Weekend in Jazz | 3.22-3.24: Luminaries & rising stars play D.C., from Ben Williams to Benny Golson

The bassist Ben Williams, photographed near his apartment in Harlem, performs at THEARC this weekend. Giovanni Russonello/CapitalBop

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The Washington Women in Jazz Festival is in full swing; it’s got four shows on offer this weekend, and they’re all denoted with a “WWJF” label below. That festival skews toward highlighting younger talent, particularly in Saturday’s Young Artist Contest, and it’s not the only method this weekend to get a finger on the pulse of jazz’s rising generation: Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead, an esteemed annual workshop at the Kennedy Center that educates many the music’s best up-and-coming talent, wraps up its two-week run with a performance on Friday night. That same night, D.C. native Ben Williams — winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition — brings his band to THEARC.

But D.C. is also welcoming a couple of jazz legends this weekend: Charles Lloyd will perform at the Kennedy Center on Friday, and the former Jazz Messenger Benny Golson is playing with a quartet at Bohemian Caverns on Friday and Saturday. 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 22

cb picks:

  • Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes (WWJF), Westminster Presbyterian, 6 p.m.
  • Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Ensembles, Kennedy Center Millenium Stage, 6 p.m.
  • Ben Williams & Sound Effect, THEARC, 7:30 p.m.
  • Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Charles Lloyd, Kennedy Center, 8 p.m.
  • Benny Golson, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes (WWJF), Westminster Presbyterian Church, 6 p.m. | Led by Shannon Gunn – a talented trombonist and teacher who plays in the well-loved Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra – this all-women big band plays traditional tunes as well as original material, and has already recorded a well-received EP. The band includes the pianist Amy K. Bormet, the drummer Lydia Lewis and other prominent players on the D.C. scene. It performs here as part of the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Ensembles, Kennedy Center Millenium Stage, 6 p.m. | Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead – the Kennedy Center’s flagship jazz-education program – gives a handful of students in the early stages of their careers the opportunity to play in small ensembles while receiving guidance and coaching from some of the top jazz musicians in the world. Here, as the two-week session draws to a close, the groups perform at Millenium Stage. Free. View event on calendar | Millenium Stage 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, 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

Ben Williams & Sound Effect, THEARC, 7:30 p.m. | The bassist Ben Williams, who grew up in D.C.’s Michigan Park neighborhood and attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, plays the bass with warmth, earthiness and precision – not to mention a rich lyricism. It’s no wonder he’s a sideman for some of the top names in the game, including Jacky Terrason and Marcus Strickland. As a bandleader, he’s a crusader for the contemporary, playing cards from throughout the deck of African-American popular music. On his debut album, 2011’s “State of Art,” you’ll find grooving original compositions, a tune dedicated to a hard-bop great but narrated by an emcee, a Woody Shaw classic infused with go-go rhythms and covers of songs by Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Not to mention one glistening, dissected version of a jazz standard. Tickets $10. View event on calendar | THEARC website

Kip Williams and BopNation, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | The Richmond-based drummer Kip Williams and his group, BopNation, range across salsa, jazz-rock fusion, straight-ahead jazz, funk and prog rock, searching for something distinctive and compelling in the mélange. The band includes Mike Ess on guitar, Lee Covington piano, Kevin Simpson sax and Rusty Farmer on bass. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $18 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | You probably know Kevin Eubanks from his stint as the musical director on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, but he started out in the 1980s as a young jazz guitarist making ripples on the New York City scene. When he dials things down and focuses on touch without adornment, Eubanks can sound strikingly like Wes Montgomery. But often, as on his just-released album The Messenger, Eubanks opts for a greater involvement with electronics and textural fortifications: It’s a swelling, sparkling aesthetic. Eubanks pushes bright, glossy guitar lines over his band’s rock grooves with tightly wound sense of kinetics. He performs at Blues Alley with a small group. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $30 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Charles Lloyd, Kennedy Center, 8 p.m. | Charles Lloyd, an eminent saxophonist who pioneered the infusion of funk and rock influences into jazz but has always stayed true to the quicksilver delicacy of his instrumental approach, celebrates his 75th birthday at this performance. His current quartet includes the pianist Jason Moran, the bassist Reuben Rogers and the drummer Eric Harland. The rhythm section tends to stir turbid waters of lapping harmony while Lloyd coaxes them like a monument to equipoise, with an air-like tenor sound and little peaks of phrasing. The group will be joined by a number of special guests: the Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, the Greek lyricist Sokratis Sinopoulos, the mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran and the Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri. Ticket prices vary ($20-$65). View event on calendar | Millenium Stage website

Benny Golson, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The jazz luminary Benny Golson is one of the most important saxophonists of the hard-bop era – but his place in history is cemented by his compositions, energetic and driving and full of hummable melodies that soar and twine themselves into your brain. In his run with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, in Lionel Hampton’s band, and as a leader of the famous Jazztet in the 1950s and early ’60s, he helped define the incipient hard-bop sound, one that swung hard and dug into the bluesy roots of jazz while maintaining an emphasis on virtuosic improvisation. The many famous jazz standards that he wrote include “I Remember Clifford,” “Whisper Not” and “Killer Joe.” He performs here with a combo. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $35 cover online, $40 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 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 23

cb picks:

  • Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Benny Golson, 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.

Young Artist Contest (WWJF), HR-57, 1 p.m. | The second annual Young Artist Contest at the Washington Women in Jazz Festival presents six contestants, both instrumentalists and vocalists, ranging in age from 12 to 20. The panel of judges includes the trombonist Jen Krupa, the vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter and the radio DJ Keanna Faircloth. Tickets $10. View event on calendar | HR-57 profile

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

Tiya, Wesley United Methodist, 6:30 p.m. | The singer Tiya is versed in gospel, jazz and R&B. She conjures a silken, confidential air, something like a 1980s soul chanteuse doing the jazz thing. Here she performs music from her 2012 CD, “Tiya! Close to You.” $10 suggested donation. View event on calendar | Wesley United Methodist 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

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

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

Kip Williams and BopNation, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | The Richmond-based drummer Kip Williams and his group, BopNation, range across salsa, jazz-rock fusion, straight-ahead jazz, funk and prog rock, searching for something distinctive and compelling in the mélange. The band includes Mike Ess on guitar, Lee Covington piano, Kevin Simpson sax and Rusty Farmer on bass. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $18 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | You probably know Kevin Eubanks from his stint as the musical director on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, but he started out in the 1980s as a young jazz guitarist making ripples on the New York City scene. When he dials things down and focuses on touch without adornment, Eubanks can sound strikingly like Wes Montgomery. But often, as on his just-released album The Messenger, Eubanks opts for a greater involvement with electronics and textural fortifications: It’s a swelling, sparkling aesthetic. Eubanks pushes bright, glossy guitar lines over his band’s rock grooves with tightly wound sense of kinetics. He performs at Blues Alley with a small group. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $30 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Benny Golson, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | The jazz luminary Benny Golson is one of the most important saxophonists of the hard-bop era – but his place in history is cemented by his compositions, energetic and driving and full of hummable melodies that soar and twine themselves into your brain. In his run with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, in Lionel Hampton’s band, and as a leader of the famous Jazztet in the 1950s and early ’60s, he helped define the incipient hard-bop sound, one that swung hard and dug into the bluesy roots of jazz while maintaining an emphasis on virtuosic improvisation. The many famous jazz standards that he wrote include “I Remember Clifford,” “Whisper Not” and “Killer Joe.” He performs here with a combo. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $35 cover online, $40 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

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 profile

Dee Stone, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | Dee Stone sings soul, blues, jazz and rock. The first set of every performance is usually comprised of jazz standards. 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, MARCH 24

cb picks:

  • Jessica Boykin-Settles (WWJF), Anacostia Community Museum, 2 p.m.
  • Bruce Swaim Quartet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, 7:30 p.m.
  • Janel Leppin’s Ensemble Volcanic Ash (WWJF), Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m.
  • Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Afro-Cuban All Stars, Howard Theatre, 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

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

Jessica Boykin-Settles (WWJF), Anacostia Community Museum, 2 p.m. | Jessica Boykin-Settles is a widely respected vocalist, and a teacher at Howard University who has mentored a handful of the city’s fine young singers. She’s got a firm delicateness to her approach, and she is an expert improviser. At this show – part of the Washington Women in Jazz Festival – she presents a tribute to Betty Carter. Free. View event on calendar | Museum 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

Janel Leppin’s Ensemble Volcanic Ash (WWJF), Bohemian Caverns, 7 & 9 p.m. | The ambient and experimental cellist Janel Leppin teams up here with a new group to showcase a handful of new compositions. The group includes Leppin, Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar, Lisa Sokolov on voice and piano, Sarah Hughes on saxophone, Jaqueline Poulaff on harp and Amy Fraser on bassoon. It’s presented as part of the Washington Women in Jazz Festival. Two separate sets at 7 & 9 p.m. $15 cover online, $20 at the door, no minimum. 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

Bruce Swaim Quartet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, 7:30 p.m. | Longtime D.C. tenor saxophonist Bruce Swaim knows his Charlie Parker and his Sonny Rollins inside out, but his pleasant, ashen sound is recognizable as his own. Swaim’s quartet has a master’s grasp on the standard jazz repertoire but features a host of strong songwriters; a handful of original tunes are showcased on the group’s recently released album, “My Heart Stood Still.” The straight-ahead quartet features Swaim on tenor, Jay Cooley on piano, Paul Langosch on bass and Dominic Smith on drums. $20 cover, $15 minimum for dining-area seating. View event on calendar | Bethesda Blues & Jazz website

Kevin Eubanks, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | You probably know Kevin Eubanks from his stint as the musical director on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, but he started out in the 1980s as a young jazz guitarist making ripples on the New York City scene. When he dials things down and focuses on touch without adornment, Eubanks can sound strikingly like Wes Montgomery. But often, as on his just-released album The Messenger, Eubanks opts for a greater involvement with electronics and textural fortifications: It’s a swelling, sparkling aesthetic. Eubanks pushes bright, glossy guitar lines over his band’s rock grooves with tightly wound sense of kinetics. He performs at Blues Alley with a small group. Two separate sets at 8 & 10 p.m. $30 cover, $2.50 surcharge, $12 minimum. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Allen Jones, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | You’ve got plenty of so-called young jazz talents out there. Few are as young or as talented, though, as the pummeling, polyrhythmic drummer Allen Jones, who celebrates his 19th birthday on the day of this gig but is already one of the city’s most notable trapkit practitioners. Back home this week from college, he leads a combo through modern-minded originals and standards. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Afro-Cuban All Stars, Howard Theatre, 8 p.m. | The Afro-Cuban All Stars celebrate the 19th- and 20th-century music of an island that has preserved and extrapolated from West African rhythms more faithfully than perhaps any other place in the Western world. The 15-piece orchestra – whose revolving membership has in the past included notables like Ibrahim Ferrer and Guillermo Rubalcava – puts on an energizing, interactive show. Tickets $35 in advance, $40 day of show. View event on calendar | Howard Theatre website

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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