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Jazz In DC

by Michael J. West 

Monday, October 28

Seems like every time he shows his face, guitarist Rez Abbasi presents a previously unexamined—or at least underexamined—aspect of his art. Many of us came to know him through his work with pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa either in the Indo-Pak Coalition or Abbasi’s own Invocation quintet, fusing music of the Subcontinent with 21st century jazz. Then all of a sudden, he was leading the Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet, making unplugged investigations of the staples of the jazz-rock fusion repertoire. Another turn and he was leading Junction, an ensemble performing Abbasi’s original compositions that are fed by all of the above tributaries, as well as M-Base and other sounds. Now it’s yet another astonishing curveball: The guitarist pairs with harpist Isabelle Olivier to create … something quite remarkable and unprecedented. It’s acoustic guitar, classical harp, tablas, and/or drums (depending on the circumstances, naturally) creating elaborate, delicate soundscapes that are surpassingly beautiful, often haunting, and simply sound like nothing else. The collaboration has been sponsored by the French American Cultural Exchange, which brings them inevitably to the French Embassy in the United States. They perform there (4101 Reservoir Road NW) at 8 p.m. with drummer Ernie Adams. $25-$100

Tuesday, October 29

Richie Goods might do just as well to hand out his resume at the door of whatever venue he happens to be playing on a given night. You should see this cat’s credentials. He’s worked with pianist Mulgrew Miller, guitarist Russell Malone, saxophonist Vincent Herring, and drummer Louis Hayes—and that’s assuming you choose to overlook the no-name talents he’s backed, like Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera and Common. The Iron City-born bassist is also the youngest person ever inducted into the Pittsburgh Music Hall of Fame. We are talking about a seriously bad dude here, folks. And when it’s his to choose—that is, when he’s leading his own Goods Project—he does so with a mostly acoustic sound that a lot of jazz writers refer to as jazz-funk. What gives it its edge, though, is that Goods makes it impossible to distinguish one from the other. When you know it’s jazz, it’s got those neck-twisting grooves in it; when you hear it kick into what you might think was a funky breakdown, it’s got acoustic jazz textures and phrasing, as well as the main improvisational language. Don’t call it jazz. Don’t call it funk. Call it Richie Goods. The Goods Project performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $22

Wednesday, October 30

If there’s such a thing as the all-star’s all-star—and I don’t know but that there is—then allow me to suggest three such creatures who exist in jazz: pianist Chick Corea, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Brian Blade. Any person who knows anything at all about the music knows all three of those names well. And the fact is, even if you don’t know anything about jazz, you stand a good chance of knowing at least two. Corea was one of the great crossover artists of the ‘70s, a jazz fusion giant who led the seminal band Return to Forever after putting in a residency with Miles Davis in his Bitches Brew period. Christian McBride has as much seductive low-tone power in his speaking voice as he does in his bass, and maybe as much charisma as both put together. (You can hear him on both NPR and SiriusXM.) Blade, I promise you, is on the same level, the kind of guy who gets invited to play at the White House and whom every musician in the business covets as the holder of their drum seat. These three have for five years or so now been working as Chick Corea’s Trilogy, playing standards and Corea originals as sublimely as I hope I’ve led you to expect here. Now, they’re doing it in D.C. Chick Corea’s Trilogy performs at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore (a presentation of the Washington Performing Arts Society), 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda. $60-$85

Friday, November 1

Two albums into their second edition (let’s just call them Version 2.0), The Bad Plus is as ingenious and gorgeous as ever. Orrin Evans has brought his own artistic and pianistic distinctiveness to the band after succeeding Ethan Iverson at the piano bench last year. His profound knowledge of jazz-as-folk works in tandem with his impeccable songcraft and empathy with the band’s founding members, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King. It’s even reaching new levels of maturity (no small feat, as Evans is already a remarkably mature artist) on their new recording Activate Infinity. On the other hand, though, bear in mind that joining an extant band means learning their extant concert repertoire. Evans has done that, too, and when they hit the bandstand he gives as much joie de vivre and personal stamp to the songs The Bad Plus broke in with Iverson as he does to the new material that’s been built around his own contribution. All the hallmarks, the signatures, of Version 1.0 are immediately apparent in Version 2.0, and yet with Evans aboard they’re also a force in their own right. But you don’t have to take my word for it. The Bad Plus performs at 8 p.m. at City Winery, 1350 Okie Street NE. $35-$45

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.

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