5 live jazz picks for December in D.C.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and by that, I mean that we in the D.C. area are enjoying the last month we’ve got before a major election year gets underway.

Those dreading the events to come between now and next November can find some frosty comfort in the many Christmas and other holiday shows happening inside the Beltway over the next 30 days. 

Nothing says “comfort” like old favorites, and there are more than a few to be heard. Trombonist Bobby Felder throws his annual Christmas big band show on Dec. 16 at the Wesley Campus of United Methodist Church, welcoming D.C. jazz elders to share in the festivities. Then, bassist and beloved son of the city Ben Williams returns to The Hamilton with his 12th annual post-Christmas holiday and birthday celebration on Dec. 27. There’s also piano legend Monty Alexander’s return to Blues Alley, for the club’s final run of shows this year, leading up to a grand performance on New Year’s Eve

There is plenty of great non-seasonal music too, like Lyle Link’s final Takoma Station residency show of 2023, on Dec. 9; Elijah Easton’s show with the Sonic Lifeline, at the Treehouse on Dec. 14; and the return of Herb Scott’s Capitol Hill Jazz Orchestra to Mr. Henry’s on Dec. 20

For all other live jazz needs this month, consult the full D.C. jazz calendar. Thank you for reading, listening and exploring with us this year. See you in 2024!


Thursday, Dec. 7, 7 and 9 p.m.
Shanklin Hall – $15 entry fee, $10 for Shanklin Hall members
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Young trumpeter Brandon Woody favors a brash tone that almost splutters in his moments of great intensity; it’s reminiscent of Miles Davis in the pre-fusion, late-60s. In his group Upendo, that ferocious trumpeting pairs with the meditative, electronic grooves set down by the band. Earlier this fall, Woody was in residence at the new social club and bar Shanklin Hall. He and Upendo return this Thursday for a one-off gig featuring the keyboardist, Peabody Conservatory professor and self-described “hip-hop polymath” Wendel Patrick. Two separate sets at 7 and 9 p.m.


Friday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m.
Westminster Presbyterian Church – $10 entry fee, free for kids under 16
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Paul Carr is one of the most venerated bandleaders and educators in the Mid-Atlantic region. This tenor saxophonist runs the beloved Jazz Academy of Music, directs the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival and still finds time to belt out some honey-sweet, sonorous melodies on his horn. He leads his groups through standards and originals, channeling the strong melodic sense of hard-bop titans like Dexter Gordon and Eddie Harris.

Here he leads an all-star DMV quintet at D.C.’s jazz church: Sean Jones on trumpet, Allyn Johnson on piano, Michael Bowie on bass and C.V. Dashiell on drums.


Thursday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.
The Carlyle Room (tickets)
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Victor Provost isn’t just the premier jazz steel pan player in D.C. – he’s also one of the region’s best improvisers, on any instrument. He performs a brand of straight-ahead jazz that is given a unique texture and timbre by his inst rument, and by the Caribbean rhythms he inflects into a mix that isn’t quite straight- or Afro-Latin, but an original fusion of the two. Here, Provost gives a special holiday performance.


Saturday, Dec. 23, 8 p.m.
Music Center at Strathmore (tickets)
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Vocalist Samara Joy won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal competition back in 2019 and started touring last year in 2020, favoring standards. She became a favorite among jazz fans won over by her deep contralto voice and her wise-beyond-her-years approach to the jazz songbook.

She skyrocketed to wider renown earlier this year, when she won the Grammy for Best New Artist. For some, Joy’s win was their first introduction to the wide world of jazz. At just 23, she’s only beginning what will likely be a long and storied career.


Tuesday, Dec. 26, 7 and 9 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
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Trombonist Herm Hopkins plays with a boisterous, almost giddy tone on his horn, which has put him onstage with many jazz greats. A native Washingtonian, Hopkins often played alongside the late trumpet icon Roy Hargrove, as well as regularly joining some of the best in D.C., like Allyn Johnson, Marshall Keys, C.V. Dashiell and others.

The self-described “soulman” brings his expressive energy and tight command of jazz and soul standards to this special, post-Christmas holiday showcase.



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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