Weekend in Jazz | 5.17-5.19: Kennedy Center celebrates female innovators; Gizmo in the caves

The up-and-coming bassist and producer Gizmo performs at Bohemian Caverns on Friday and Saturday. Courtesy gizmosound.com

by Giovanni Russonello
Editorial board

The Kennedy Center is overflowing with great jazz programming on Friday and Saturday — most of it part of the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. Yesterday we published an in-depth profile of Nicole Mitchell, the questing flutist who plays at the center on Saturday; as you’ll see below, she isn’t the only boldly experimental musician being highlighted this year at the 18th annual festival. At Bohemian Caverns, the young bassist and producer Gizmo will play in D.C. for the first time, showing off his modern, alchemical impulse. Two great trumpeters are also playing club gigs this weekend: straight-ahead swinger Kenny Rittenhouse is at Twins Jazz, and the famous Arturo Sandoval has a weekend-long run at Blues Alley.

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, MAY 17

cb picks:

  • Branford Marsalis Quartet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7 p.m.
  • Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center, 7 p.m.
  • Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Kenny Rittenhouse Septet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Gizmo, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m.
  • Donvonte McCoy, 18th Street Lounge, 10:30 p.m.

Mavis Waters, 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.” Every Friday night, the house of God becomes a hub for fish frying, communing and jamming on straight-ahead jazz. This week, the soulful singer Mavis Waters shows off her formidable pipes, and leads a sextet. $5 cover for adults, no cover for attendees under 16, no minimum. View event on calendar | Westminster Presbyterian Church website

Branford Marsalis Quartet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, 7 p.m. | To celebrate the official grand opening of the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club – which began operations in March – Branford Marsalis brings his superb quartet. The eldest of four famous musician brothers, Marsalis is one of the most important saxophonists of this era. The influences of great improvisers from the 1950s and ’60s run strong – Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane and Joe Henderson – but his interests are diffuse. Over the course of the 1980s, Marsalis recorded and performed with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, toured with Sting, and took a saxophone solo on Public Enemy’s famous “Fight the Power.” Nowadays, the saxophonist sticks rather dogmatically to straight-ahead jazz, but continues to chase various strands of expressionism. His working quartet features the melodic pianist Joey Calderazzo, the earthy bassist Eric Revis and the whirlwind of a young drummer Justin Faulkner, a young sensation who is not to be missed. $175 ticket includes admission, three-course meal, wine, tax, handling and gratuity. View event on calendar | Bethesda Blues & Jazz 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

Potomac Jazz Project, Sala Thai (U St.), 7 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 lineup rotates. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

L’Tanya Mari Trio, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | Singer L’Tanya Mari is influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, singing jazz with depth and soulful warmth. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center, 7 p.m. | The young bassist Helen Sung grabs you with the sheer brawn of her playing, and the melodic pulsation of her original compositions. On night two of the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, she leads off a bill that also includes Tillery, a vocal jazz group that includes three young singers aiming for a synthesis of jazz, Appalachian folk, Brazilian and country music: Rebecca Martin, Becca Stevens and Gretchen Parlato. The fearlessly inventive violinist and MacArthur Fellowship Award winner Regina Carter will finish off the evening, leading her group Reverse Thread. Tickets $38. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center website

Kenny Rittenhouse Septet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Kenny Rittenhouse was a mainstay on the D.C. jazz scene throughout much of the 1990s, playing at venues such as the One Step Down and Twins Lounge. The respected trumpeter has a tone that ranges from mellow to punchy, and has played with the U.S. Army Band and the Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra. Rittenhouse now teaches at George Mason University and doesn’t perform out as relentlessly as he used to. When he does, he prefers to work in expanded-combo settings; he appears here with a top-notch septet of local musicians. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $15 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Arturo Sandoval is a spirited and technically stunning trumpet player, who played for a while in the 1970s with the legendary Afro-Cuban ensemble Irakere before moving on to a rewarding solo career. Sandoval is renowned for his velocity and precision in the upper register, and his ability to treat ballads with well-timed tenderness. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $43 cover, $12 minimum, $2.50 surcharge. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Sara Jones Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Vocalist Sara Jones sings jazz standards sweetly; her top-notch band here includes Chris Grasso on piano, Tommy Cecil on bass and Lenny Robinson on drums. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Gizmo, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Gizmo – a Boston-based vocalist, bassist and producer – is the latest name in a bumper crop of young artists who are aggressively pulling jazz out of its traditional habitat and forcing it into the grooving universe of alternative hip-hop and R&B. But his latest album, “Red Balloon,” shows a truly catholic breadth of interests – from Afro-Cuban music to electronic ambience. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $18 cover in advance, $22 at the door, no minimum.. View event on calendar | Bohemian Caverns profile

Antonio Parker, 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

Aaron Myers, Black Fox Lounge, 9:30 p.m. | Vocalist Aaron Myers leads a straight-ahead jazz quartet, featuring piano, bass and drums. 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, MAY 18

cb picks:

  • Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center, 7 p.m.
  • Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Kenny Rittenhouse Septet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m.
  • Gizmo, 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

Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Quintet, Kennedy Center Millenium Stage, 6 p.m. | The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, one of the District’s most reliable emissaries of the traditional jazz repertoire, performs here in a slimmed-down quintet form, in conjunction with the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. Free. View event on calendar | Millenium Stage website

Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center, 7 p.m. | The three-day Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival finishes with fireworks this evening. First off, Nicole Mitchell, the winner of the DownBeat critics’ poll, leads her heftily swinging, darkly experimental quartet, Ice Crystal. The winner of the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, Cecile McLorin Salvant, will then showcase her cleanly virtuosic voice – redolent of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan – over a repertoire of primarily jazz standards. Then the master drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana closes out the night with her powerful, experimental fusion band Explorations. Tickets $38. View event on calendar | Kennedy Center 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

Full Ascent, Sala Thai (Petworth), 7 p.m. | This jazz band plays in a number of traditional styles, from hard-bop to Dixieland to calypso. No cover, 1-drink minimum.. View event on calendar | Sala Thai website

Kenny Rittenhouse Septet, Twins Jazz, 8 & 10 p.m. | Kenny Rittenhouse was a mainstay on the D.C. jazz scene throughout much of the 1990s, playing at venues such as the One Step Down and Twins Lounge. The respected trumpeter has a tone that ranges from mellow to punchy, and has played with the U.S. Army Band and the Smithsonian Masterworks Jazz Orchestra. Rittenhouse now teaches at George Mason University and doesn’t perform out as relentlessly as he used to. When he does, he prefers to work in expanded-combo settings; he appears here with a top-notch septet of local musicians. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $15 cover, $10 minimum. View event on calendar | Twins Jazz profile

Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Arturo Sandoval is a spirited and technically stunning trumpet player, who played for a while in the 1970s with the legendary Afro-Cuban ensemble Irakere before moving on to a rewarding solo career. Sandoval is renowned for his velocity and precision in the upper register, and his ability to treat ballads with well-timed tenderness. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $43 cover, $12 minimum, $2.50 surcharge. View event on calendar | Blues Alley profile

Akua Allrich Quartet, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 8 p.m. | Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba are two strong influences that bubble up in Akua Allrich’s Afrobeat- and jazz-infused music. The Howard University graduate, who composes many of her own tunes, is a strong and effervescent singer who wields a signature sense of earthbound optimism. No cover, 1-drink minimum. View event on calendar | Mandarin Oriental website

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m. | Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece big band, Secret Society, have received widespread acclaim since the 2009 release of their debut album, Infernal Machines. The group’s music, influenced by science fiction’s steampunk subgenre, can writhe with rhythmic tension or soar over corpulent rock beats. Lush but mysteriously pensive horn arrangements interlace with distorted electric guitars to create a halting collage. It all added up to send the band’s LP to a Grammy nomination. Tickets $25, $15 for students, no minimum. View event on calendar | Atlas website

Gizmo, Bohemian Caverns, 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. | Gizmo – a Boston-based vocalist, bassist and producer – is the latest name in a bumper crop of young artists who are aggressively pulling jazz out of its traditional habitat and forcing it into the grooving universe of alternative hip-hop and R&B. But his latest album, “Red Balloon,” shows a truly catholic breadth of interests – from Afro-Cuban music to electronic ambience. Two separate sets at 8:30 & 10:30 p.m. $18 cover in advance, $22 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

AJ Parham, HR-57, 9 p.m. | AJ Parham is a smooth, deep-voiced vocalist who sings R&B with inflections of jazz. But on the bandstand at HR-57, where he’s long been a stalwart performer, Parham often tries his hand at jazz standards. $15 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, MAY 19

cb picks:

  • Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m.
  • Ron Kearns Quintet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club, 7:30 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

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

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

Ron Kearns Quintet, Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club, 7:30 p.m. | The saxophonist Ron Kearns is a robust, skillful swinger. Here he plays a combination of standards and originals with a band including Michael Thomas on trumpet and flugel horn, Larry Brown on piano, Kent Miller on bass and Greg Holloway on drums. $20 cover, $15 minimum for dining-area seating. View event on calendar | Bethesda Blues & Jazz website

Arturo Sandoval, Blues Alley, 8 & 10 p.m. | Arturo Sandoval is a spirited and technically stunning trumpet player, who played for a while in the 1970s with the legendary Afro-Cuban ensemble Irakere before moving on to a rewarding solo career. Sandoval is renowned for his velocity and precision in the upper register, and his ability to treat ballads with well-timed tenderness. Two separate sets at 8 and 10 p.m. $43 cover, $12 minimum, $2.50 surcharge. 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 

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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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