by Michael J. West
Wednesday, April 10
If you know your way around jazz in the District, you’ve probably encountered Brad Linde. He is the co-leader and (usually) the baritone saxophonist in the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. He plays the other saxophones in his other ensembles: Team Players, Dix Out, Third Wheel, the Brad Linde Nonet and Quintet, and…well, he plays the saxophone in most of his other ensembles. Then comes Linde’s Therapy Band, in which the reed man takes up the piano instead. It’s rather an experiment, but then the Therapy Band is rather an experimental ensemble. The trio features bassist Mark Lysher and drummer Jeff Cosgrove, two of the region’s most accomplished and inspired abstract jazz artists. (Cosgrove just released an album with pianist Matthew Shipp, for example.) In other words, don’t expect the conventionally orchestrated piano trio to do conventional piano trio things. (But then, with these cats at the helm, would you want them to anyway?) Brad Linde’s Therapy Band performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Friday, April 12
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly seven years since Brent Birckhead made the plunge. The alto saxophonist and composer is a Baltimore native and was a fixture of the D.C. jazz scene for nearly a decade, studying at Howard University and then building his artistic profile in the clubs and other gigs around town. (He was, among other things, the founding lead alto for the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra.) Birckhead cut quite a figure, winning awards from DownBeat and Washington City Paper with his burning yet lyrical sound and rich harmonies, enough so that his 2012 move to New York was an inevitable action. His hard work since then has paid off in his hard-hitting debut album Birckhead (Revive Music), which dropped in February and infuses straightahead, swinging post-bop jazz with R&B, soul, and a hell of a charge of funk. Birckhead will be the subject of the saxophonist’s CD release concert—and indeed his first performance back home with the words “recording artist” beside his name on the bill. Brent Birckhead performs at 7:30 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 Fourteenth Street NW (Downstairs). $20.
Saturday, April 13
Centennials are increasingly piling up for totemic musicians of the golden age of modern jazz. Among the most famous (if least “modern,” so to speak) is the great pianist and vocalist Nat “King” Cole. Let’s not ding him too heavily for not being a bebopper or even always a jazz musician. Most of us know at least some of his repertoire, if only his posthumous duet with his (now also deceased) daughter Natalie. That repertoire itself deserves to be celebrated, as does the irresistible smooth style in which Cole delivered it. Who in the DMV is more up to such a task than the wonderful pianist Mark G. Meadows? He’s taken a turn into musical revue lately, performing the music of Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller on theatrical stages around town, as well as leading his five piece band The Movement on local bandstands (where he plays and sings his original tunes and arrangements). Now Cole takes his turn with the Meadows treatment, in a performance that is called (of course) “Unforgettable.” Mark G. Meadows performs at 8 p.m. at Black Rock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive in Germantown. $25-$45.
Sunday, April 14
The best album of 2018 largely flew under the radar. Here Today, by the vocalist Alicia Hall Moran (wife of pianist and Kennedy Center artistic director for jazz Jason Moran), was nothing like any of us have ever heard. It was an amalgamation of opera (in which Moran has her training), jazz, deep soul and African American folk music. That is also the foundation of the Morans’ collaboration at the Kennedy Center, a program called Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration. It’s a meditation on America’s Great Migration, fifty years after the fact, and it includes spirituals like the titular “Two Wings” (which Alicia performed onHere Today), the stride piano masterpiece “Carolina Shout,” and original pieces. They are performed not only by the married pianist and vocalist but with the help of the Imani Winds quintet, the brass band Sweet Heaven Kings, and vocalists Lawrence Brownlee and Smokie Norful. It’s rich in promises of original, ambitious music that—like Moran’s album—is unlike what you’ve heard before. Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration begins at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F Street NW. $29-$6
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.