5 live jazz picks for July in D.C.

The weather app on my phone yesterday said it felt like its 100 degrees Fahrenheit: Welcome to the official reign of summer in the swamp, everybody. On days like that, when there was plenty of outdoor music going on (prominently, Delfayo Marsalis’ Sextet at Jazz in the Garden and Sunny Jain’s Wild Wild East at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival), the question is as always: Brave the heat for spirit-affirming art, or stay inside with body-preserving temperatures? 

Definitely brave the heat if you can to see Todd Marcus and his new jazz orchestra at Jazz in the Garden on July 15, where he will play selections from his just-released album In The Valley, which sees the bass clarinetist return to sonic explorations of his Egyptian heritage. Ditto for the Jo-Go Project, Elijah Jamal Balbed’s group that puts the jazz DNA of go-go at the forefront, which performs outside at Strathmore Music Center on July 27. 

Want to stay inside? Blues Alley is featuring a trio of remarkable local groups on Mondays this month: radiant vocalist Christie Dashiell’s Quintet on the 11th; the swinging wisdom of the Paul Carr — Marshall Keys Quintet on the 18th; and stirring pianist Janelle Gill’s group on the 25th. Similarly, Takoma Station features Nasar Abadey, Elijah Jamal Balbed and Marshall Keys on Saturdays throughout July. For those who want a party — Sugar Bear, the iconic frontman and bassist of pioneering go-go band E.U., will celebrate his birthday with a pair of all-out funky shows at Bethesda Blues and Jazz on the 23rd and 24th.

You might also want to check out some new weekly residencies: The slippery, chameleon-like guitarist Dave Manley now leads a duo every Friday at Zinnia in Silver Spring; and young-gun bassist Jeff Cuny leads a jam session every Sunday afternoon at Capitol Cider House in Petworth.  

As a final note, thank you to everyone who came out and supported David Murray and all the other artists at the first Home Rule Music Festival on June 11! It was a beautiful and ideal day to hear so much music outside and included some great surprises like Doug Carn leading his quintet through the entirety of A Love Supreme. Thank you also to everyone who packed St. Stephen & the Incarnation on June 18 for our jazz-punk spectacular with FIASCO, Messthetics and Harriett Tubman. We’ll see you at NEXTfest! In the meantime, read on for our July picks, and check out the D.C. jazz calendar for all the other shows this month.

Sarah Hughes / Corey Thuro

Saturday, July 2, 7 p.m.
Rhizome D.C. (tickets)
[view on calendar]

A longtime fixture on both the Beltway and Baltimore jazz scenes, Sarah Hughes can swing soft, sweet and cool like Lee Konitz and swerve in an instant to the dense yet untethered tonality of Anthony Braxton. Even when she sounds delicate, there is a pure strength to her playing. 

She is also a gifted visual artist, specializing in the theme of creating depth on flat surfaces. Rhizome will host an exhibit of her work all of July. Hughes celebrates the launch of her exhibit with a multi-set bill that includes Baltimorean improviser and artist Corey Thuro, who also has a month-long exhibit launching at Rhizome the same day.

Jean Carne

Thursday, July 7 through Sunday, June 10; 8 and 10 p.m.
Blues Alley (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Renowned R&B vocalist Jean Carne may be best known to many due to her vocal work in prominent parts on the first two Earth, Wind & Fire albums. Record collectors, jazz scholars and those in-touch with the music’s underground history may remember her for her work with her then-husband Doug Carn on the Black Jazz label, creating stirring and lush spiritual jazz works. She was also the last singer to play with Duke Ellington before his death and brings all that history with her on the bandstand.

Femi Kuti & Positive Force

Thursday, July 14, 7 p.m.
9:30 Club (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Femi Kuti is the eldest son and inheritor of the legacy of the legendary Afrobeat pioneer and musician Fela Kuti. Femi, a keyboardist, saxophonist, trumpeter and vocalist, got his start in his father’s band Egypt 80 before starting The Positive Force in 1986.

His concerts are simply a celebration of life and all of its intricacies. The Positive Force can swing and jam for as long as it needs or propel Kuti forward as he sings anthems of political and social uplift and revolution. 

Be prepared to sweat.

Janel Leppin’s Ensemble Volcanic Ash

Monday, July 18, 7 p.m.
Rhizome D.C. (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Janel Leppin is one of the District’s finest bandleaders, harnessing a nuanced sensibility for both composition and improvisation that produces restless, complex sonic textures ranging from lush and beautiful to sharp and arresting. She’s widely respected in the DMV for her work leading her ensemble Volcanic Ash, and as half of the power duo Janel and Anthony (with guitarist Anthony Pirog). 

She brings an expanded version of the Ensemble Volcanic Ash to Rhizome to celebrate its new album on Cuneiform Records. She will be joined by Pirog and an arrangement of some of the best improvisers in D.C. like alto saxophonist Sarah Marie Hughes, tenor saxophonist Brian Settles, and bassist Luke Stewart [full disclosure, CapitalBop’s Director of Presenting].

The Aaron Myers Show

Friday, July 22, 8 p.m.
Mr. Henry’s (tickets)
[view on calendar]

Vocalist and pianist Aaron Myers was born in Dallas, Texas, and the baritone twang of his accent gives his performances a kind of swing that’s almost as much country and blues as it is jazz. He writes originals that range from the personal to the political, drawing inspirations from mid-century and smooth jazz as well as gospel triumph. He shines best on bluesy numbers like Art Blakey’s “Moanin’,” which he delivers with swagger, resilience and punch.



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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