Jazz in DC and Baltimore

by Michael J. West

Tuesday, January 29

Baltimore has recently been the meeting point of two major forces in the jazz world. One of these is Sean Jones, trumpeter extraordinaire and educator of note; he is now director of the jazz program at Peabody Conservatory. The other is Todd Barkan, the impresario who was once behind the mythic, long-gone-but-not-forgotten San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner; he opened a new venue by that name at Baltimore’s Harbor East. With both these luminaries in place, they put their heads together and developed what’s now called the Baltimore Jazz Collective. It’s a core group of six Baltimorean jazz musicians who take to the Korner’s stage every Tuesday night to work out their ideas and encourage their fellows to join in. Jones, bass clarinetist Todd Marcus, pianist Mark G. Meadows, bassist Kris Funn, drummer Quincy Phillips, and singer/tap dancer Brinae Ali write original tunes to bring in for their fellow collectivists, but the Tuesday night performances are ultimately a jam session wherein Baltimore’s greater jazz community can hone its craft. The Baltimore Jazz Collective performs at 7:30 p.m. at Keystone Korner, 1350 Lancaster Street in Baltimore. $15-$20

Friday, January 31

Trumpeter Thad Wilson has a beautiful sound, a keen ear for a good melody, and a predilection for wandering off into adventurous directions. That last can mean a wide range of different ideas, from outer-space experimentation to simply whipping into a frenzy and burning the place down. One never knows—though we here at Jazz in D.C. and Baltimore would wager on the latter, given the flavor of the occasion (the weekly Jazz Night in Southwest series) and the amazing lineup of musicians who will be accompanying Mr. Wilson. That would be the astonishing saxophonist Brian Settles, pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Michael Bowie, and drummer Kelton Norris. (That’s another of Wilson’s talents: his talent for gathering talents.) Burning the place down isn’t a bad way to spend a Friday evening in a bitterly cold January, is it? Thought not. The Thad Wilson Quintet performs at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street SW in Washington, D.C. $5

bassist Steve Arnold

Saturday, February 1

I mean, what could go better together than ping-pong and jazz, am I right? Both are about interaction and dialogue (after a fashion); about versatility and flexibility and changing direction spontaneously, either under one’s own initiative or as a response to what one’s partner (or adversary) gets up to. Jazz musicians bounce ideas off each other not unlike the way ping-pong players bounce ping-pong balls off each other. That makes the appearance of rising-star bassist Steve Arnold (an incisive, better-than-reliable player and quite an interesting composer to boot) and his quartet at SPIN, the new ping-pong-flavored sports bar downtown, all too appropriate, no? His last appearance there two weeks ago featured Arnold leading the aforementioned Brian Settles on tenor saxophone, Francisco Quintero on guitar, and drummer Keith Butler Jr. The billing for the next installment isn’t entirely clear, but it seems a not-unreasonable guess that it’ll be something resembling the previous one. The Steve Arnold Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at SPIN, 1332 F Street NW in Washington, D.C. Free (but order something!)

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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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