Weekend in Jazz | 11.2-11.4: International stars hit D.C. in droves – Payton, Loueke, Gambarini & more

Nicholas Payton performs on Friday and Saturday at Bohemian Caverns. Courtesy Wilfred Paulse/flickr

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

If smell is the sense most tied to memory, maybe sound can best help us forget. Now that we’re coming to the end of a noxious campaign season, it’s definitely a theory worth testing. Go out and hear some excellent music this weekend, and let  the thrill of internationally renowned artists like Lionel Loueke (playing at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club), Azar Lawrence (at Twins), Roberta Gambarini (at Blues Alley) and Nicholas Payton (at Bohemian Caverns) shake you free of the campaign trail blues. You can find details on all these shows and more in this week’s edition of “Weekend in Jazz,” a listing of every D.C. jazz show on our radar. Our favorites have a label, and as always, you can read CapitalBop’s full listings directly at our D.C. jazz calendar, if you’d rather. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2

cb picks:

  • Davey Yarbrough Quintet w/Esther Williams, Westminster Presbyterian, 6:30 p.m.
  • Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Lionel Loueke, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Nicholas Payton XXX, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Azar Lawrence Quartet, Twins Jazz, 9 & 11 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Davey Yarborough Quintet w/Esther Williams, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | What began as an experiment over a decade ago continues today as one of Washington’s greatest weekly traditions: Westminster Presbyterian Church’s “Jazz Night.” Every Friday night, the house of God becomes a not-so-likely hub for fish frying, communing and jamming on straight-ahead jazz. This week’s edition features the standout saxophonist – and jazz instructor at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts – Davey Yarborough on saxophone, Esther Williams on vocals, Jon Ozment on piano, Wes Biles on bass, Ike Daniels on guitar and Frances Thomspon on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

Cashandra J, Black Fox Lounge, 6 p.m. | CaShandra J sings jazz standards and originals with a combo. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox profile

Karen Gray Trio, Sala Thai (Bethesda), 7 p.m. | Commanding vocalist Karen Gray sings laid-back renditions of jazz standards in a drumless trio. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Potomac Jazz Project, Sala Thai (U St.), 7 p.m. | Consisting of Joey Whitney on tenor sax, Ed Gallagher on guitar, Alan Pachter on bass and Tom Reed on drums, the Triple Double Jazz Band plays straightforward, straight-ahead versions of jazz standards. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Yamomanem, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | The Yamomanem Jazz Band plays a faithful take on New Orleans jazz, conjuring the days of King Oliver and early Louis Armstrong with its lush brass section. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Lionel Loueke, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | After a string of relatively straight-ahead records, the prodigiously talented guitarist Lionel Loueke made a couple things clear with his recently released album, the fetching “Heritage.” First of all, he wants to be swept up by the currents bringing jazz forward, namely the influences of hip-hop, electronic music and all-around eclecticism. Second, and not as contradictorily as you might think, he’d like to be clear about the tradition he comes from; he hails from Benin, and this record is as much a celebration of his roots as it is a progressive statement. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets vary ($26-$30), no minimum. View event on calendar | KC Jazz Club profile

Lena Seikaly Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Vocalist Lena Seikaly sings jazz standards with a confident and playful demeanor, displaying a haziness reminiscent of Esperanza Spalding, but also nodding to traditional greats. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | It’s hard to overestimate the command that the vocalist Roberta Gambarini exerts – over her vast repertoire, her voice and the bandstand. The native of Torino, Italy can rattle off dizzying scat runs over bebop tunes, or ballad readings that show a bottomless strength alongside lyrical sensitivity. Here Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Nicholas Payton XXX, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Nicholas Payton was among the crop of young jazz musicians to arrive on the New York scene in the early 1990s, just as traditional jazz was getting a fresh injection of industry-backed hip cred. He’s doggedly expanded his palette over the years, experimenting with various rhythmic approaches, and electric instrumentations. His latest album, titled Bitches, is an R&B concept work on which he sings and plays all the instruments. Last year, he wrote a contentious post on his blog declaring that “jazz isn’t cool anymore.” His intent went well beyond the literal, into some of the coldest and least comfortable realms of the music’s history. He was decrying the racially exploitative origins of the music, and the fact that the “jazz” distinction is often used to justify a lack of popularity. Here he appears with his bare-bones trio, featuring the legendary jazz and fusion drummer Lenny White and the deft young bassist Vicente Archer. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $28 cover in advance, $34 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Peter Edelman Trio, Columbia Station, 9 p.m. | The stalwart D.C. piano player Peter Edelman every Friday night leads a rotating cast of musicians that often outgrows the title “trio.” No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Alfredo Mojica, Bossa Bistro, 9 p.m. | Alfredo Mojica, who sang at Bossa for years with the group Sin Miedo, unites salsa, jazz and Latin American balladry. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Bossa profile

Azar Lawrence Quartet, Twins Jazz, 9 & 11 p.m. | When John Coltrane died, McCoy Tyner turned to the tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence, drafting him as a sideman in his band. Over the years, Lawrence has also performed with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. In his immolated, tearing saxophone attack, he does show the strong influence of Coltrane. He appears here alongside one of D.C.’s most charging and tightly-bound rhythm sections: Allyn Johnson on piano, James King on bass and Nasar Abadey on drums. Two separate sets at 9 & 11 p.m. $20 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Antonio Parker, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Alto saxophonist Antonio Parker’s playing is swingin’ and soulful, with a bright, aggressive tone. He casually sprinkles neo-soul and R&B influences into his otherwise straight-ahead bop, and his improvisation shows a redolence to Kenny Garrett’s. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 website

Aaron Myers, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | Vocalist Aaron Myers leads a straight-ahead jazz quartet, featuring piano, bass and drums. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox profile

Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m. | Arguably the city’s best jazz trumpeter, Donvonte McCoy plays every Friday and Saturday at the hip 18th St. Lounge. He likes to mix in some funk as well during the lounge gig, and he’s liable to inflect a touch of Chuck Brown-esque groove into his combo’s treatment of classic bop tunes by the likes of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. After all, the setting is that of a dance club, not a jazz joint – no tables and chairs or hushed applause after every solo. Cover varies ($5-10), no minimum. View event on calendar | 18th St. Lounge profile

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3

cb picks:

  • Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m.
  • Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Nicholas Payton XXX, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Azar Lawrence Quartet, Twins Jazz, 9 & 11 p.m.
  • WKP Trio w/Herb Scott, Black Fox Lounge, 9 p.m. 
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Jam Session with Peter Edelman, Columbia Station, 4 p.m. | Pianist Peter Edelman, a constant presence on the D.C. jazz scene for years now, leads an afternoon jam session every Saturday and Sunday. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Charles Woods, Johnny’s Half Shell, 6 p.m. | Saxophonist Charles Woods plays and has recorded in both free and straight-ahead jazz styles, but for his regular gig at Johnny’s Half Shell he keeps things within the traditional bop realm. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Johnny’s Half Shell website

Mark Mosley Trio, Sala Thai (U St.), 7 p.m. | Baltimore guitarist Mark Mosley plays a slick hand as a smooth jazz guitarist, but he can also hunker down on serious bop. He performs laid-back straight-ahead here with his trio. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

District Jazz Trio, Sala Thai (Bethesda), 7 p.m. | A self-described “cool swinging jazz trio,” the District Jazz Trio is saxophonist Seth Popkin, pianist Dan Nathan and bassist Roger Rosa. The group plays jazz standards. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Full Ascent, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | This jazz band plays in a number of traditional styles, from hard-bop to Dixieland to calypso. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

The Randy Newman Project, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | Like Billy Joel, Randy Newman is one of those pop musicians whose music shows up surprisingly in jazz repertoire because of the sneaky force of their songwriting. Here the talented vocalist Rosanna Vitro leads a band in a tribute to Newman’s songs. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets vary ($26-$30), no minimum. View event on calendar | KC Jazz Club profile

Sara Jones Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Vocalist Sara Jones sings jazz standards sweetly; her top-notch band here includes Chris Grasso on piano, Tommy Cecil on bass and Lenny Robinson on drums. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | It’s hard to overestimate the command that the vocalist Roberta Gambarini exerts – over her vast repertoire, her voice and the bandstand. The native of Torino, Italy can rattle off dizzying scat runs over bebop tunes, or ballad readings that show a bottomless strength alongside lyrical sensitivity. Here Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Keb Mo’, Strathmore, 8 p.m. | Keb Mo is a deft modern blues guitarist who has accrued two Grammy Awards. Cover varies ($20-$55), no minimum. View event on calendar | Strathmore website

Ron Kearns Quartet, BlackRock Center, 8 p.m. | Saxophonist Ron Kearns is a robust, skillful swinger. Here he pays tribute to an album that expanded the rhythms of jazz: Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd’s Jazz Samba, recorded here in D.C., exactly 50 years ago. Kearns’ band includes Paul Wingo on guitar, Kent Miller on bass and Mark Prince on drums. Tickets vary ($23 &$25). View event on calendar | BlackRock website

Nicholas Payton XXX, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Nicholas Payton was among the crop of young jazz musicians to arrive on the New York scene in the early 1990s, just as traditional jazz was getting a fresh injection of industry-backed hip cred. He’s doggedly expanded his palette over the years, experimenting with various rhythmic approaches, and electric instrumentations. His latest album, titled Bitches, is an R&B concept work on which he sings and plays all the instruments. Last year, he wrote a contentious post on his blog declaring that “jazz isn’t cool anymore.” His intent went well beyond the literal, into some of the coldest and least comfortable realms of the music’s history. He was decrying the racially exploitative origins of the music, and the fact that the “jazz” distinction is often used to justify a lack of popularity. Here he appears with his bare-bones trio, featuring the legendary jazz and fusion drummer Lenny White and the deft young bassist Vicente Archer. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $28 cover in advance, $34 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Azar Lawrence Quartet, Twins Jazz, 9 & 11 p.m. | When John Coltrane died, McCoy Tyner turned to the tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence, drafting him as a sideman in his band. Over the years, Lawrence has also performed with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. In his immolated, tearing saxophone attack, he does show the strong influence of Coltrane. He appears here alongside one of D.C.’s most charging and tightly-bound rhythm sections: Allyn Johnson on piano, James King on bass and Nasar Abadey on drums. Two separate sets at 9 & 11 p.m. $20 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Dave Cole & the Main St. Blues Quartet, HR-57, 9 p.m. | No description available. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 website

Cubista, Bossa Bistro, 9 p.m. | Cubista is a salsa band that plays at Bossa every Saturday. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Bossa profile

The WKP Trio w/Herb Scott, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | The WKP Trio is a straight-ahead jazz ensemble consisting of Kenny Peagler on piano, Percy White on bass and Will Stephens on drums. Here, the group is joined by a young, soulful powerhouse of an alto saxophonist, Herb Scott. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox profile

Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m. | Lyrical bassist Steve Synk, a music major at the University of Maryland, leads a young trio that explores music ranging from standards to originals, groove-based contemporary jazz to swinging bop. No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m. | Arguably the city’s best jazz trumpeter, Donvonte McCoy plays every Friday and Saturday at the hip 18th St. Lounge. He likes to mix in some funk as well during the lounge gig, and he’s liable to inflect a touch of Chuck Brown-esque groove into his combo’s treatment of classic bop tunes by the likes of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard. After all, the setting is that of a dance club, not a jazz joint – no tables and chairs or hushed applause after every solo. Cover varies ($5-10), no minimum. View event on calendar | 18th St. Lounge profile

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28

cb picks:

  • Jazz Brunch: Reginald Cyntje, Twins Jazz, 11 a.m.
  • Chad Carter, Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m.
  • Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.

Gospel Brunch, The Hamilton, 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. | Every Sunday morning, the Hamilton presents two sets of rafters-raising gospel, along with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Two separate shows at 10 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. $25 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | The Hamilton website

TBA, Acadiana, 11 a.m. | Performer TBA. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Acadiana website

Jazz Brunch: Reginald Cyntje, Twins Jazz, 11 a.m. | Twins Jazz’s new Sunday Jazz Brunch initiative revolves around the magnetic powers of Reginald Cyntje’s trombone. Last year, he released his debut CD, “Freedom’s Children: The Celebration,” a glimmeringly hopeful record immersed in the warm, danceable rhythms of Cyntje’s native U.S. Virgin Islands. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Twins profile

Harlem Gospel Choir, Howard Theatre, 12 p.m. | The talented Harlem Gospel Choir, which has been active since 1986, performs a Sunday brunch show every week at the Howard Theatre. Either an all-you-can-eat buffet or an a la carte menu are available. Doors open at noon, and the music starts at 1:30 p.m. Tickets vary ($35 for all-you-can-eat or $20 for admission and a la carte options in advance, $45 or $30 at the door). View event on calendar | Howard website

Jam Session with Peter Edelman, Columbia Station, 4 p.m. | Pianist Peter Edelman, a constant presence on the D.C. jazz scene for years now, leads an afternoon jam session every Saturday and Sunday. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

D.C. Jazz Jam, Dahlak, 6 p.m. | This jazz jam presents a friendly, relaxed environment where professionals and amateurs can play together. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Dahlak profile

Potomac Jazz Project, Laporta’s, 6:30 p.m. | The Potomac Jazz Project is a quartet that takes on modern and classic jazz tunes (and even some pop covers) with a showmanly flair, as well as skill. It’s led by bassist Stan Hamrick, and its rotating lineup often features some of D.C.’s best musicians. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Laporta’s website

Chad Carter, Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m. | Chad Carter, a vocalist born and raised in the District, pours his syrupy and evocative tenor into renditions of jazz standards and straight-ahead renditions of pop hits from the 1970s. Here he celebrates the release of his new CD, “Let Me Love You,” which features an appearance by the great saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Two separate sets at 7 & 9 p.m. $18 cover, $23 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns website

DC Choro, Grill from Ipanema, 7:30 p.m.| DC Choro is a sextet that plays Brazilian music drawing on European folk traditions. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Grill from Ipanema profile

Mike Flaherty’s Dixieland Jazz Direct, Zoo Bar Café, 7:30 p.m.| This combo specializes in traditional New Orleans-style jazz. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Zoo Bar website

Odd Men In, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Odd Men In is a New York City-based trio, molded around the chiming piano work of Isamu McGregor. The group – which includes Jerry DeVore on bass and John Bishop on drums – owes a lot to the inward but expansive jazz being made in New York in the 1990s and early 2000s, particularly by people like Brad Mehldau. Two separate shows at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Bill Heid, Black Fox Lounge, 8 p.m. | Bill Heid plays piano and sings blues songs and jazz standards. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox Lounge profile

Roberta Gambarini, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | It’s hard to overestimate the command that the vocalist Roberta Gambarini exerts – over her vast repertoire, her voice and the bandstand. The native of Torino, Italy can rattle off dizzying scat runs over bebop tunes, or ballad readings that show a bottomless strength alongside lyrical sensitivity. Here Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Peter Edelman Trio, Columbia Station, 8:30 p.m. | The stalwart D.C. piano player Peter Edelman every Sunday night leads a rotating cast of musicians that often outgrows the title “trio.” no cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Columbia Station profile

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Giovanni Russonello

About Giovanni Russonello

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Giovanni is the founder of CapitalBop, and a music critic for the New York Times. He previously served as a contributor to the Washington Post, the FADER, JazzTimes, NPR Music and others, and hosted “On the Margin,” a books show on WPFW-FM. As head of CapitalBop, he has covered the D.C. jazz scene since 2010. (He is no longer directly involved in the presenting of CapitalBop's concerts.) He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at editor@capitalbop.com. Read him at giovannirussonello.com or nytimes.com/by/giovanni-russonello. Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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