Jazz In The District

by Michael J. West

Monday, November 4

It’s actually difficult to find examples of what Martha Kato sounds like playing solo piano. The New York (by way of Nagoya, Japan, her hometown) musician usually is at the head of at least a trio. Indeed, she has performed here before—at Blues Alley’s Japanese jazz series—with just such a trio in tow. But if we can judge her solo performance by what we hear in a trio performance, her work will be delicate, unfailingly lyrical, and, importantly, not homophonic. One of Kato’s signature touches is the very soft vocal that she uses to accompany herself on the piano. When she’s got the trio, it can sometimes run in unison with the bass. Yet it remains a very subtle force: Her voice really is gentle, enough so that it can be easy to lose against the piano. She also tends not to use it when she’s improvising, so you get the full impact of her pianistic approach without even minimal distraction. And it is a lovely approach. Martha Kato performs a solo concert at 7 p.m. at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I Street NW. $15-$30

Wednesday, November 6

Some may call organist Delvon LaMarr a “revivalist” of the organ soul-jazz genre. And to some degree, that’s absolutely true. But what LaMarr is looking to revive is less about the repertoire of the classic soul-jazz era—your “Alligator Boogaloo,” your “Sidewinder,” your “The Sermon”—and more about the just plain soul repertoire of composers like Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, James Brown, and the like. LaMarr, in fact, calls the band “soul music with a strong jazz influence.” Which means you should think of them as having less in common with, say, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s trio and more in common with Booker T. and the MG’s. (As a matter of fact, the second song on their 2016 debut album Close But No Cigar is called “Little Booker T.”) In particular, guitarist Jimmy James has much of the feeling of Booker’s guitarist Steve Cropper, though with some Hendrixian pyrotechnics on display as well. Check them out at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue. $25

Thursday, November 7

Indulge me, if you will for one second. This is perhaps an eccentric viewpoint. But the combination of Pete McCann’s guitar and Phil Palombi’s bass in the quartet Spin Cycle functions to my ears very like an organ. In fact, my first thought when hearing their self-titled 2016 album was, “Huh. I didn’t see an organist listed; wonder who they’ve got?” The truth is that their music has the same kind of chugging groove that an organ provides, even when they’re playing in a fractured time or no time at all, and McCann and Palombi operate collectively in the same way that a single organist is playing both bass and melody or comp lines. And those two aren’t even the leaders of the band! That would be tenor saxophonist Tom Christensen and drummer Scott Neumann, both of who are also composers and both of whom share a similarly…disoriented style that one supposes is Spin Cycle’s intriguing trademark. (Beyond that whole faux organ, or “fauxrgan,” thing, anyway.) Spin Cycle performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U Street NW. $10

Saturday, November 9

It was January of 2000 when pianist Jason Moran recorded Facing Left, his second album, with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits. The three of them had previously been the rhythm section for Greg Osby’s New Directions sextet; they would thenceforth be known as The Bandwagon. Fast forward to November of 2019, and the Bandwagon is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a trio, one of the most celebrated in the jazz world. Fascinatingly, though, they are doing so not with a commemoration of their first record together, but of its follow-up—which, even more fascinatingly, was not a straight trio record. 2001’s Black Stars featured the late, great saxophonist and flutist Sam Rivers, whose ease with moving inside and outside of convention naturally endeared him to Moran. The album was fantastic—but Rivers is gone, having passed away in 2011. Undeterred, however, the Bandwagon is bringing in the similarly versatile German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock to mark the occasion. They perform music from Black Stars at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater, 2700 F Street NW. $29-$49

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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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