Jazz in the District this Week

by Michael J. West

Monday, April 29
“You need to check out Jack Kilby’s Front Line record,” a musician on the scene wrote me several weeks ago. “That pocket is deep.” If anything, that text was understating things. Love is a Song Anyone Can Sing, the 2019 album in question by drummer Kilby and his band The Front Line, is ALL pocket. It’s not your ear-trickery or mind-warpery kind of jazz, just pure, unfiltered straightahead hard bop. Your Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Cannonball Adderley in-their-prime kind of stuff, applying fiendish swing to a repertoire that ranges from originals, to Disney songs, to Radiohead, to “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was certainly enough to draw the attention of the Wammies, which this year awarded Love is a Song Anyone Can Sing as best D.C. jazz album. The album features a warehouse full of guest musicians from around the DMV and up to New York. A gig in town can’t quite replicate those personnel, but does offer a sextet stacked with the likes of trumpeter John d’Earth, saxophonist Charles Owens, trombonist Elad Cohen, pianist Jacob Ungerleider, bassist Kris Monson, and of course the man himself. Jack Kilby and the Front Line begin at 7 p.m. at Marvin, 2007 Fourteenth Street NW. Free.

Friday, May 3
You hear the name Brasilian Vibes Trio and it sounds so simple, right? There must be more to it than that. Not really, though. Vibraphonist and marimbist Arthur Lipner leads a trio with guitarist, percussionist, and vocalist Nanny Assis and seven-string bassist Leonardo Lucini. Together they play a vast spectrum of Brazilian musical styles. Choro! Samba! Bossa nova! Brazilian funk! Even some musica popular brasileira (MPB). If there’s a surprise to the band’s name, it’s in just how far the “Brasilian” category can stretch. It’s no surprise at all that they do a tremendous amount of improvising (especially Lipner, though Assis does remarkable improv work too). You, even if you’re in your seat, will do a tremendous amount of moving. Incidentally, Lucini has a D.C. pedigree, having spent ten years as a musician here—those funky bass lines may speak as strongly of home as they do of Brazil. The Brasilian Vibes Trio performs at 8 p.m. at Montpelier Arts Center, 9652 Muirkirk Road in Laurel. $25.

Saturday, May 4
It’s not until you try to describe the music of Angelica Sanchez that you realize just how hard it is to describe the music of Angelica Sanchez. She is an avant-garde pianist, though she’s not of the torrential “mad jumble of sound” school that so comes to mind with avant-garde piano. At least, not when she writes for ensembles, which is most of the time. She is a careful composer and pianist, paying attention to sonorities, spaces, and decay. She actually doesn’t play terrifically often—not that she doesn’t perform often, but within a performance her playing is spare, often decorative or punctuative (even in smaller contexts, like Twine Forest, her 2013 duo with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith). She prefers to let the other instrumental voices in her bands take the lead while she puts off-kilter, otherworldly harmonic colors into the background. On the other hand, Sanchez has never worked with a nonet before…such a large group of musicians may lead to something entirely new. Isn’t that reason enough to see it? The Angelica Sanchez Nonet (with D.C. drummer Nasar Abadey opening) performs at 8 p.m. at Abramson Auditorium, 1307 L Street NW. $15.

Sunday, May 5
Here’s one you don’t see often: a trio that comprises an upright bass and two guitars. Even in your folkier contexts, bluegrass or blues or other roots music, this is a rarity. Of course Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio is none of those things, though it’s also all of those things. Bassist Crump’s group (with guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox) certainly has a tendency toward folklike rhythms. They’re often stacked in counter-rhythms, however, so don’t go looking for hoedowns or hootenannies here. Even if you were, the advanced, often surreal (and at times even downright eerie) harmonies the trio creates would dispel you of that notion very quickly. This is delicately crafted, complex, avant-garde-ish listening music, heavy on improvisation and experimentation. The kind of music, that is, that D.C.’s Transparent Productions has specialized in presenting to Washingtonians for decades. Forget the presidential candidates: This is the most interesting of exploratory comittees. Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio performs at 8 p.m. at Rhizome, 6950 Maple Street NW. $20.

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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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