Jazz In The District

by Michael J. West

Thursday, November 21

There was a time when you might put Bria Skonberg firmly in the camp of “hot jazz,” that throwback to pre-World War II jazz wherein, if you were a trumpet player (as Skonberg is), you were in the Louis Armstrong tradition with no intercessors. Now, I’m not sure what the hell you’d call her. She’s increasingly placed herself in a stylistic no man’s land. Her new album Nothing Never Happens, for example, finds Skonberg playing swinging trad-jazz trumpet over soul-grooving organ and guitar to the tune of …wait for it… Queen’s “I Want to Break Free.” Elsewhere she performs a mash-up of Lennon and McCartney’s “Blackbird” (adding her smoky alto vocal to her plangent trumpet) to Duke Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy.” Such mash-ups are actually a favorite game of Skonberg’s, and they’re both fun and fascinating. Some would call her “straightahead,” but that’s the last word in the world for what she does. Bria Skonberg performs at 8 p.m. at City Winery, 1350 Okie Street NE. $25-$35

Friday, November 22

There are a lot of very good reasons for following more or less anything that drummer Nasar Abadey does around this town (or anywhere else, for that matter). He is a civic musical treasure, one of our longest-tenured and most respected artists whose sharp, inventive sound on the skins has made him an asset to (at one time or another) just about every other jazz musician in town. He works often with bassist James King, forming between them a formidable rhythm section. They, along with pianist Janelle Gill (another wonderful local institution), are forming the backbone of a torch-passing moment that features spectacularly gifted young DMV siblings Ephraim (tenor sax) and Ebban (alto sax) Dorsey and splendid young vocalist London Meva’a, daughter of DC singing legend Sharon Clark. It’s as literal a context for the idea in jazz of “one generation supporting and guiding the next” as you can muster. The program, entitled “Bringing in the Future,” begins at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street SW. $5

Saturday, November 23

Pianist Noah Haidu is a player in the Herbie Hancock-McCoy Tyner tradition, with a soupcon of Geri Allen thrown in as well; such is the way of these pianistic things. Haidu, however, has a more overtly melodic feel than nearly any of the other players in that tradition, and it brings him a steep individual edge that also feeds into his very strong compositions. Stronger still, though, is when Haidu brings an unimpeachable band with him—as is the case with the one that includes bassist Buster Williams, drummer John Davis, and, of course, the inimitable and original tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas. But why stop there? Haidu tops a double bill that also features bassist (and Haidu’s fellow Charlottesville native) Kris Monson bringing in a crackerjack septet to premiere his Suite for Charlottesville. It’s going to be a night to remember in D.C. jazz, and so naturally CapitalBop had a hand in it: it’s part of the local jazz mavens’ Traveling Loft series. The program begins at 8 p.m. at the now-apparently-nameless (formerly Fringe) theater at 1358 Florida Avenue NE. $15

Sunday, November 24

The reason that tenor saxophonist Lionel Lyles is so frequently on our bandstands (when not on bandstands in Baltimore, where he lives) is a simple one: In his own telling, he needs to keep his edge. He wants to constantly get better, to hold his chops in good shape, and to get his name and sound in front of people. To that end, Lyles is a regular at jam sessions around the D.C. area, including the one on Tuesday nights at Takoma Station. Time, circumstances, and other things have put the venerable (and still popular) club on the fringe of District jazz circles. But the club, show producer Michael Phillips, and now Lyles himself aim to change that. Jazz is back at Takoma Station one night a month, and this time out it’s the hardest-working saxophonist in the DMV’s turn in the spotlight, with his working quintet (with trumpeter Mike Fitzhugh, pianist Hope Udobi, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Tyler Leak)  that’s among the best on offer around here. The Lionel Lyles Quintet performs at 6 p.m. at Takoma Station, 6914 Fourth Street NW. $10 advance, $15 door

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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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