Jazz In The District

by Michael J. West

Monday, September 2
Experimental jazz galore! Cinghiale is a saxophone duo from Chicago: Ken Vandermark (best known for leading the Vandermark Five, which once upon a time headlined this writer’s first ever free-jazz concert) and Mars Williams (best known for the NRG Ensemble). Both are freeform improvisation specialists. But both also have feet in the Chicago post-rock scene, and both Vandermark and Williams bring their compositional acumen to Cinghiale as well. So! It won’t be entirely free jazz, obviously… but it will be new, it will be different, and it will probably be weird, in the best sense. But that is not all. There are also two other artists on the bill. Often abrasive, always askew Chicago guitar improviser Steve Marquette (who has been known to work with both Vandermark and Williams in various contexts) is one of them. The other is the DMV’s own Sarah Hughes, the alto saxophonist who, if you don’t know about her by now, you simply haven’t been paying attention. Now’s the time to do something about that. The program begins at 8 p.m. at Rhizome, 6950 Maple Street NW. $15.

Thursday, September 5
It’s really been recently that trumpeter Muneer Nasser has been working the scene. (That, at least in part, is by design: he’s spent a great deal of time working instead on Upright Bass, the biography of his father, the prominent bebop bassist Jamil Nasser.) But since he has been playing out, he’s been making a splash. Nasser is also very much a bebop missionary, and he’s got incredible chops that with each new hearing demand yet another new hearing. He reminds this writer of Woody Shaw in his virtuoso devices and a little bit of his phrasing, but he’s got a gritty tone that I’ve never heard before. You can hear it on his wonderful 2019 album, A Soldier’s Story. A much better idea, however, would be to pick up that album from the very hand of the trumpeter himself, after you hear him playing with a superlative quintet that also includes tenor saxophonist Elijah Easton, pianist Christopher Stiles, bassist Gerhard Graml, and drummer Julian Berkowitz. They play at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.

Saturday, September 7
There are those who would insist that Stanley Jordan is smooth jazz and not worth your time and trouble. This writer happens to think that that is true of smooth jazz in a general sense but adamantly denies that Stanley Jordan falls into that category. The innovative guitarist is best known for the tapping technique he developed in his playing. And while he undoubtedly has smooth contours in his sound, he is also more than capable of bringing out some rough edges. Indeed, Jordan’s current tour is what he calls “Stanley Plays Jimi,” an homage to the unchallenged god of electric guitar on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his iconic Woodstock performance (August 18, 1969). Jordan says that it’s his fantasy of a modern-day, if-he-were-alive Jimi Hendrix concert. Consider that this is in a solo-guitar context, Jordan’s preferred milieu. Now, really…does that sound “smooth” to you? I thought not. It does sound pretty great, though. Stanley Jordan performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $35.

Sunday, September 8
There aren’t a whole lot of vibraphonists around these parts. Chuck Redd is the DMV’s elder statesman of the instrument; Warren Wolf is its reigning star. Chris Barrick is the exciting young player who will enthrall you with his prowess. Barrick is a D.C. native who spent some time in the Cincinnati area (where he went to music school) before coming back to build a career in his hometown. Recently he did exemplary work on trombonist Shannon Gunn’s 2019 album Gunn’s Ablazin’ and Abinnet Berhanu’s record Hebret Musica; as you might surmise, he is a popular choice for a sideman on bandstands all over town. Give him the lead of an ensemble, however, and he’s something else again. And when that ensemble features the likes of saxophonist Mike Cemprola, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Eric Kennedy…well, need we really say more? Besides, you can check it out for yourself. The Chris Barrick Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Twelfth Street NE. $10.

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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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