Jazz In DC and Baltimore

by Michael J. West

Monday, March 9

If you’ve been wondering what D.C.’s own Herb Scott was up to, Capitol Hill’s resident alto saxophonist/impresario has been working in Thailand as one of the U.S. State Department’s goodwill ambassadors. However, he’s home now and ready to get back in action—and not just at his home base down at Mr. Henry’s. Scott is bringing his homecoming to the city’s most storied jazz venue. Yes, it’s Blues Alley all the way, with Scott at the front of a sizzling jazz quartet: himself, pianist Noble Jolley, bassist Kris Funn, and drummer John Lamkin III. Talk about a murderer’s row, kids: These are four of the most seasoned, most dyed-in-the-wool DMV jazz cats we’ve got, and they’ve got buckets and buckets of soul. (Honestly, I’m not even sure they are figurative buckets: Check the stage for clandestine bucketry when you get your table at the club.) The Herb Scott Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Washington DC. $22

Tuesday, March 10

Two nights in the Alley? Absolutely, if you’re looking at the prospects of Herb Scott one night and George Burton on the next. Burton is a pianist, a young man with tremendous vision that he’s been refining into tremendous self-assurance. He has organized an astonishing ensemble to execute that vision. The ensemble is called Reciprocity (and it’s supporting an album of the same name), and it features two saxophonists, a guitarist, bass and drums, and the hauntingly ethereal vocals of Alexa Barchini—like Burton, a revelatory new presence in the jazz world who has a lot to say and a lot to give. This is not a band that mires itself in jazz orthodoxy: It is steeped in R&B, hip-hop, electronica, and in the case of Reciprocity, the avant-rock of Sigur Ros. But trust me: It makes sense when you hear it. George Burton’s Reciprocity performs at 8 and 10 pm at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW in Washington DC. $22

Wednesday, March 11

It’s surely safe to say that Derrick Michaels can do it all–and if you’re not as comfortable saying that as I am, perhaps you should see him do it. Michaels is a tenor saxophonist and one who likes to put himself in completely open, spontaneous, through-improvised situations (when he can get away with it). At one of his gigs, no matter who he’s playing with, you’re likely to hear what seems like a single, unbroken (spontaneous) composition that nonetheless has as much variety to it as any full-scale setlist. Moody, meditative, intense, high-speed, furious, middle-range…it all comes through, and always with a surprising amount of melody at the core. Best of all, you get two great bands for your trouble, when Chicago’s trio Twin Talk performs with Michaels’s Baltimore-based trio The Great Unfolding. They perform at 8 p.m. at An Die Musik, 409 North Charles Street in Baltimore. $20

Saturday, March 14

And speaking of tenor saxophonists who can do it all. With Sonny Rollins retired from performance, there is a strong argument to be made (I’m not actually sure I’m making it but stick with me here) that Joe Lovano is the greatest tenor man still playing. Lovano is indeed a player in the Rollins mode, with the aggressive sound from the Coleman Hawkins/Charlie Parker school, who can play completely outside and completely inside and never even flinch in making that transition. You may have seen him over the decades in collaboration with drummer Paul Motian, guitarists Bill Frisell or Jim Hall, pianist Hank Jones, vocalist Judy Silvano, trumpeter Dave Douglas, or, most recently, Trio Tapestry (a free-improvisational trio with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi). He also leads several ensembles of his own, large and small; this engagement is with a quartet of undetermined personnel. Not that it matters a tremendous amount: With Lovano at the helm, it’ll be great. He performs at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at Keystone Korner, 1350 Lancaster Street in Baltimore. $30-$45

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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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