Weekend in Jazz | 10.4-10.6: Kennedy Center kicks off new season with a prodigy and a legend

Ahmad Jamal performs this Saturday at the Kennedy Center during the first weekend of its 2013-14 jazz season. Courtesy Marc Marnie/Wikipedia

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

This weekend marks the opening of the Kennedy Center’s 2013-14 jazz season. Last year, the forces behind the marble fortress enlisted Jason Moran as jazz advisor; the pianist is a de facto captain of jazz’s venturesome new school, and his programming demonstrated a radical inclusivity. Now we’re entering his sophomore season, and something has set in — maybe not a slump, just a reality check. The experimentation has been scaled back a bit; we’re looking at a lot more straight-ahead and fewer (but not nil) overtures to jazz’s ever-elusive younger audience. This weekend would have included the season’s most outré concert, a solo piano performance from Cecil Taylor, but he canceled. Instead, you can hear performances on Friday from Grace Kelly, the 21-year-old alto saxophone virtuoso, and on Saturday from Ahmad Jamal, the octogenarian piano icon (Taylor’s replacement, and a worthy one). The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra returns to the Kennedy Center on Sunday for its yearly concert — this time a celebration of gospel’s influence on jazz.

CapitalBop is also presenting a concert on Sunday afternoon, featuring the great Akua Allrich performing her interpretations of Miriam Makeba and Nina Simone’s music. It’s the last in our three-week series at the impressive BLIND WHINO venue, home of the G40 Art Summit; if you haven’t made it out to one of our shows here, now is your chance. All our favorite shows have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4

cb picks:

  • Grace Kelly, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Tedd Baker, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Noble Jolley, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy Quintet, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Janelle Gill & Amy Shook, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | What began as an experiment over a decade ago continues today as one of Washington’s greatest weekly traditions: Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Jazz Night.” Every Friday night, the house of God becomes a hub for fish frying, communing and jamming on straight-ahead jazz. This week, a band helmed by two area stalwarts takes the stage: co-leaders Janelle Gill on piano and Amy Shook on bass will be joined by the baritone saxophonist Claire Daly and the drummer Savannah Harris. Jean Dezeme will sing a handful of songs. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

Anita King w/Herb Scott, Chez Billy, 7 p.m. | Anita King sings straight-ahead jazz with a romantic, soulful attack. For this show, she appears with the soulful alto saxophonist Herb Scott, one of D.C.’s most arresting young powerhouses, and his quartet. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Chez Billy website

Karen Gray Trio, Sala Thai (Bethesda), 7 p.m. | Commanding vocalist Karen Gray sings laid-back renditions of jazz standards in a drumless trio. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Yamomanem, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | The Yamomanem Jazz Band plays a faithful take on New Orleans jazz, conjuring the days of King Oliver and early Louis Armstrong with its lush brass section. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Potomac Jazz Project, Sala Thai (U St.), 7 p.m. | The Potomac Jazz Project is a jazz combo led by bassist Stan Hamrick that takes on modern and classic jazz tunes with a showmanly flair, as well as skill. The cast of supporting musicians tends to rotate. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Grace Kelly, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | At 21, the alto saxophonist Grace Kelly already has more than half a dozen records to her credit, including a couple alongside famous altoists who played jazz in the middle of the 20th century. When a prodigious young artist starts to able to drink legally, they also start to be fed a new level of scrutiny. Can Kelly step past the calisthenics and win people over with narrative? This performance at the KC Jazz Club, which effectively opens the Kennedy Center’s 2013-14 jazz season, is a place to start forming your opinion. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $26-$30. View event on calendar | KC Jazz Club profile

Tedd Baker Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Tedd Baker holds the lead tenor sax chair in the Air Force’s prestigious big band, the Airmen of Note. His playing has composure and fervor, with a beam-like infrastructure to its sound that’s redolent of Billy Harper and Sonny Rollins. He appears here with a quartet whose other key ingredient is the bassist Herman Burney, always a genial but venturesome accompanist. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $16 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Rachelle Ferrell, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Back for her annual October weekend at Blues Alley, the renowned Rachelle Ferrell sings a canny mix of Black musical forms. Her sound isn’t unlike some of the people she used to sing backup for: Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle and George Duke. A solo star since the 1990s, she’s possessed of an impressive, more than six-octave range. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $60 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Noble Jolley, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The pianist and keyboardist Noble Jolley toys with his gospel roots, weaving in and out of the parallel lanes of soul and modal post-bop. Often in performance with his brother, the drummer Nate Jolley, Noble’s less inclined to bring old things forward overtly; he’s likelier to allow a lot of older lessons to wash onto fresh shores. He performs Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $18 cover in advance, $22 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Peter Edelman Trio, Columbia Station, 9 p.m. | The stalwart D.C. piano player Peter Edelman every Friday night leads a rotating cast of musicians that often outgrows the title “trio.” No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Alfredo Mojica, Bossa Bistro, 9 p.m. | Alfredo Mojica, who sang at Bossa for years with the group Sin Miedo, unites salsa, jazz and Latin American balladry. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Bossa profile

Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m. | Arguably the city’s best jazz trumpeter, Donvonte McCoy plays every Friday and Saturday at the hip 18th St. Lounge. He likes to mix in some funk as well during the lounge gig, and he’s liable to inflect a touch of Chuck Brown-esque groove into his combo’s treatment of classic bop tunes by the likes of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. After all, the setting is that of a dance club, not a jazz joint – no tables and chairs or hushed applause after every solo. Cover varies ($5-10), no minimum. View event on calendar | 18th St. Lounge profile

Jam session, Ulah Bistro, 11 p.m. | U Street restaurant Ulah Bistro has stepped up to fill the void that Utopia left open last year, when it closed to make way for the construction of a new condos complex. That restaurant housed the block’s most reliable, convivial jam sessions. Ulah gives a taste of that energy once a week, late on Friday nights. A rotation of bands handles house duties. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Ulah website

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5

cb picks:

  • Tedd Baker Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Kris Funn & Corner Store, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy Quintet, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Jam Session with Peter Edelman, Columbia Station, 4 p.m. | Pianist Peter Edelman, a constant presence on the D.C. jazz scene for years now, leads an afternoon jam session every Saturday and Sunday. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Charles Woods, Johnny’s Half Shell, 6 p.m. | Saxophonist Charles Woods plays and has recorded in both free and straight-ahead jazz styles, but for his regular gig at Johnny’s Half Shell he keeps things within the traditional bop realm. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Johnny’s Half Shell website

Mark Mosley Trio, Sala Thai (U St.), 7 p.m. | Baltimore guitarist Mark Mosley plays a slick hand as a smooth jazz guitarist, but he can also hunker down on serious bop. He performs laid-back straight-ahead here with his trio. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Full Ascent, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | This jazz band plays in a number of traditional styles, from hard-bop to Dixieland to calypso. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Ahmad Jamal Quartet & Jason Moran, 7:30 p.m. | When Bill Evans was pulling the sutures out of the piano trio format during the late 1950s and early ’60s – cutting its components adrift in a mist of contemplation – Ahmad Jamal was headed in another direction. His famous “At the Pershing: But Not for Me” from 1958 turned the trio into a sort of drum circle, piano and bass bobbing on and around the beat and making a pulse that was somewhere between funk, swing and Afro-Caribbean. Nowadays, Jamal is still expanding the paradigm, leading a quartet that features the bassist Reginald Veal, the drummer Herlin Riley and the percussionist Manolo Badrena. Before the band’s performance, Kennedy Center jazz advisor Jason Moran will perform a solo set. Tickets $38. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

Tedd Baker Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Tedd Baker holds the lead tenor sax chair in the Air Force’s prestigious big band, the Airmen of Note. His playing has composure and fervor, with a beam-like infrastructure to its sound that’s redolent of Billy Harper and Sonny Rollins. He appears here with a quartet whose other key ingredient is the bassist Herman Burney, always a genial but venturesome accompanist. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $16 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Rachelle Ferrell, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Back for her annual October weekend at Blues Alley, the renowned Rachelle Ferrell sings a canny mix of Black musical forms. Her sound isn’t unlike some of the people she used to sing backup for: Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle and George Duke. A solo star since the 1990s, she’s possessed of an impressive, more than six-octave range. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $60 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Kris Funn & Corner Store, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The bassist Kris Funn, who tours widely with the famous Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, performs here with his own slashing group, Corner Store. Its skittering kinetics center on Funn’s bass lines, always battered in the blues, and his rocking originals. Once or twice a set, he’ll break out a dramatically danceable reworking of tunes by someone like John Coltrane, Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye. $18 cover in advance, $22 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Cubista, Bossa Bistro, 9 p.m. | Cubista is a salsa band that plays at Bossa every Saturday. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Bossa profile

Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m. | Lyrical bassist Steve Synk, a music major at the University of Maryland, leads a young trio that explores music ranging from standards to originals, groove-based contemporary jazz to swinging bop. No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m. | Arguably the city’s best jazz trumpeter, Donvonte McCoy plays every Friday and Saturday at the hip 18th St. Lounge. He likes to mix in some funk as well during the lounge gig, and he’s liable to inflect a touch of Chuck Brown-esque groove into his combo’s treatment of classic bop tunes by the likes of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. After all, the setting is that of a dance club, not a jazz joint – no tables and chairs or hushed applause after every solo. Cover varies ($5-10), no minimum. View event on calendar | 18th St. Lounge profile

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

cb picks:

  • Akua Allrich, Blind Whino: SW Arts Club, 4 p.m.

 
Gospel Brunch, The Hamilton, 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. | Every Sunday morning, the Hamilton presents two sets of rafters-raising gospel, along with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Two separate shows at 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. $25 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | The Hamilton website

Jazz Brunch, Acadiana, 11 a.m. | Performer TBA. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Acadiana website

Harlem Gospel Choir, Howard Theatre, 12 p.m. | The talented Harlem Gospel Choir, which has been active since 1986, performs a Sunday brunch show every week at the Howard Theatre. Either an all-you-can-eat buffet or an a la carte menu are available. Doors open at noon, and the music starts at 1:30 p.m. Tickets vary ($35 for all-you-can-eat or $20 for admission and a la carte options in advance, $45 or $30 at the door). View event on calendar | Howard website

Todd Simon, Kellari Taverna, 12 p.m. | The sturdy and swinging pianist Todd Simon performs every Sunday in a duo setting; his accompanists vary from bass to guitar to saxophone, depending on the week. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Kellari Taverna website

Evan Christopher, All Souls Unitarian Church, 4 p.m. | The clarinetist Evan Christopher plays a music that’s more than twice his age: traditional, early-20th century New Orleans jazz. He’s recognized as one of the major contemporary champions of the style. All proceeds from this concert go toward rehousing former 9th Ward residents who were displaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Tickets $35 in advance, $40 at the door. View event on calendar | All Souls website

Jam Session with Peter Edelman, Columbia Station, 4 p.m. | Pianist Peter Edelman, a constant presence on the D.C. jazz scene for years now, leads an afternoon jam session every Saturday and Sunday. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Kennedy Center, 5 p.m. | The trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, arguably the strongest group upholding and stretching the powers of traditional jazz, performs at the Kennedy Center once a year in a show presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society. This time, it’s performing Marsalis’s “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” a two-hour-long program blending gospel and jazz, composed in 2008 to commemorate the bicentennial of Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. Tickets vary ($35-$85). View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

Akua Allrich, Blind Whino: SW Arts Club, 4 p.m. | One of D.C.’s most outstanding talents, Akua Allrich is a comfortable modern conduit for the messages of Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba, two musicians and activists whose legacies are not to be bandied about. With the help of a large backing band, Allrich gets inside the songs, giving their messages a soulful, invigorating, dance-inducing makeover. She appears here in the last of CapitalBop’s three-show series at the G40 Art Summit, in a graffiti-covered Gothic church. Tickets $10, includes free cocktail. View event on calendar | More info

D.C. Jazz Jam, Dahlak, 6:30 p.m. | This jazz jam presents a friendly, relaxed environment where professionals and amateurs can play together. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Dahlak profile

Potomac Jazz Project, Laporta’s, 6:30 p.m. | The Potomac Jazz Project is a quartet that takes on modern and classic jazz tunes (and even some pop covers) with a showmanly flair, as well as skill. It’s led by bassist Stan Hamrick, and its rotating lineup often features some of D.C.’s best musicians. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Laporta’s website

Mike Flaherty’s Dixieland Jazz Direct, Zoo Bar Café, 7:30 p.m.| This combo specializes in traditional New Orleans-style jazz. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Zoo Bar website

Perry Conticchio, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, 8 p.m. | The tenor saxophonist Perry Conticchio performs lilting, straight-ahead jazz with his quintet. $20 cover, $15 minimum for dining-area seating. View event on calendar | Bethesda Blues website

Roy Ayers, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The vocalist and vibraphonist Roy Ayers – beloved by acid-jazz fans, hip-hop heads and disco lovers alike – calls himself the “King of Neo-Soul Music.” But before all that, his days as an experimental jazz musician found him partnering with greats like Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Hubert Laws. Nowadays, Ayers typically sings sultry ballads over modern R&B backing; he’s experienced something of a renaissance, too, as the greater jazz community finally embraces osmosis with hip-hop and highlights Ayers’s earlier prescience. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $2.50 surcharge. $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Dee Lucas, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Dee Lucas plays the smooth jazz soprano saxophone. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Peter Edelman Trio, Columbia Station, 8:30 p.m. | The stalwart D.C. piano player Peter Edelman every Sunday night leads a rotating cast of musicians that often outgrows the title “trio.” no cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

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About Giovanni Russonello

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Giovanni is a regular contributor to JazzTimes, and the host of “On the Margin,” a books show on WPFW-FM. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Atlantic online, msnbc.com, NPR Music, Politico and others. He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. He’s a recreational pianist with enough self-awareness to know he really shouldn’t play much outside home. You can reach Giovanni at editor@capitalbop.com.

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