5 live jazz picks for November in D.C.

Blues Alley is already back to presenting live music, less than a week after the club’s attic caught on fire. It resumes its previously scheduled programming on Tuesday, with violinist Dave Kline’s month-long residency kicking things off. Kline is one of a few local favorites playing the storied Georgetown club this month. Some others include pianist Benito Gonzalez – a longtime fixture at the now-shuttered Twins, and before that at the erstwhile HR-57 (sensing a pattern here?) – the weekend of Nov. 19, pianist Joshua Espinoza on Nov. 7, and the instrumental post-rock and jazz trio Messthetics on Nov. 29

There’s a pair of exciting album-release shows this month as well: rising singer Dominique Bianco, now a regular presence at Mr. Henry’s, celebrates her new LP at Blues Alley on Nov. 18 and the String Queens are at the City Winery Nov. 10

The Thelonious Monk (now Herbie Hancock) competition-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant returns to the Kennedy Center with her “Ogresse” song cycle on Nov. 12 (we’ll have more coverage of that shortly). The following weekend, the powerhouse neo-soul singer Bilal makes his annual return to the DMV at the City Winery

Need a reason to get out of the house after Thanksgiving? Trombonist and D.C. jazz elder Bobby Felder will present his annual, post-turkey-day big band concert at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Nov. 25. You can also work up an appetite the night before the stuffing with go-go legends Rare Essence at City Winery on Nov. 23. For all your other show-going needs, consult the full D.C. jazz calendar. And below, find our five top picks for jazz in D.C. this month.

Janel & Anthony

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m.
Rhizome DC (tickets)
[view on calendar] 

The duo of cellist Janel Leppin and guitarist Anthony Pirog makes music that is restlessly beautiful, tranquil yet intense, intimate in scope yet boundless in intention. The way their instruments and melodies weave in and out of the other is like watching a grand tapestry being created right before you. (No coincidence, then, that Leppin is also a textile artist.) The two have put out several records on the DMV-based Cuneiform label, but have been less active in recent years to focus on other projects. 

Simone Baron

Saturday, Nov. 12; 12:30 p.m.
St. Vincent Wine (free)
[view on calendar] 

“occupy our dreamscapes! resist oppressive specificity! free the space on the margins!”

Those three lines from Simone Baron’s “ruin manifesto” provide some insight into the strikingly unique sound of her chamber ensemble, Arco Belo. The format of the group is a blend of traditional Western classical piano quartet and jazz combo, but more unusual still is Baron’s refusal to compromise either the structures of classical composition or the personality-driven dynamism of jazz and improvised music. 

Her music is not a crossover between the two worlds, which are so often pitted against each other, “classical” and “jazz.” It’s fully in both, all at once. 

Javon Jackson & Nikki Giovanni: Gospel of Nikki Giovanni

Friday, Nov. 18; 7:30 p.m.
Kennedy Center – Terrace Theater (tickets)
[view on calendar] 

Saxophonist Javon Jackson has been carrying the torch for the old-school, mid-century hard-bop sound for many years now. He recently paired up with the iconic poet Nikki Giovanni to do an album of standards and performances called The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni. The pair will perform selections from the project, and maybe some surprises, with guest vocalist Nnenna Freelon.

Nasar Abadey & Supernova feat. Sean Jones

Monday, Nov. 21; 7 and 9 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Few musicians in D.C., a town full of great jazz players, command as much respect or have as much of a presence on the bandstand as Nasar Abadey. The master percussionist and drummer leads his group, Supernova, through quietly bristling spiritual jazz, but he can also sometimes be found co-leading the Washington Renaissance Orchestra with Allyn Johnson, or playing behind fellow elders like Steve Novosel. Here he leads Supernova in a special birthday performance, marking his 75th alongside master trumpeter Sean Jones.

Julian Lage

Wednesday, Nov. 30; 8 p.m.
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (tickets)
[view on calendar]

From backing up and helping color the singular world of avant-garde icon John Zorn to playing delicate duets with Gary Burton, or offering masterclasses on modern jazz guitar dynamics via his own albums, guitarist Julian Lage can seemingly do it all. His playing is rarely derivative of others in the jazz guitar world, and his two recent albums on the storied Blue Note label – 2021’s Squint and this year’s View With A Room – are some of his finest work.

Some picks based off of text written by Giovanni Russonello and Jamie Sandel



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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