld knife—in its attack. He plays a ballad like he was born to do it, assailing it with a unique combination of gusto and intimacy so that it sounds tender, heartfelt, and completely confident. There's an easy swing to it, too, leading one to expect a monstrous swing when it comes to the uptempo numbers. But from Person, you're likely as not going to get a more rigid, aggressive groove. He plays soul-jazz, and he plays it seriously, with all the sharp edges of phrasing and rhythm that come with that sound. Sounds good, doesn't it? And it's actually even better than it sounds. Houston Person performs at 8:30 and 10:30 at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $22.