5 live jazz picks for March in D.C.

Happy Women’s History Month! The premiere event on the D.C. jazz scene this month is the Washington Women in Jazz Festival, now in its 13th year, which continues to serve as a destination for new, engaging work by women and nonbinary musicians in our area. You can check out CapitalBop’s full preview of that festival, which runs from this weekend through the end of March.

Of course, that’s not all for women in jazz this month: Veteran vocalist and composer Alison Crockett will celebrate the release of her new album, Echoes of an Era Redux – a reimagining of the classic Chaka Khan album that featured an all-star cast of jazz icons, like Chick Corea and Joe Henderson – at Blues Alley on March 7. Kris Davis, the brilliant pianist who is one of the leading forces on New York’s experimental jazz scene – brings her critically lauded Diatom Ribbons project to the Kennedy Center’s Studio K on March 17

For those looking for a history lesson – or trip down memory lane –  two of this month’s offerings at Westminster Presbyterian’s “Jazz Night in D.C.” feature the former house bands of once-beloved, now-defunct D.C. jazz venues. Pianist William Knowles leads a strong band featuring Antonio Parker and Reginald Cyntje in a salute to HR-57 on March 17, and pianist Peter Edelman drops in on March 31 to lead a crew featuring fellow jazz elders like Steve Novosel on bass and Greg Holloway on drums, paying tribute to Columbia Station.

In recurring-gig news, trumpeter and pianist Michael Grasso now leads a jam at the New Deal Café in Greenbelt, Md., every fourth Saturday of the month; on March 8 Elijah Jamal Balbed kicks off a new monthly jam session at The Hall CP, near the University of Maryland, College Park (the inaugural edition features saxophonist Walter Smith III as a special guest); and Mr. Braxton’s hosts the grooving Green Show Band every other Thursday.

For everything else, check the D.C. jazz calendar – and always keep an eye on the website for further coverage of the scene. 

Heidi Martin Ensemble: ‘Atunement’

Friday March 3, 7 p.m.
Silver Spring Black Box Theater (tickets)
[view on calendar] 

Vocalist Heidi Martin is one of D.C.’s treasures: She emits messages complex but clear, with an essence of mourning and resilience that hints at Billie Holiday and a quavering force not unlike Joni Mitchell’s. But as a poet, she’s most closely linked to Abbey Lincoln, that vocalist and composer whose ear was always turned toward the acridity of injustice.

Here she presents a new project, “Atunement,” offered in tribute to Lincoln’s compositional voice, backed by an all-star band: Michael Bowie on bass, Marc Cary on keys and Kweku Sumbry on drums.

Billy Harper Quintet

Thursday March 9, 7 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Saxophonist Billy Harper was one of the great Coltrane disciples to emerge in the 1970s. Ahead of his seminal debut album Capra Black – a statement of purpose and direction for 70s spiritual jazz and the Black Consciousness Movement in the vein of A Love Supreme – Harper played with everyone from Louis Armstrong and Gil Evans to Max Roach and Randy Weston. 

He has continued to produce music of the utmost quality over the last 5 decades. Harper’s quintet will perform two separate sets at 7 and 9 p.m.

Ebban and Ephraim Dorsey

Saturday March 18, 7 p.m.
Takoma Station (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Sister-and-brother dynamic duo Ebban and Ephraim Dorsey are quickly becoming leading faces of the rising generation of modern jazz musicians in the DMV, and of a Kamasi Washington-inspired movement of fusion that is becoming the popular banner for jazz nationwide. The two have played with the likes of Washington, D.C.’s Ben Williams and singer Jose James. The Dorseys lead their own group here.

Stanley Clarke N 4Ever

Wednesday March 29, 7:30 p.m.
The Birchmere (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Over the past 40 years, Stanley Clarke has helped revolutionize jazz from within and without. Working with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever in the early 1970s, he gave primacy to the electric bass, expanding the technical expectations associated with the instrument and helping auger jazz-rock fusion. In his solo output ever since, he has ranged from smooth funk to instrumental rock to straight-ahead jazz (sometimes playing acoustic bass as well).

He now leads a new band of young guns – Jeremiah Collier (brother of Isaiah) on drums, Jahari Stampley on piano and keyboards, Colin Cook on guitar and Emilio Modeste on saxophone – drawing from the catalog of his work with Chick Corea and Return to Forever.

Immanuel Wilkins Quartet

Friday March 31, 8:00 p.m.
Arena Stage (Registration)
[view on calendar]

Before he released his debut album, Omega, in 2020, alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins had been building his name up for years within the world of Black American Music, playing with the likes of pianist Jason Moran (who went on to produce that record), Solange Knowles and Joel Ross. He infuses loads of history and perspective into every composition and improvisation he creates. His tone and his presence shine brightly in the contemporary jazz world. 

Wilkins plays at Arena Stage in a presentation with the Library of Congress. His quartet features pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Rick Rosato and D.C.’s own Kweku Sumbry on drums.

Some blurbs incorporate old listing text written by Giovanni Russonello



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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