5 live jazz picks for August in D.C.

After the sweltering heat of July ended this past weekend with an almighty storm that rained out gigs, knocked out power across the DMV and downed trees, it feels like the summer fever has broken. Now, as Congress’s August recess sets in, summer is dragging itself to a close. But there is no lack of great shows this month on the D.C. music calendar.

For a whole lot of those great shows in one place, look no further than Jojo, the go-to spot for nightly jazz on U Street. Booked by bassist Michael Bowie, there are a ton of “CB Picks” in the line-up there, most of them bringing a classic electro-groove jazz sound to the 1500 block of U Street NW.

There are also a couple repeating gigs and residencies that bear highlighting. Saxophonist David Merlin-Jones leads a quartet every Saturday at the Clubhouse in Georgetown. Then, pianist José Luiz Martins is taking over “Soulful Sundays” at St. Vincent Wine. Speaking of St. Vincent, booker Zach Cutler must be doing a lot of work because this month the venue is expanding to hosting live music six nights a week (every evening but Tuesday), plus brunch on Sundays. Over at the DIY haven Rhizome DC, cellist Janel Leppin is continuing her spring and summer residency with a performance by her renowned Ensemble Volcanic Ash on Aug. 11

Also worth noting: vocalist Heidi Martin is debuting a new piece, a cycle of romantic songs called “What Love Endures,” at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on Aug. 23. 

The DC Jazz Festival is fast approaching, with events kicking off on Aug. 30, when Ayodele Owolabi will be at Millennium Stage. The next day, George V. Johnson will be on that stage, while the Brass-A-Holics will split a bill with the Jo-Go Project in Anacostia. Check back in with CapitalBop closer to September for a full DC JazzFest preview. In the meantime, check out our comprehensive D.C. jazz calendar for all the shows in the region.


Thursday Aug. 10 and Friday Aug. 11, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
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Silver Spring’s Deborah Bond performs a contemporary take on neo-soul and R&B music, offering a lightly buoyant and melodic brand of original music, filled with infectious joy. She often features some of D.C.’s young lions in her bands, including Trey Sorrells, Eliot Seppa, Zach Cutler, Bee Boisseau and Corey Fonville. Bond’s groups employ collective jazz chops to punch up that ’90s sound to new heights


Friday, Aug. 18, 7 and 9 p.m.
Kennedy Center – Terrace Theater (tickets)
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Progressive musician Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (formerly known as Christian Scott) has been playing in front of large crowds since he was a teenager growing up in New Orleans. Now, having been recently named big chief of a Black masking Indian group, the Xodokan Nation – just as his uncle and grandfather were before him – he has become something of a cultural elder. His aerodynamic, bristling, high-octane performances, which he calls “Stretch Music,” keep faith with Crescent City second line, funk, hard-bop and ’70s fusion, among many other influences. His new album, Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning, sees him hewing much closer to what might have been played in New Orleans’s Congo Square 150 years ago: acoustic, polyrhythmic, chanted and driven.


Wednesday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Filene Center at Wolf Trap (tickets)
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Guitarist John McLaughlin was no stranger to Indian classical music by the time he co-founded Shakti in 1976, alongside tabla master Zakir Hussain, “God of ghatam” T.H. Vinayakram and violinist L. Shankar. 

Shakti – a Hindi word that refers to the concepts of “creative intelligence, beauty and power” – took many of the ideas McLaughlin had about jazz and fusion, and adapted them to the worlds of Hindustani (Northern) and Carnatic (Southern) Indian classical music. The group often reaches soaring, blistering heights in its ecstatic moments; when exploring more quiet tenderness, the musicians will then ride along a string of melodies and improvisations to thread a delicate tapestry. Shakti is now celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new formation, still featuring McLaughin and Hussain at the core.


Friday Aug. 25, 6 p.m.
Westminster Presbyterian Church ($10, Free for Kids 16 and Under)
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Trumpeter Thad Wilson has been a cornerstone of the D.C. jazz community for decades. He plays trumpet and flugelhorn in a highly lyrical, almost romantic style. He’s as comfortable weaving sonic portraits with a big band as he is helming a small combo. Here he leads a tribute to that great first jazz icon, Louis Armstrong, with a truly all-star group of fellow D.C. jazz veterans: Paul Carr on saxophone, Paul Bratcher on piano, Steve Novosel on bass and Lenny Robinson on drums.


Thursday Aug. 31, 7 p.m.
Takoma Station (tickets)
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Bassist Corcoran Holt began his musical career in D.C. as a four-year-old, learning to play the djembe. He later switched to bass but kept that deep feeling of groove, a musical boon that has helped him while sharing the stage with luminaries like Kenny Garrett. He’s now a respected veteran in the straight-ahead scene.

Ever since he won the Thelonious Monk (now Herbie Hancock) Jazz Competition in 2014, the Chicago-born trumpeter Marquis Hill has been at the forefront of modern jazz. His Modern Flows records show his sheer might and dexterity on the trumpet while more neo-soul-inclined joints like Love Tape show his range.

Hill joins Holt for this special edition of the bassist’s monthly residency at Takoma Station.



About Jackson Sinnenberg

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Jackson Sinnenberg is a broadcast journalist and a freelance writer. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, JazzTimes, Downbeat, NPR Music, NPR.org, the Washington City Paper, On Tap/District Fray Magazine and the blog of Smithsonian Folkways Records. He began covering the city’s music scene for WGTB, Georgetown University’s radio station, where he was a show host, writer, and columnist. He graduated from Georgetown with a bachelor’s degree in American Musical Culture. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him at @sinnenbergmusic.

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