This Week’s Jazz in the District
by Michael J. West
Monday, June 17
One of the hottest jazz residencies in town happens every Sunday morning. No, it’s not at brunch: It’s at services at the Washington National Cathedral. The erudite and magnificently talented saxophonist Marshall Keys, a lifelong D.C. resident, leads a septet at the city’s largest and most famous church, and oh, my (adding “Lord” here might be a bit on the nose), what a lineup. Keyboardist Federico Gonzales Peña, trombonist Reginald Cyntje, bassist Michael Bowie, drummer Mark Prince, vocalist Imani-Grace Cooper, and oh yes, Cathedral musical director and pianist Rev. Andrew K. Barnett all join Keys each week in an ensemble that they call “Soulful Path.” Yes, it’s religious music. Yes, it’s jazz. Yes, it’s early in the morning. That last complication, though, they’ve nipped in the bud for you by scheduling an outside gig at a more convenient time and a decidedly less reverential place. Marshall Keys and Soulful Path perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $25.
Thursday, June 20
After two years away, in that woodshed known as Ann Arbor, Michigan, tenor saxophonist Bobby Muncy has returned to D.C. to bring you the lean, muscular, tenor sax sound, with all its rhythmic jump, that you’ve missed so. Along with that sound, and Muncy’s otherwise rigorous reliance on his own book of original compositions, comes the sax man’s singular longtime cover project. The Radiohead Jazz Project is no lark: It’s been headlining venues hither and thither, in the D.C. area and beyond, since 2007 (inspired by Radiohead’s In Rainbows album from that year). It’s a fascinating study in texture and revelations about the richness of Radiohead’s compositions, and, while the lineup for this iteration (it’s been a while since Muncy graced these DMV bandstands, after all!) isn’t clear, past versions have almost always included trumpeter Joe Herrera and guitarist Anthony Pirog—adventurers who dig as deeply and eclectically into musical realms known and unknown as Muncy does. The Radiohead Jazz Project performs at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 Fourteenth Street NW. $15.
Friday, June 21
On the surface, Lionel Lyles is a swaggering, straightahead tenor saxophonist, deep in the pocket and steeped in the blues. He’s all those things under the surface, too, mind you. But he’s also quite harmonically daring, setting up parameters in his strong, well crafted melodies and then boldly strutting outside them. It’s not just him, either: His longtime quintet, featuring trumpeter Michael Fitzhugh, pianist Deante Childers, and drummer Tyler Leak (with a steadily rotating bass chair) follows Lyles on these ventures into Destination: Out. It’s not a bug, but a feature, and a very significant feature indeed of his forthcoming album Simplistically Complex, whose title tells you a lot of what you need to know about it. Featuring Kris Funn at the bass, as well as some special guests (alto saxophonist Gabriel Wallace, trombonist Gerald Apugo, drummer Philip Thomas). Will any of these turn up at the album release party this weekend? With this music, all bets are off. The Lionel Lyles Quintet performs at 8 p.m. at Mr. Henry’s, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Free.
Sunday, June 23
Jeron White managed to get the avant-garde into Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society. For those of you who’ve just joined us, AJACS, the ground-floor and grass-roots jazz venue owned by jazz trumpeter/pianist/drummer DeAndrey Howard, is nothing less than a temple of hard-bop and soul-jazz, perhaps the last era in which the music had the for-the-people touch that Howard makes the lifeblood of that place. This tells us something about Mr. White, a Baltimore-based bassist and bandleader. Perhaps it’s that he is good at slipping more progressive ideas inside of a traditional, populist shell. Or Perhaps it’s that his music is thoroughly rooted in the jazz tradition in ways that you can hear and feel, ways that pay homage to the masters the way that Ornette Coleman’s did to Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk—or Cecil Taylor’s did to Duke Ellington and Bud Powell. Perhaps it’s all of those things at once—all of which argues for you to go see him, doesn’t it? Jeron White performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Michael J. West
Michael J. West is a freelance writer, editor, and jazz journalist who has been covering the Washington, D.C. jazz scene since 2009. He spends most days either hunkered down in the clubs or in his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.