Weekend in Jazz | 2.15-2.17: Celebrating the tradition, and pushing it forward

The Grammy-nominated R&B diva Dionne Farris performs alongside jazz trumpeter Russell Gunn this weekend at Bohemian Caverns. Courtesy BET.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The “main event” this weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, an annual gathering that celebrates the best in straight-ahead jazz. It’s a tremendous experience, but if you feel like staying closer to the city (the festival is in Rockville) or fear breaking the bank (full passes to the fest cost upwards of $200) or prefer some music that’s a bit more contemporary-minded, there are plenty of options. At Twins Jazz on Friday and Saturday, Siné Qua Non will offer its singular admixture of classical, jazz and pop influences; at Bohemian Caverns, Russell Gunn and Dionne Farris will play their original tunes – which blend her experience as an R&B diva with his modernist jazz chops. There’s info on all those shows and many more in this week’s edition of “Weekend in Jazz.” As always, you can find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. Our favorites have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15

cb picks:

  • Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day
  • Siné Qua Non, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet, Clarice Smith PAC (UMD), 8 p.m.
  • Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day | The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival is a major ritual for D.C.-area jazz fans. For three full days, it packs in a powerful range of music, all of which fits comfortably into the category of “real jazz.” That’s festival director (and star saxophonist) Paul Carr’s terminology for straight-ahead, swinging and generally acoustic jazz. Within that realm, there’s no better annual celebration in the area than the weekend-long MAJF, which features performances by celebrated touring musicians as well as a handful of high school bands, plus artist interviews and workshops. Among today’s highlights are performances by the D.C. tenor saxophone powerhouse (and former Carr student) Elijah Jamal Balbed at 6 p.m., the deliberate and soulful pianist Orrin Evans at 7 p.m., the leonine vocalist Gregory Porter at 8:30 p.m., and Carr himself at 10 p.m. A full schedule is available at midatlanticjazzfestival.org/schedule. Ticket prices vary (general admission for the full weekend costs $225). View event on calendar | Hilton website

Antonio Parker, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | The alto saxophonist Antonio Parker’s playing is swinging and soulful, colored by 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. Here he performs with a strong band: Reginald Cyntje on trombone, Darius Scott on piano, Cheyney Thomas on bass and Keith Killgo on drums. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

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. | The Potomac Jazz Project is a jazz combo, led by bassist Stan Hamrick, that takes on modern and classic jazz tunes with a showmanly flair, as well as skill. The cast of supporting musicians tends to rotate, but it’s usually a very solid lineup. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

L’Tanya Mari Trio, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | Singer L’Tanya Mari is influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, singing jazz with depth and soulful warmth. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Siné Qua Non, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Michael Bowie – a veteran of bands led by stars Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Michel Camilo – is beloved as one of the most musically articulate, sympathetic bass players in D.C. He recently put together a band known as Siné Qua Non, and it’s a powerhouse. The group offers an effortless coalescence of world rhythms, Western classical techniques, straight-ahead jazz and modern pop. The expert ensemble includes Victor Provost on steel pan, Lee Pearson on drums, Lyle Link on saxophone and flute, and Sam Turner on percussion. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $20 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Jerry Butler, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Before they were Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, they were Jerry Butler and the Impressions. Jerry “The Iceman” Butler scored his first hit with the group in 1958, when he was its frontman; the song was “For Your Precious Love.” Butler’s voice is still deep, formidable, and smooth as ice. His special Valentine’s Day performance at Blues Alley is sure to provide for some timeless and romantic R&B. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $50 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Firm Roots, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | The keyboardist Benjie Porecki and the soul-baring saxophonist/vocalist Brad Collins team up here to give swinging treatments to popular tunes from the past 50 years, plus some jazz standards. They’re joined by an unbeatable rhythm section: No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (UMD), 8 p.m. | Branford Marsalis, the eldest of four famous musician brothers, is one of the most important saxophonists of this era. The influences of great improvisers from the 1950s and ’60s run strong – Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane and Joe Henderson – but his interests are diffuse. Over the course of the 1980s, Marsalis recorded and performed with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, toured with Sting, and took a saxophone solo on Public Enemy’s famous “Fight the Power.” Nowadays, the saxophonist typically sticks to straight-ahead jazz, but continues to chase various strands of expressionism; here he appears in a program celebrating the opening of an exhibition of work by David C. Driskell, a visual artist and University of Maryland professor who has fought to bring more acknowledgment to Black artists. The exhibition is titled “Convergence: The Intersection of Visual and Performance Art in Jazz.” Marsalis appears with his top-tier quartet: the pianist Joey Calderazzo, the bassist Eric Revis and the drummer Justin Faulkner, a young sensation who is not to be missed. Sold out. View event on calendar | Clarice Smith website

Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Russell Gunn hears the history of jazz tumbling into soul and hip-hop without any conflict of interest. He’s toured with Branford Marsalis, D’Angelo and Maxwell, and has been making records that blend sundry parts of the Black musical canon since the 1990s, when he began his series of excellent “Ethnomusicology” albums. Here he pairs up with the R&B singer Dionne Farris; the two originally intended to make a standards album, but they opted for a collection of originals, which Gunn has arranged with a jazz musician’s sensibility. The record isn’t out yet, but they’ll be drawing material from it at the Caverns. $25 cover in advance, $30 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

EC3, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Las Vegas-based Ernest “EC3” Coleman is a talented tipper – a straight-ahead drummer with serious chops. He spent years on the road with bass legend Al McKibbon, and nowadays leads his own groups, in addition to other sideman work. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 website

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

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, FEBRUARY 16

cb picks:

  • Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day
  • Siné Qua Non, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Elijah Jamal Balbed Quartet, HR-57, 9 p.m.
  • Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day | The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival is a major ritual for D.C.-area jazz fans. For three full days, it packs in a powerful range of music, all of which fits comfortably into the category of “real jazz.” That’s festival director (and star saxophonist) Paul Carr’s terminology for straight-ahead, swinging and generally acoustic jazz. Within that realm, there’s no better annual celebration in the area than the weekend-long MAJF, which features performances by celebrated touring musicians as well as a handful of high school bands, plus artist interviews and workshops. Among today’s highlights are performances by the bass clarinetist Todd Marcus at noon, the slippery and gently swinging alto saxophonist Marshall Keys at 1 p.m., the powerful and storied pianist Larry Willis at 7 p.m., and the great organ mystic Dr. Lonnie Smith at 10 p.m. A full schedule is available at midatlanticjazzfestival.org/schedule. Ticket prices vary (general admission for the full weekend costs $225). View event on calendar | Hilton 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

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

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 

Siné Qua Non, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Michael Bowie – a veteran of bands led by stars Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Michel Camilo – is beloved as one of the most musically articulate, sympathetic bass players in D.C. He recently put together a band known as Siné Qua Non, and it’s a powerhouse. The group offers an effortless coalescence of world rhythms, Western classical techniques, straight-ahead jazz and modern pop. The expert ensemble includes Victor Provost on steel pan, Lee Pearson on drums, Lyle Link on saxophone and flute, and Sam Turner on percussion. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $20 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Jerry Butler, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Before they were Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, they were Jerry Butler and the Impressions. Jerry “The Iceman” Butler scored his first hit with the group in 1958, when he was its frontman; the song was “For Your Precious Love.” Butler’s voice is still deep, formidable, and smooth as ice. His special Valentine’s Day performance at Blues Alley is sure to provide for some timeless and romantic R&B. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $50 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley 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

Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, GMU Center for the Arts, 8 p.m. | The Northern Virginia-based Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra will perform a special concert featuring the music of famed New Orleans jazz musicians: Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, among others. Ticket prices vary ($22, $36 and $44). View event on calendar | GMU Center for the Arts website 

Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Russell Gunn hears the history of jazz tumbling into soul and hip-hop without any conflict of interest. He’s toured with Branford Marsalis, D’Angelo and Maxwell, and has been making records that blend sundry parts of the Black musical canon since the 1990s, when he began his series of excellent “Ethnomusicology” albums. Here he pairs up with the R&B singer Dionne Farris; the two originally intended to make a standards album, but they opted for a collection of originals, which Gunn has arranged with a jazz musician’s sensibility. The record isn’t out yet, but they’ll be drawing material from it at the Caverns. $25 cover in advance, $30 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Elijah Jamal Balbed Quartet, HR-57, 9 p.m. | The young tenor saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed, a lustrous rising star on the D.C. scene, handles his metallic, full-bore tone with conviction. He harks back to Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins, but refracts their lessons through the Young Lions of the 1990s and speaks in the lingua franca of present-day post-bop. Here he performs music from his recently released debut CD, “Checking In.” $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

Some Like It Hot, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | Some Like It Hot is a small jazz and that performs traditional music from the swing era. 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, FEBRUARY 17

cb picks:

  • Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day
  • Eme & Heteru, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.

Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, Rockville Hilton, all day | The Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival is a major ritual for D.C.-area jazz fans. For three full days, it packs in a powerful range of music, all of which fits comfortably into the category of “real jazz.” That’s festival director (and star saxophonist) Paul Carr’s terminology for straight-ahead, swinging and generally acoustic jazz. Within that realm, there’s no better annual celebration in the area than the weekend-long MAJF, which features performances by celebrated touring musicians as well as a handful of high school bands, plus artist interviews and workshops. Among today’s highlights are performances by the progressive supergroup the Cookers at 4 p.m., the alto saxophonist and Jazz Messengers alum Bobby Watson at 7 p.m., and the ploughing organist Joey DeFrancesco at 10 p.m.  A full schedule is available at midatlanticjazzfestival.org/schedule. Ticket prices vary (general admission for the full weekend costs $225). View event on calendar | Hilton website

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

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. This week, the steel pan virtuoso Victor Provost appears as a “monthly master,” offering critiques and insight. 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

 

 

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

Jerry Butler, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Before they were Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, they were Jerry Butler and the Impressions. Jerry “The Iceman” Butler scored his first hit with the group in 1958, when he was its frontman; the song was “For Your Precious Love.” Butler’s voice is still deep, formidable, and smooth as ice. His special Valentine’s Day performance at Blues Alley is sure to provide for some timeless and romantic R&B. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $50 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Eme & Heteru, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | In the supercharged grooves of Eme and Heteru’s large ensemble, the rhythms of West Africa give a hip-swiveling seminar in the roots of jazz, soul and hip-hop, and the real-time magnetism of Afrobeat. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz 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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