4.11-4.13: Blues Alley’s piano week brings Cyrus; guitar focus at Levine Music

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The D.C. Jazz Loft isn’t the only exciting show this weekend (though with the great Lena Seikaly, Lenny Robinson and Dan Roberts all on board, we’re pretty excited about that one). Cyrus Chestnut, the fabulous Baltimorean pianist, is at Blues Alley all weekend in the culminating event of its weeklong piano series. At Levine Music, its weekend-long jazz festival presents two guitar-focused shows, one each on Friday and Saturday. The famed trumpeter Jeremy Pelt makes a visit to Bohemian Caverns those nights, as well. And don’t miss our D.C. Jazz Loft on Sunday night. You can also find our full listings at CapitalBop’s D.C. jazz calendar. All our favorite shows below have a label. Happy hunting!

FRIDAY, APRIL 11

cb picks:

  • Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m.
  • Elijah Jamal Balbed, Loews Madison, 8 p.m.
  • Howard U. Jazz Ensemble, Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m.
  • Levine Jazz Quartet, Levine Music, 7 p.m.
  • Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeff Antoniuk, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Pelt, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. Lounge, 10:30 p.m.
  • U St. Jazz Jam, Dukem, 11 p.m.

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, American History Museum, 1:30 p.m. | The National Museum of American History celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month with free performances every Friday afternoon. This week, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra — one of the District’s most reliable emissaries of the traditional jazz repertoire — performs in a slimmed-down combo format. Free. View event on calendar | Museum website

Howard U. Jazz Ensemble, 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.” This week, the Howard University Jazz Ensemble – which each year produces a few more of D.C.’s promising young musicians – will perform under the guidance of its long-time director, Fred Irby. The group tends to play alternative-minded big band arrangements of jazz classics. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

Levine Jazz Quartet, Levine Music, 7 p.m. | Levine Music, an area music academy, begins its weekend-long jazz festival with a performance from the Levine Jazz Quartet, featuring faculty members including the talented Chuck Redd on vibraphone and Josh Walker on guitar. The program is a tribute to the storied collaboration of Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery. Tickets $15 in advance, $20 at the door. View event on calendar | Levine Music website

Charles Rahmat Woods Duo, Firelake Grill, 7 p.m. | The saxophonist Charles Woods plays in both free and straight-ahead jazz styles, but for his regular gig leading a low-key duo at Firelake Grill, he keeps things within the traditional, swinging realm. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Firelake Grill 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

Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The pianist Cyrus Chestnut has it all down pat: the stride piano of the 1920s and ’30s, the bebop acrobatics of Bud Powell’s generation and the heady groove of modern jazz. It’s all laced with gospel underpinnings — full of doubled octaves and blue-tinted licks — and punctilious exuberance. Chestnut, a Baltimore native, is one of this generation’s foremost piano players. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $27.50 cover, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Jeff Antoniuk, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | The powerhouse saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk brings his ensemble of hard-boppers to perform selected works from classic Columbia Records albums, including Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5” and Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” Joining him is the pianist Wade Beach, the bassist Tom Baldwin, and the drummer Tony Martucci. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Elijah Jamal Balbed, Loews Madison Hotel, 8 p.m. | The young saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed, one of D.C.’s brightest rising stars, has a hard-driving and sparely metallic sound that’s redolent of Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. But he refracts their lessons through the Young Lions of the 1990s, and speaks in the lingua franca of present-day post-bop. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Loews website

Jeremy Pelt, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The trumpeter Jeremy Pelt carries heavy cachet in the straight-ahead jazz world. He’s been a part of various famed groups over the past 20 years, and has led his own bands to serious acclaim. He boasts a tone that’s both smoky and striking, always grounded by conviction. This year he’s working at an expansion into the realm of electric-acoustic fusion. If there is an easy historical parallel for the work of his current quintet, it’s Miles Davis’s stuff from just before he made his groundbreaking fusion opuses — think “Filles de Kilimanjaro.” Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $20 cover in advance, $25 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

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

Donvonte McCoy Quintet, 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

U St. Jazz Jam, Dukem, 11 p.m.* | The U Street Jazz Jam, which began at Ulah Bistro last year and quickly became the weekend’s most happening area hang, is now at Dukem. The session offers a spark-plug atmosphere, and attracts cameos from some of the city’s top improvisers. A rotation of bands handles house duties every week. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Ulah website

SATURDAY, APRIL 12

cb picks:

  • Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeff Antoniuk, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Jeremy Pelt, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th St. 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

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

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Natural History Museum, 1:30 p.m. | The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, a top-grade ensemble celebrating the music’s classic repertory, performs here in a special Jazz Appreciation Month show called “Forms of the Blues.” The semi-didactic program descends from a logical source: The renowned composer, musician and musicologist W.C. Handy, who was known as the Father of the Blues. He published his famous “St. Louis Blues” 100 years ago, in September 1914. Tickets $25, $20 for members. View event on calendar | Museum website

Jeff Antoniuk, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | The powerhouse saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk brings his ensemble of hard-boppers to perform selected works from classic Columbia Records albums, including Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5” and Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” Joining him is the pianist Wade Beach, the bassist Tom Baldwin, and the drummer Tony Martucci. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The pianist Cyrus Chestnut has it all down pat: the stride piano of the 1920s and ’30s, the bebop acrobatics of Bud Powell’s generation and the heady groove of modern jazz. It’s all laced with gospel underpinnings — full of doubled octaves and blue-tinted licks — and punctilious exuberance. Chestnut, a Baltimore native, is one of this generation’s foremost piano players. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $27.50 cover, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

‘The Great Guitars,’ Levine Music, 7 p.m. | Levine Music’s weekend festival hits its peak with this performance, featuring Martin Taylor, Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Peppino D’Agostino — all excellent technicians. Tickets $25 for adults, $12 for students 18 and under View event on calendar | Levine Music website

Cheryl Jones, Loews Madison Hotel, 8 p.m. | Singer Cheryl Jones – who had a weekly engagement every Sunday at Utopia until the venue closed for renovations earlier this year – sings with depth, force and clarity. She’s equally likely to sing jazz standards, pop tunes or gospel classics. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Loews website

Jeremy Pelt, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The trumpeter Jeremy Pelt carries heavy cachet in the straight-ahead jazz world. He’s been a part of various famed groups over the past 20 years, and has led his own bands to serious acclaim. He boasts a tone that’s both smoky and striking, always grounded by conviction. This year he’s working at an expansion into the realm of electric-acoustic fusion. If there is an easy historical parallel for the work of his current quintet, it’s Miles Davis’s stuff from just before he made his groundbreaking fusion opuses — think “Filles de Kilimanjaro.” Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $20 cover in advance, $25 at the door, no minimum. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Cubano Groove, HR-57, 9 p.m. | No information available. $15 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 profile

Donvonte McCoy Quintet, 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, APRIL 6

cb picks:

  • Russell Gunn & Dionne Farris, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Buika, Strathmore, 8 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

George Oakley Group, Redwood Restaurant, 11 a.m. | George Oakley invests all the reeds he plays – saxophone, clarinet and flute – with a whispering coolness. In this weekly brunch gig, he performs with a laid-back trio featuring Scott Giambusso on bass and Nick Lipkowski on guitar. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Redwood 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

Todd Simon, Kellari Taverna, 12 p.m. | The sturdy and swinging pianist Todd Simon performs every Sunday in a duo setting; his accompanists vary from bass to guitar to saxophone, depending on the week. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Kellari Taverna website

Nguyen Nguyen, Ulah Bistro, 12 p.m. | Nguyen Nguyen plays jazz piano and sings in a scruffy, boyish tone. At Ulah Bistro’s weekly brunch, he mixes jaunty covers of jazz standards with his own compositions, and his combo stays at a background level. No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Ulah Bistro

Halley Schoenberg, Mansion at Strathmore, 2 p.m. | The young reedist Halley Shoenberg — who splits time between alto saxophone, soprano sax and clarinet — plays high-spirited originals and classic jazz tunes with her acoustic sextet. The band includes John Jensen on trombone, Jon Ozment on piano, Charles Bubeck on vibraphone, Jonathan Steele on bass and Tony Martucci on drums. Tickets $20. 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

DC Jazz Singers Jam, Black Fox Lounge, 5 p.m. | The DC Jazz Singers Jam is a new endeavor, organized by the local show presenter and jam session enthusiast Jeff Stacey and hosted by the pianist Mark Meadows. In the Black Fox Lounge’s basement performance area, it offers singers an early-evening opportunity to commune and compete. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox 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 Jam, Dahlak, 6:30 p.m. | The D.C. Jazz Jam presents a friendly, relaxed environment where professionals and amateurs can play together. No cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | Dahlak profile

Victor Dvoskin Duo, Tabard Inn, 7 p.m. | The bassist Victor Dvoskin leads a straight-ahead jazz duo every Sunday evening at the Tabard Inn restaurant. No cover, one-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Tabard Inn 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

Adam Rudolph Moving Pictures, Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m. | Adam Rudolph is a master percussionist who is most known for his collaborations with the late Yusef Lateef. Here he features his Moving Pictures ensemble in which everyone plays some type of percussion over indigenous woodwind textures. He has accumulated a large repertoire with this band, recording five albums, and they are also masters in free improvisation. Two separate sets at 7 & 8:30 PM. $15 cover in advance, $20 at the door, no minimum. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Twins profile

Underwater Ghost, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Brad Linde’s Underwater Ghost is an experimental band that launches cool jazz into a stratosphere of free improvisation techniques and electronic effects. The saxophonist’s clever use of harmonic layering will leave you with an overall warmth, and he’s joined by two strong compatriots: Nathan Kawaller on bass and Anthony Pirog on guitar. Cover $14, $10 minimum. [words by Allen Jones] View event on calendar | Twins profile

Cyrus Chestnut, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The pianist Cyrus Chestnut has it all down pat: the stride piano of the 1920s and ’30s, the bebop acrobatics of Bud Powell’s generation and the heady groove of modern jazz. It’s all laced with gospel underpinnings — full of doubled octaves and blue-tinted licks — and punctilious exuberance. Chestnut, a Baltimore native, is one of this generation’s foremost piano players. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $27.50 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

Correction: The original version of this post listed the U St. Jazz Jam at Climax Sports Bar & Lounge. It is actually being held at Dukem.

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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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