Jazz in DC and Baltimore

by Michael J. West

Tuesday, February 4

Alas—the Sunday night jazz series is happening at Takoma Station, bringing in hefty and enthusiastic crowds on the last Sunday of every month. But you, you haven’t been able to make it out so far. Sundays are tough, and you have to get up in the morning (and morning is Monday—ugh), and the kids need extra enforcement on Sunday, which is bath night…well hey! Why not step out on Tuesday night for the Takoma Station jam session? No, you’re right, it’s not the same. The crowds are less likely to be there, for one, and the name local players are usually gigging somewhere else. Never mind that. The Tuesday night jam session is a solid hang. The music is good, and if it’s not as energetic an atmosphere it is, instead, a more intimate one. The beer selections are excellent, the food is tasty, and you never know who actually will turn up to sharpen up their chops with the Takoma regulars. The Tuesday Jazz Jam begins at 7 p.m. at Takoma Station, 6914 Fourth Street NW in Washington, D.C. Free (but order something!)

Thursday, February 6

Lately we here at Jazz in D.C. and Baltimore have been particularly intrigued by Ethio-jazz. Jazz’s international currency has meant that the music became fodder for fusion with the traditions of other lands, and Ethiopian jazz has one of the richest. Not only did Ethiopian musicians refit jazz with their own native modes and rhythms, but they added inserts of American soul, Afro-funk, and psychedelia. Well, it bears repeating that while Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital) is the largest enclave of Ethiopians in the world, the second largest is the District of Columbia. Naturally, that enclave had to have at least one fantastic Ethio-jazz ensemble. It does: The Feedel Band, who have an every-first-Thursday residency at Bossa in Adams Morgan. One of the key elements of Feedel is that they amp up the funk component in their sound, with the slippery bass lines of Al Seged Kebede stretching out into capacious 6/4 and 8/4 riffs that are intoxicating—if you’re not careful, you might catch yourself missing the improvs for the groove. The Feedel Band performs at 8 p.m. at Bossa Bistro and Lounge, 2463 18th Street NW in Washington, D.C. $10.

Friday, February 7

Craig Harris has now spent almost 45 years making some of the most beguiling and experimental trombone music in the world. Harris broke out as a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra in the late ‘70s, then moved on to do extraordinary work with two of the major avant-garde ensembles of the 1980s, the Henry Threadgill Sextet and the David Murray Octet. In that same period, he released two albums of his own with a band called Tailgaters’ Tales—sometimes underrated today because of its use of period electronics. But then, that’s the whole thing, isn’t it? Experimenting with electronics is experimenting—being unafraid to explore the new, to take chances, to see what happens. Harris has not recorded since using the name Tailgaters’ Tales, but he has continued performing, and innovating, with the band ever since. It’s currently a quartet with himself on trombone, Jay Rodriguez on saxophone, Calvin Jones on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums. Craig Harris and Tailgaters’ Tales perform at 8 p.m. at An Die Musik, 409 North Charles Street in Baltimore. $10-$25

Sunday, February 9

No, there are not eight pieces in guitarist Dave Stryker’s Eight Track band; it’s a quartet. Nor do they only do eight tracks; they have, in fact, released four full albums. There is actually a high concept behind Stryker’s band with organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter. They do groove-jazz takes of songs from the eight-track era, those funky and glammy and poppy hits of the 1970s with which Stryker grew up and which all of us know and sing along to, even if we didn’t grow up in the ‘70s. Kids, you have not heard The Jackson Five’s “Never Can Say Goodbye,” or The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” until you’ve heard it through the stoned soul prism of liquid, smoky (liquid smoke?) guitar, bubbling organ, and hazy vibraphone. Oh, yes, there is also a vibraphone involved in the Eight Track band! In this event, the vibist will be the tremendous local vibraphone star Warren Wolf—as in, he lives locally, but he’s a star everywhere. Dave Stryker’s Eight Track with Warren Wolf performs at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at Keystone Korner, 1350 Lancaster Street in Baltimore. $20-$30

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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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