Jazz Setlist, July 24-30: U Street’s Hopping
Thursday, July 24
If you haven't heard Lyle Link on saxophone before, brace yourself. The image that his sound calls to mind is that of a scimitar: strong, elegant, full of opulent curves—and ready to run through your gut in a second. It's simply a sound like no other, and Link carries it with him across the tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones. Frankly, it's so profound that there's little to add here, except that he's leading a quartet with guitarist Geoff Reecer, bassist Eric Harper, and drummer Marty Morrison. The Lyle Link Quartet performs at 9 and 10:30 p.m. at Dukem, 1114 U Street NW. Free.
Friday, July 25
If you haven't noticed, alto saxophone is having a very strong moment in the District of Columbia this year. And of course, Marshall Keys sits atop the list of stellar practitioners. Keys is a two-time Jazzy honoree for the city's best alto sax man, and even a cursory listen will show why: He's got a forward, declarative sound on the horn, rhythmically propulsive and alternating melodic developments with frenetic vamps to build his solos. And his tone! Keys blends the cream of Benny Carter's alto with the energy of Charlie Parker and the soul of Maceo Parker. The result? Pure Keys, and pure beauty. Key deserves a great rhythm section, like pianist Lafayette Gilchrist, bassist Tarus Mateen, and drummer Eric Kennedy. And guess what? He has them this weekend. The Marshall Keys Quartet performs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20.
Photo: Ron Green
Saturday, July 26
In the springtime, Reginald Cyntje released his best work yet. Elements of Life is a masterpiece. It's a deeply melodic, surprisingly subtle collection of tunes that examine humanity's relationship to nature; included in the mix are components drawn from many musical styles, and maximal use of Cyntje's favorite musicians (saxophonist Brian Settles, pianist Allyn Johnson, steelpannist Victor Provost, bassist Herman Burney, drummer Amin Gumbs, vocalist Christie Dashiell). It's a project that means a great deal to Cyntje—though my sources tell me he's already exploring the next one—enough so that three months after its release, the trombonist is still presenting it as a discrete concert set, allowing it to make a direct connection to its audience. It's an opportunity you'd regret sleeping on. The Reginald Cyntje Group performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $15.
Sunday, July 27
Let's talk for a minute about Winard Harper. The drummer has performed often enough in D.C. that you might think he lived here; actually, he's a native Baltimorean who currently lives in Jersey City. He's also a major, major talent who took the jazz world by storm when he arrived with his trumpet-playing brother Philip in the late '80s. They led a band together, and in the years since Winard has built a resume that reads like an all-star session: Betty Carter, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon. He also had a long stint in the trio of the late great pianist Dr. Billy Taylor, thus forging another important D.C. connection (and a great deal of his D.C. association). But Harper also works with the great D.C. talents—hence his sharing the stage with Lori Williams, one of the strongest and most passionately devoted vocalists we have here. Williams and Harper perform at 8 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Bethesda. $25.