Weekend in Jazz | 4.12-4.14: Hugh Masekela, Brad Mehldau, D.C. Jazz Loft & lots more

Hugh Masekela, an icon of South African jazz, performs on Friday at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. Courtesy Brett Rubin

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

This weekend, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s just so much going on. If you’re interested in the way that jazz has been reaching past its bulwarks recently and embracing the influence of R&B, funk and music from around the world, you might want to head to U Street on Friday or Saturday: the famed vibraphonist Warren Wolf’s shows at Bohemian Caverns will be a clinic in all that, and the D.C.-based trumpeter JS Williams — leading a band at Twins — has his own take on it, too. But maybe you’d rather go to the source: Hugh Masekela, a South African flugelhorn master, has been funking up his jazz playing by dipping into his own country’s traditions since the 1960s; he’s at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium on Friday night. And the Blackbyrds started out in the 1970s as students of the original funk-jazz bodhisattva, Donald Byrd; they perform on Friday as well, at THEARC. Also that night, the piano phenom Brad Mehldau plays an intriguing duo show with the mandolinist Chris Thile at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

Come Sunday, you have to choose between a special springtime edition of CapitalBop’s D.C. Jazz Loft (outside, on the Chez Billy patio, and featuring three outstanding acts) and the Matthew Shipp Trio, which will be playing its uncompromisingly experimental — and brilliant — music at Bohemian Caverns. 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, APRIL 12

cb picks:

  • The Blackbyrds, THEARC, 7  & 9:30 p.m.
  • JS Williams Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Hugh Masekela, GWU Lisner Auditorium, 8 p.m.
  • Brad Mehldau & Chris Thile, Clarice Smith PAC, 8 p.m.
  • Warren Wolf, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

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 forward-thinking 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

The Blackbyrds, THEARC, 7 & 9:30 p.m. | Donald Byrd – an important hard-bop trumpeter who was among the first to blow past the walls that by the early 1970s had risen between jazz and R&B – holds a particularly dear place in the heart of D.C.’s jazz community. He was the founding director of Howard University’s jazz program, and inspired a group of students to start a jazz-funk band called the Blackbyrds (named after his famed 1973 fusion album, “Black Byrd”). The Blackbyrds found commercial success in the mid-’70s, releasing a string of records on the Fantasy label and scoring a big hit with the song “Walking in Rhythm.” Here they reunite to pay tribute to their mentor, who died this past winter. Two separate shows at 7 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets $20. View event on calendar | THEARC 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

Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, KC Jazz Club, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. | The youngest of five standard-bearing musicians in the Marsalis family, Jason Marsalis is best known as a lithe and driving drummer, but he doubles as a vibraphonist with a formalist bent: precise, fastidious, athletic. Here he plays vibes with a quartet including three up-and-coming sidemen. Two separate sets at 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary ($26-30), no minimum. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

JS Williams Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Trumpeter John “JS” Williams II likes digging into a Lee Morgan vibe. That means finding time for some swinging hard-bop playing, and more than a few lines soused in the blues. But it also means being open to what’s going on around him, just like Morgan was; in Williams’ playing you’ll hear a funk sensibility lifted from the 1970s and ’80s, as well as the tight-wound flow of certain hip-hop emcees. His playing is infectious. Here Williams celebrates the release of his new CD, “The Late Blue-mer,” performing with a quartet that features the pianist Todd Simon, the bassist Herman Burney and the drummer Nasar Abadey. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $13 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Cheikh Ndoye Band, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The bassist Cheikh Ndoye fuses the American jazz tradition with the weaving rhythms and call-and-response tradition of his native Senegal. He is joined here by a cast of musicians who each specialize in their own notions of what other musical streams jazz can mingle with: the violinist Karen Briggs, the guitarist Dan Leonard, the drummer Marcus Baylor and the pianist Arshak Sirunyan. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Ira Gonzalez Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Ira Gonzalez sings pop tunes and Brazilian standards in a smoky, even tone. Here he appears with a quartet. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

David Schulman, Black Fox Lounge, 8 p.m. | Violinist and effects pedal whiz David Schulman performs his avant-leaning jazz here with Eddie Eatmon, a bass player. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Black Fox profile

Brad Mehldau & Chris Thile, Clarice Smith PAC, 8 p.m. | Brad Mehldau became a critics’ darling in the 1990s for blasting back against the idea that jazz ought to hew to a strict set of guidelines. For him, fighting that notion often meant bringing music from the pop repertoire into a jazz setting. The ruminative, cavern-building piano player has since moved into other realms, working on classical and film-score music. Now he’s trying something new: collaborating with the mandolin player and bluegrass virtuoso Chris Thile. Tickets $35, $30 for seniors, $28 for UMD faculty and staff, $10 for students and children. View event on calendar | Clarice Smith website

Hugh Masekela, GWU Lisner Auditorium, 8 p.m. | Hugh Masekela first broke through in the late 1950s as a member of the Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first bebop band of any renown, and since then the flugelhorn player has been expanding the methods jazz uses to accommodate the sounds of other musics of African descent. He’s found untold popularity doing it: A thrilling performer, he is South Africa’s most respected living musician. Here he plays a concert presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society. Ticket prices vary ($30-$35). View event on calendar | Lisner website

Warren Wolf, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Warren Wolf has a bold amiability on the vibraphone, refitting Milt Jackson’s sure-footed melodic curves and minor blues tonalities into an energized post-bop approach. The Baltimore resident is a linchpin of the bassist Christian McBride’s band, Inside Straight, and he’s an in-demand sideman on the national scene – able-bodied as a drummer and pianist as well as a vibes player. But when he leads a combo at Bohemian Caverns this weekend, he’ll likely stick to the vibes. 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

ELEW, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the pianist Eric Lewis had stints in the early-2000s with Wynton Marsalis and the late Elvin Jones, but recently coined a new moniker, ELEW, and even his own new genre, rockjazz. Indeed, he’s the only one playing it. Rockjazz is essentially a way of reworking pop tunes for the solo piano, with special attention to keeping all their grandeur, and volume, intact. There’s very little jazz involved. But when he gets in front of an attentive audience, Lewis does intersperse a great deal more traditional jazz (it’s a good thing – he can play as few can). No matter how you feel about rockjazz, it’s sure to be a rollicking ride. $25 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

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, APRIL 13

cb picks:

  • JS Williams Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Warren Wolf, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 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 (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

JS Williams Quartet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Trumpeter John “JS” Williams II likes digging into a Lee Morgan vibe. That means finding time for some swinging hard-bop playing, and more than a few lines soused in the blues. But it also means being open to what’s going on around him, just like Morgan was; in Williams’ playing you’ll hear a funk sensibility lifted from the 1970s and ’80s, as well as the tight-wound flow of certain hip-hop emcees. His playing is infectious. Here Williams celebrates the release of his new CD, “The Late Blue-mer,” performing with a quartet that features the pianist Todd Simon, the bassist Herman Burney and the drummer Nasar Abadey. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $13 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Cheikh Ndoye Band, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The bassist Cheikh Ndoye fuses the American jazz tradition with the weaving rhythms and call-and-response tradition of his native Senegal. He is joined here by a cast of musicians who each specialize in their own notions of what other musical streams jazz can mingle with: the violinist Karen Briggs, the guitarist Dan Leonard, the drummer Marcus Baylor and the pianist Arshak Sirunyan. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Uzorije Carter Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Uzorije Carter has a strong, syrupy voice that isn’t far removed from the pulpit. He plays here with a quartet. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Warren Wolf, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Warren Wolf has a bold amiability on the vibraphone, refitting Milt Jackson’s sure-footed melodic curves and minor blues tonalities into an energized post-bop approach. The Baltimore resident is a linchpin of the bassist Christian McBride’s band, Inside Straight, and he’s an in-demand sideman on the national scene – able-bodied as a drummer and pianist as well as a vibes player. But when he leads a combo at Bohemian Caverns this weekend, he’ll likely stick to the vibes. 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

New Orleans Bingo! Show feat. the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Kennedy Center, 8:30 p.m. | Working blithely through the cabaret traditions of its hometown, the New Orleans Bingo! Show boils together a lot: silent films, dancers, clowns, bingo games, slapstick comedy, and music, provided here by the estimable Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Tickets $35. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center 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

ELEW, HR-57, 9 p.m. | Winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, the pianist Eric Lewis had stints in the early-2000s with Wynton Marsalis and the late Elvin Jones, but recently coined a new moniker, ELEW, and even his own new genre, rockjazz. Indeed, he’s the only one playing it. Rockjazz is essentially a way of reworking pop tunes for the solo piano, with special attention to keeping all their grandeur, and volume, intact. There’s very little jazz involved. But when he gets in front of an attentive audience, Lewis does intersperse a great deal more traditional jazz (it’s a good thing – he can play as few can). No matter how you feel about rockjazz, it’s sure to be a rollicking ride. $25 cover, no minimum. View event on calendar | HR-57 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, APRIL 16

cb picks:

  • D.C. Jazz Loft, Chez Billy, 7 p.m.
  • Matthew Shipp Trio, Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 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

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

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

Matthew Shipp Trio, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Matthew Shipp is a contemporary powerhouse in jazz. For nearly 30 years, he has forged a path of innovation – informed by tradition – with a strong sense of conceptual expression. Shipp has explored his musicality via an array of popular artforms, from hip-hop to indie-rock to electronica. This show at Bohemian Caverns, which finds him joined by Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums, is part of Transparent Productions’ “Sundays at 7 at the Caverns” series. Two separate sets at 7 & 9 p.m. $15 cover, no minimum. [Words by Luke Stewart] View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

D.C. Jazz Loft, Chez Billy, 7 p.m. | This month’s D.C. Jazz Loft, presented by CapitalBop, is a celebration of spring. It’s taking place outdoors, on the patio at Chez Billy, and it spotlights three very different, very exciting bands. Frank Mitchell, Jr., the tenor saxophonist in Thievery Corporation’s touring ensemble, will bring his soulful trio; the alto saxophonist Russell Kirk, a protégé of Greg Osby, will play with his modern-jazz quartet; and the deft bassist Herman Burney will bring back his duo with Reginald Cyntje, a trombonist and D.C. Jazz Loft favorite. $15 suggested donation, no minimum. View event on calendar | More info

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

Cheikh Ndoye Band, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | The bassist Cheikh Ndoye fuses the American jazz tradition with the weaving rhythms and call-and-response tradition of his native Senegal. He is joined here by a cast of musicians who each specialize in their own notions of what other musical streams jazz can mingle with: the violinist Karen Briggs, the guitarist Dan Leonard, the drummer Marcus Baylor and the pianist Arshak Sirunyan. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $35 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Ravi Joseph Trio, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | The young guitarist Ravi Joseph leads a trio featuring Blake Meister on bass and Ele Rubenstein on drums. In the first set, he’ll play all original compositions; in the second, jazz standards and Great American Songbook fare. 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 

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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 [email protected] Read him at giovannirussonello.com or nytimes.com/by/giovanni-russonello. Follow him on Twitter at @giorussonello.

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