Jazz in DC and Baltimore

by Michael J. West

***Publisher’s Note: Since the original publication of these selections, these shows have all be cancelled. We recommend you reach out to these artists directly to learn how you can support them during this time of Social Distancing.***

Tuesday, March 17

The Washington Women in Jazz Festival, pianist Amy K. Bormet’s amazing, magical community assemblage that takes place every March, was supposed to have its opening night celebration on Tuesday evening at the Italian Embassy off Massachusetts. Well, on the off chance that you have been following the world outside the tiny, windowless office on the second floor of your house (what? I’m not bitter), it will be no surprise to learn that events at the Embassy of Italy are indefinitely postponed at this precise moment in time. The WWJF doesn’t take things like that quite so easily, though, and so their planned afterparty is still on. Therefore, if you’re not nervous about large gatherings in close quarters (what? I’m not paranoid), you gotta go check out the happenings at the Tuesday night jam at Marx Café in Mount Pleasant. In effect, the women are taking over. If this writer were to wager a guess, it’d be that French hornist and session leader Abe Mamet will still be in the vicinity—but Amy and her cohorts, including saxophonist Emma Pivetta, bassist Zoe Jorgensen Spiers, and drummer Angel Bethea, will be in charge. Don’t miss it. The WWJF opening night afterparty begins at 9:30 p.m. at Marx Café, 3203 Mount Pleasant Street NW in Washington, D.C. Free (but order something!)

Thursday, March 19

Growing up in Northeast DC, Ben Williams dreamed of headlining the concert venues he was digging around town. No, City Winery wasn’t technically one of those venues (it only opened its doors in 2018). But it does today find Williams headlining, and it’s within spitting distance of his childhood stomping grounds. Williams, as almost everyone knows by now, is a jazz bassist who attended Duke Ellington High School, then moved on to Juilliard; won the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition; and built a thriving career in New York, and the world, that is still ongoing. In fact, it’s evolving into something quite new: Williams’s new album, I Am A Man, finds him newly politically charged, newly engaged in the craft of songwriting (as opposed to composing), and newly a vocalist. It’s a brave new world and damned if it isn’t an exciting one. Ben Williams performs an I Am A Man CD release party at 8 p.m. at City Winery, 1350 Okie Street NE in Washington, D.C. $28-$40

Friday, March 20

The overlap between jazz, rock, and funk that the fusion movement unleashed in the ‘70s has loomed larger in our imaginations than the smoother soul tributary that fusion also opened up. (It’s surprising that that seems somehow a less natural grouping: Ray Charles, the guy who invented soul music, was a jazz man first. Aretha did jazz, too, and jazz practically jumps out of every note on every Motown record. Anyway.) Nevertheless, vibraphonist Roy Ayers has persisted with the soul fusion he perfected on records like “Searchin’,” “Running Away,” “Evolution,” and the wonderful 1976 “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Ayers has long been a regular performer in D.C., having gone back and forth between Blues Alley and City Winery for years. Baltimore music lovers, though, have had to make that hourlong trek down I-95 during all that time. No longer. Roy Ayers performs at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at Keystone Korner, 1350 Lancaster Street in Baltimore. $30

Saturday, March 21

Pianist Scott Patterson is the kind of musician who loves making music so much that he invites you into his home to hear it. Patterson, who lives in Baltimore’s Lauraville neighborhood, hosts a monthly concert series that he calls “Afro-House”—and yes, the Afro-House in question is also the Patterson house. The pianist has tremendous range…which is to say that what one gets at the concert series isn’t strictly jazz. He has a classical ensemble, the Astronaut symphony, and also works on rock, soul, and avant-garde stuff. One of last year’s Afro-House concerts featured Patterson on piano and laptop, and three upright basses. Another featured himself, bass guitar, and beatbox. This one, though, features Patterson’s bass-playing father Ron and drummer Harvell Patrick in a program that will “honor the influence of jazz greats” like Miles Davis, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk. Here’s the rub, though: You have to purchase a ticket to the concert (which begins at 7 p.m.) to get the address for Chez Patterson. They’re available here.

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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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