5 live jazz picks for November in D.C.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 7 for Virginia residents (ballot information here). If you’re in Virginia, the CB team would like to encourage you to make time to go to the polls, if you haven’t already voted, especially knowing how intimately local governance can shape our region’s music scene.

The end of Halloween signals the beginning of a more festive season; there are a few Thanksgiving rituals that make November special in the DMV. One standby is trombonist Bobby Felder’s annual big band show the Friday after Thanksgiving at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Speaking of both big bands and D.C. traditions, the itinerant Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra makes its debut at The Carlyle Room on Wednesday, Nov. 15, ahead of its annual holiday show. (The band’s co-leader, Brad Linde, tells CB he hopes it may become a new monthly home for the group.)

Elsewhere, a fine quartet of jazz elders will come together under the leadership of veteran pianist and Howard University music professor Charles Covington to perform a tribute to Art Tatum at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on Friday, Nov. 17.

The following night, fellow D.C. all-star Lyle Link will return to Takoma Station for the November installment of his monthly residency there. Takoma Station has been rolling of late, and under the guidance of Michael Philips’s Jazz Kitchen Productions, has re-established itself as a pillar of the scene, as it was from the mid-1980s through the ’90s. Notable shows this month include drummer Kweku Sumbry’s group on the 4th and Baltimore’s Todd Marcus and his jazz orchestra on the 10th.

For all other jazz-related needs, consult our full listings via the regularly-updated D.C. jazz calendar.


Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7 and 9 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
[view on calendar]

While composer and pianist D.D. Jackson has plenty of jazz chops to his name, the Juno-award winner has also penned two operas and music for TV. That ear for composition and larger creation makes him an ideal partner for an expansive musician like saxophonist David Murray. An icon of jazz music since his time on the New York loft scene in the 1970s and 80s, Murray seems to embody an entire lineage of saxophone protagonism that preceded him, from the wide vibrato of Coleman Hawkins to the torrential fierceness of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler.


Friday, Nov. 10, 6 p.m.
Westminster Presbyterian Church ($10, free for kids 16 and under)
[view on calendar]

Samuel Prather is a human jukebox — a man of 1,000 riffs, grooves and tunes. Put in a request and his ensemble, the Groove Orchestra, will lay into seemingly any tune with mellifluous horn melodies, driving funk guitar and pulsating rhythms. He’s a true renaissance musician, building his sound on layers of gospel, jazz, funk, neo-soul, West African music and just about anything else you can think of. It makes for a potent and infectious mix.

Here, Prather scales down the usually large-format Groove Orchestra into a quartet, with Steve Arnold on bass, Ephraim Dorsey on saxophone and Charles Wilson on drums (with Jordan Curls on vocals).


Wednesday, Nov. 15, 7:00 p.m.
Rhizome DC (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Alto saxophonist and composer Caroline Davis cut her teeth in Chicago, in jams hosted by the likes of straight-ahead master Von Freeman and players more rooted in an AACM school of thought. Davis’s flexibility and imagination as an artist are prominently displayed on her 2016 LP, Doors: Chicago Storylines, and with the dreamy electro-jazz of Heart Tonic and the digital vortex of Alula

Now based in New York, Davis arrives in the District to present that last project this month at Rhizome, with the bandleader on saxophone, voice and electronics; Noah Garabedian on electric bass; and the D.C. area-raised Eliza Salem on drums. The group celebrates Davis’s new album, Captivity.


Please note that the Sarah Hughes/Tyler Leak performance at the Goethe Institut has been “postponed to early 2024 (date TBD),” according to Bertrand Uberall, one of the event organizers. Those who had bought tickets should have already received a refund.

Sunday Nov. 19, 2 p.m.
Goethe Institute (tickets)
[view on calendar

Saxophonist Sarah Hughes is a definitive staple of the D.C. and Baltimore jazz scenes. A potent improviser with ears that amplify her creativity, Hughes is as likely to light up a club with serious swing as she is to delight audiences with thunderbolts of free expression. Her comfort across styles makes her music rare and exciting.

Here she pairs with Tyler Leak, who has become one of the most prolific drummers on the D.C. scene. A North Carolina native who came up through the storied program at NCCU, Leak is very often found at Jojo’s, where he is as likely to provide a hard-bop swing feel as he is to build a moody groove a la Robert Glasper or Marquis Hill.


Saturday, Nov. 25, 7 p.m.
Takoma Station (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Lafayette Gilchrist was born and raised here in D.C., developing his musical interests and experiences during the culturally fertile era when go-go and jazz were in full swing. With live music everywhere, Gilchrist was able to have deep early experiences with music that have influenced him to this day. Now residing in Baltimore, he is a creative force in the Mid-Atlantic region. With a string of groups and collaborations, he is constantly building his vision through the consistent and steady stream of performance and composition. 

He celebrates the release of his new sextet album Undaunted.



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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