Weekend in Jazz | 3.8-3.10: Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s ‘Holding It Down’ makes non-NYC debut, & more

Vijay Iyer, left, and Mike Ladd will present “Holding It Down” three times at the Atlas over the course of this weekend. Courtesy timeout.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

On Friday evening, the great jazz piano conceptualist Vijay Iyer and the poet Mike Ladd begin a two-day run at the Atlas Performing Arts Center with the D.C. debut of “Holding It Down,” a multimedia performance uncovering the experiences of Iraq war veterans of color, presented as part of the Intersections Festival. On Sunday night, CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft returns to Chez Billy to highlight three of the local jazz scene’s most formidable female musical personalities. Between those bookends lies a weekend full of amazing jazz shows: Amiri Baraka brings his band to Bohemian Caverns on Friday and Saturday; Gretchen Parlato performs on Saturday with her quartet; and the Intersections Festival welcomes two other distinctive performers on Saturday – Tosin Aribisala and Imani. Also, on Sunday night, Dan Tepfer and Ben Wendel bring their elastic sax-piano duet to the Mansion at Strathmore. 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, MARCH 8

cb picks:

  • Chuck Redd Quartet, Westminster Presbyterian, 6 p.m.
  • Sunna Gunlaugs Trio, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Amiri Baraka, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s ‘Holding It Down,’ Atlas PAC, 8 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Chuck Redd Quartet, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | Chuck Redd, a deft and lyrical vibraphonist, will perform here in tribute to Charlie Byrd, the D.C.-based guitarist who used his melodic playing to help introduce U.S. audiences to bossa nova. Redd teams up with Tommy Cecil on bass, Nat Najar on guitar and Lee Pearson 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

Yamomanem, Sala Thai (U St.), 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

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

Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | The piano trio can be a force of liberation for musicians, or an opportunity to explore percussion communally. For Sunna Gunnlaugs, it is a severe proposition. The pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs, who hails from Iceland, performs overcast, brooding music with her group, which doesn’t mean eschewing beauty, or even the occasional walking bass line. The show is part of the Nordic Cool 2013 festival. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $25, no minimum. View event on calendar | KC Jazz Club profile

Project Natale, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Brothers Joe and Lou Natale — on bass and drums, respectively — play straight-ahead and Latin jazz in this reputable local quartet. It’s rounded out by two strong, swinging cohorts: tenor saxophonist Carl Cornwell and pianist Bob Butta. Two separate sets at 9 & 11 p.m. $15 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Peter White, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Peter White is a smooth jazz guitarist. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Sharón Clark Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Vocalist Sharón Clark sings with fervor and soul, plus impressive precision. She’s one of D.C.’s top jazz singers. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s ‘Holding It Down,’ Atlas Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m. | The pianist Vijay Iyer – whose 2012 album topped most annual jazz critics polls – has a percussive, angular identity on the instrument that’s hard to mistake. But he’s not just a piano player; Iyer is one of the most rigorous conceptualists in jazz, fond of the electronic medium, and he believes in the historic nexus of art and activism. “Holding It Down,” Iyer’s third collaborative project with the poet Mike Ladd, examines the fractious fallout of modern violence through the eyes of Iraq war veterans of color. It mixes singing, spoken word, video and instrumental music. This performance at the Atlas is its first showing outside of New York City. Ticket prices vary ($15-38), no minimum. View event on calendar | Strathmore website

Amiri Baraka, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | In the mainstream discourse of this country, you’re likely to hear the poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka described as “controversial.” Baraka sees things the other way: The unpaid dues of the United States – founded in slavery and mired in imperialism – are grounds for controversy. A father of the Black Arts Movement, Baraka is one of the few prominent poets still willing to face down the country’s inherent hypocrisies, as he does fabulously in the famous poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” written amidst the rabid discourse that took hold after the 9/11 attacks. Beyond his work as a poet, Baraka is one of the leading ethnomusicologists of our time, a legendary jazz critic (he won the Jazz Journalists Association’s lifetime achievement honor in 2012), and an activist who helped elect the first Black mayor of Newark, N.J., his hometown. The former poet laureate of New Jersey, Baraka performs here with backing from a jazz band. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30. $22 cover in advance, $28 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Bill Evans’ Soulgrass, The Hamilton, 8:30 p.m. | The saxophonist Bill Evans – who, like his more famous piano-playing namesake, got his breakthrough in one of Miles Davis’s bands – likes to get immersed in blends. His work has ranged from reggae to funk to jazz, and with his Soulgrass project he blends bluegrass, soul, smooth jazz, and Appalachian folk. There will be an opening set from the People’s Blues of Richmond. $24.50 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | The Hamilton website

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 of Kenny Garrett. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 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

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, MARCH 9

cb picks:

  • Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s ‘Holding It Down,’ Atlas PAC, 8 p.m.
  • Imani, Atlas PAC, 7:30 p.m. 
  • Jakob Anderskov’s Agnostic Revelations, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Gretchen Parlato, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 8 p.m.
  • Amiri Baraka, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Steve Synk Trio, Columbia Station, 9:30 p.m.
  • Tosin Aribisala, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s ‘Holding It Down,’ Atlas Performing Arts Center, 2 & 8 p.m. | The pianist Vijay Iyer – whose 2012 album topped most annual jazz critics polls – has a percussive, angular identity on the instrument that’s hard to mistake. But he’s not just a piano player; Iyer is one of the most rigorous conceptualists in jazz, fond of the electronic medium, and he believes in the historic nexus of art and activism. “Holding It Down,” Iyer’s third collaborative project with the poet Mike Ladd, examines the fractious fallout of modern violence through the eyes of Iraq war veterans of color. It mixes singing, spoken word, video and instrumental music. This two-day run at the Atlas is its first showing outside of New York City. Ticket prices vary ($15-38), no minimum. View event on calendar | Strathmore 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

Triple Double, Sala Thai (Petworth), 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

Imani, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. | Imani is an enveloping, affecting vocalist whose sense of commanding abandon helps to articulate the purpose of jazz – control and transcendence through the relinquishment of ourselves. She performs here as part of the Atlas Intersections Festival. Tickets $20, $15 for students and seniors. View event on calendar | Atlas website

Jakob Anderskov’s Agnostic Revelations, Kennedy Center, 7:30 p.m. | The Danish pianist Jacob Anderskov has a distinctive voice and a forward-marching spirit. His compositions are airy but intense, and his playing shows the influence of free jazz greats as well as new music figureheads like Philip Glass. In this show, presented as part of the Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool 2013 festival, Anderskov performs with his Agnostic Revelations quartet. The band features some of the finest avant-garde improvisers on the scene today. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $25, no minimum. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

Project Natale, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Brothers Joe and Lou Natale — on bass and drums, respectively — play straight-ahead and Latin jazz in this reputable local quartet. It’s rounded out by two strong, swinging cohorts: tenor saxophonist Carl Cornwell and pianist Bob Butta. Two separate sets at 9 & 11 p.m. $15 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Peter White, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Peter White is a smooth jazz guitarist. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Todd Googins Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Todd Googins calls himself a “vocal design” artist, meaning he offers voiceovers, jingles and vocal production services. At this show, he’ll be singing standards in front of a jazz combo, but who knows – holler loud enough for the theme from the latest Midas commercial and you just might get it. Careful what you wish for. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Gretchen Parlato, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 8 p.m. | It’s hard to find a jazz singer who has captured more people’s attention and curiosity in the past five years than Gretchen Parlato. In a voice that somehow twines soft and sibilant exhalations with a crackling percussiveness, she drapes ennui and attraction over bossa nova, jazz standards, her own originals, and compositions by contemporaries. Here she performs with the pianist Taylor Eigsti, the bassist, guitarist and vocalist Allen Hampton and the drummer Justin Brown. The concert is a presentation of the Washington Performing Arts Society. Tickets $30. View event on calendar | Sixth & I website

Amiri Baraka, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | In the mainstream discourse of this country, you’re likely to hear the poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka described as “controversial.” Baraka sees things the other way: The unpaid dues of the United States – founded in slavery and mired in imperialism – are grounds for controversy. A father of the Black Arts Movement, Baraka is one of the few prominent poets still willing to face down the country’s inherent hypocrisies, as he does fabulously in the famous poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” written amidst the rabid discourse that took hold after the 9/11 attacks. Beyond his work as a poet, Baraka is one of the leading ethnomusicologists of our time, a legendary jazz critic (he won the Jazz Journalists Association’s lifetime achievement honor in 2012), and an activist who helped elect the first Black mayor of Newark, N.J., his hometown. The former poet laureate of New Jersey, Baraka performs here with backing from a jazz band. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30. $22 cover in advance, $28 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

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

Saltman Knowles, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Saltman Knowles is a band that blends Latin, straight-ahead and soul-jazz influences. The core trio consists of joyous and smooth-voiced singer Lori Williams, pianist William Knowles and bassist Mark Saltman. But the group’s ancillary instrumentation — like its musical ambitions — is always changing: On the band’s latest CD, Saltman Knowles refashioned itself as an octet, complete with the steel pan sounds of Victor Provost. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 profile

Los Carribeat, Haydee’s (Mt. Pleasant), 9 p.m. | Los Caribbeat is a small ensemble that plays upbeat, danceable Afro-Caribbean jazz. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Haydee’s website

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

Tosin Aribisala, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 10:30 p.m. | The Nigeria-reared, D.C.-based percussionist and vocalist Tosin Aribisala performs with a small ensemble. Aribisala – who toured for two years with Femi Kuti – calls his music “Afroblues.” It’s an apt term for a pastiche that combines all the orbital power of West African dance with the cleansing urgency of American blues. This performance at the Atlas is part of the center’s Intersections Festival. Tickets $20, $15 for students and seniors, no minimum. View event on calendar | Atlas 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, MARCH 10

cb picks:

  • D.C. Jazz Loft, Chez Billy, 7 p.m.
  • Dan Tepfer & Ben Wendel, Mansion at Strathmore, 8:30 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

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

D.C. Jazz Loft, Chez Billy, 7 p.m. | At this month’s loft, CapitalBop is turning the spotlight on the women of the D.C. jazz scene. Leigh Pilzer, perhaps the District’s most commanding baritone saxophone player, will lead a drums-free combo alongside her frequent collaborator, Jen Krupa. Gabrielle Murphy, a young and gifted alto saxophonist, has studied with Gary Thomas and will perform alongside Kris Funn on bass and Quincy Phillips on drums. And Integriti Reeves, whose beguiling voice recalls Billie Holiday and other past masters, will close out the evening. $15 suggested donation, no minimum. View event on calendar | D.C. Jazz Loft website

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

Peter White, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Peter White is a smooth jazz guitarist. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $37.75 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Bobby Muncy, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Saxophonist Bobby Muncy writes snaky tunes influenced by 20th century classical and alternative rock, as well as jazz. He appears at Twins with a straight-ahead quartet. 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

Dan Tepfer & Ben Wendel, Mansion at Strathmore, 8:30 p.m. | Dan Tepfer, Paris-reared and New York City-based, is a sentient and reactive pianist. He stays keenly aware of the humming spirit that harmonies can call up. He and the tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel are about to release a new duet album, “Small Constructions,” that boasts a restless composure. Wendel’s corpulent tone and sense of discovery equip him to adhere to almost any situation he finds himself in. Here the duo performs at the intimate Mansion at Strathmore. Tickets $20. View event on calendar | Strathmore website 

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About Giovanni Russonello

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A co-founder of CapitalBop, Giovanni Russonello is also a music writer and critic for the New York Times. He also teaches writing as a lecturer at New York University's School of Professional Studies. 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. He graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history, with a focus on African-American history. Reach Giovanni at [email protected] Read him at giovannirussonello.com or nytimes.com/by/giovanni-russonello. Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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