Weekend in Jazz | 2.22-2.24: A traditional jazz tribute, a trumpeter’s experimental essay & more

Jeremy Pelt performs music from his new CD, “Water and Earth,” at Bohemian Caverns this weekend. Courtesy Ingrid Hertfelder

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

On Friday, the Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool 2013 series welcomes one of Finland’s most promising young jazz guitarists, Olli Hirvonen, and the following night the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra reaches back to the music’s earliest days with a tribute to the great New Orleans soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet. Both evenings, great bands are on display on U Street: the trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is at Bohemian Caverns, and D.C.-based drum master Lenny Robinson is at Twins.

On Sunday night, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble performs its outward-reaching improvisations at Bohemian, and the guitarist John Lee shows off his multifaceted sensibility. 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 22

cb picks:

  • Olli Hirvonen Quartet, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Lenny Robinson Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Bonnie Harris, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | The talented straight-ahead vocalist Bonnie Harris leads a tribute to the great Etta James, backed by a band featuring Lyle Link on saxophone, Chris Grasso on piano, Tommy Cecil on bass and Quincy Phillips 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

Triple Double Jazz Band, 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

Night & Day Trio, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | The Night & Day Trio plays traditional, swing-oriented jazz, featuring Renée Tannenbaum on vocals, Mike Suser on piano and vocals and Dennis Johnson on saxophone. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Olli Hirvonen Quartet, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | Olli Hirvonen, one of Finland’s most promising young straight-ahead guitarists, performs here as part of the Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool 2013 series. In his quartet, he’s joined by Frederick Menzies on tenor saxophone, Jeff Koch on bass and Philippe Lemm on drums. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $25, no minimum. View event on calendar | KC Jazz Club profile

Lenny Robinson Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | As a sideman, the hard-swinging Lenny Robinson is as sought-after as this town’s drummers get. But in his work as a leader, Robinson likes stretched canvases and playing with wobbly tone. His trio, Mad Curious, is one of the area’s best mind-expanders that you’ve never heard of. Here he breaks out of that format and leads a top-grade quartet. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $16 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Kim Waters, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Saxophonist Kim Waters is one of the architects of the now-popular “urban smooth” sound. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Karla Chisholm Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | The singer Karla Chisholm’s music is somewhere between pop singer-songwriter, funk and jazz. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The trumpeter Jeremy Pelt boasts a tone that’s both smoky and striking, imbuing it all with a grounded conviction. He’s a strong composer, too, and on his just-released album, “Earth and Water,” he is stretching his concept beyond the acoustic-combo format with which he has become so reflexively associated. At this show, he’ll investigate the new approach, which fuses swing with groove and acoustic with electric. No cover, 1-drink minimum. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $22 cover in advance, $27 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Antonio Parker Quartet, HR-57, 9 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. $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

CaShandra J, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | CaShandra J sings jazz standards and originals with a combo. 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 23

cb picks:

  • Lenny Robinson Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Natural History Museum, 7:30 p.m.
  • Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 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

Triple Double Jazz Band, Sala Thai (Bethesda), 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

Jacqui Simmons & Friends, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | Jacqui Simmons sings jazz standards with a heartfelt and elegant presentation. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website 

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Natural History Museum, 7:30 p.m. | The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, one of the District’s most reliable emissaries of the traditional jazz repertoire, here plays a program dedicated to the great New Orleans soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet. Taking the helm is the saxophonist Charlie Young, a music professor at Howard University and among the District jazz scene’s best-kept secrets. Tickets $25. View event on calendar | SJMO website

Lenny Robinson Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | As a sideman, the hard-swinging Lenny Robinson is as sought-after as this town’s drummers get. But in his work as a leader, Robinson likes stretched canvases and playing with wobbly tone. His trio, Mad Curious, is one of the area’s best mind-expanders that you’ve never heard of. Here he breaks out of that format and leads a top-grade quartet. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $16 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Kim Waters, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Saxophonist Kim Waters is one of the architects of the now-popular “urban smooth” sound. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Steven Walker Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | The guitarist and singer Steven Walker boasts a broad repertoire that encompasses jazz standards and classic pop tunes. He appears here with a jazz combo. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Jeremy Pelt Quintet, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The trumpeter Jeremy Pelt boasts a tone that’s both smoky and striking, imbuing it all with a grounded conviction. He’s a strong composer, too, and on his just-released album, “Earth and Water,” he is stretching his concept beyond the acoustic-combo format with which he has become so reflexively associated. At this show, he’ll investigate the new approach, which fuses swing with groove and acoustic with electric. No cover, 1-drink minimum. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $22 cover in advance, $27 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Alfredo Mojica, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Alfredo Mojica, who sang for years with the group Sin Miedo, unites salsa, jazz and Latin American balladry. $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

Anders Eliasson, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | The drummer Anders Eliasson leads a small jazz group. 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 24

cb picks:

  • Afro Blue, All Souls Church Unitarian, 4 p.m.
  • John Lee Experience, Bossa Bistro, 9 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

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

Afro Blue, All Souls Church Unitarian, 4 p.m. | Afro Blue, Howard University’s prestigious a capella jazz ensemble, got some national attention when an all-star iteration of the band appeared on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in 2011. Many of the members that appeared on TV are no longer in the band, but the group always delivers engaging, strikingly original arrangements of classic jazz tunes. Tickets $20, $10 for students. View event on calendar | All Souls 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

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m. | At this show, Black History Month is commemorated through reflections on the experiences of “We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue,” as Curtis Mayfield immortally termed it. Presenting outfit Transparent Productions is continuing its tradition of featuring the mighty Ethnic Heritage Ensemble during the month of February. For more than three decades, the Chicago-based drummer/percussionist/vocalist Kahil El’Zabar has led the group, with revolving membership that has included some of the legendary musicians involved with the storied Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). As a former president of the organization, El’Zabar is deeply conversant with his own creative concept, and the society that has produced it. The current lineup, with the trumpeter Corey Wilkes and the saxophonist Ernest Dawkins, has been going strong for about a decade now, and time has only made the instrumentally sparse group more cohesive. They are masters of raw-soul energy. Stop by for the performance and you will feel much more than you can see and hear. Two separate sets at 7 & 9 p.m. $15 cover in advance, $20 at the door, no minimum. [words by Luke Stewart] View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns 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

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

Kim Waters, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Saxophonist Kim Waters is one of the architects of the now-popular “urban smooth” sound. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Buddha Fly, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | No description available. Two separate sets at 8 and 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

John Lee Experience, Bossa Bistro, 9 p.m. | A piquantly flavorful guitarist, John Lee goes out looking for adventure. He often finds it in the crevices between notes, mismatching scales, and a broad palette of effects pedals. $5 cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Bossa 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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