By Michael J. West
Monday, July 8
Alto saxophonist Trey Sorrells is fresh off of his June residency at the Mansion at Strathmore, which has been an important stepping stone for many a DC jazz musician. The sax man is actually a native of the Norfolk area who attended Virginia Commonwealth University—but he moved here especially to be a part of the DC-Baltimore jazz scene. That’s a positive for everyone, all around. Sorrells has a marvelous, full alto sound with a deep grasp of the jazz vocabulary, but also a penchant for fusion of the electric funk and R&B variety. (Think Donald Byrd and Blackbyrds, but with a decidedly 21st century twist.) He can go plugged-in or unplugged, in other words, and it’s not perfectly clear which of those styles he’s going to be wielding on Monday night—but that same sort of neo-fusion is also much beloved by the folks who do the venue’s bookings. Trey Sorrells performs at 6 p.m. at Marvin, 2007 Fourteenth Street NW. Free (but order something!).
Friday, July 12
Todd Marcus has built a cachet in the jazz world by standing at the forefront of a new upsurge in the use of bass clarinet in the music. That’s a good enough reason on its own merits, but it’s not good enough for Marcus, who has also become a tremendous composer and bandleader. Last year, he released the extraordinary On These Streets, a portrait of the culture and community of his native Baltimore that also complements his previous (and also extraordinary) recording Blues for Tahrir. He’s a musician who understands place. That makes him a perfect person to hold down the bandstand (or is it an altar?) at Southwest’s always-excellent Jazz Night, augmented by a magnificent band of area greats: saxophonist Marshall Keys, pianist Harry Appleman, bassist Blake Meister, and drummer Eric Kennedy. The Todd Marcus Jazz Ensemble performs at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street SW. $5.
Saturday, July 13
And then there’s Antonio Parker. He’s been a crucial piece of the District’s jazz puzzle ever since he came here more than 30 years ago, as a student at Howard University. “Tony P” is a man with bottomless soul and tremendous presence, both of which are belied by his diminutive stature and perpetual baby face. Don’t let it fool you: The man is a stone cold musical killer, with more swagger and swing at his fingertips than you can possibly imagine. He’s probably best known as a straightahead bebop and hard bop player—but don’t let that fool you, either. His most recent recording, 2016’s Planetentiary, captures the side of Parker that knows, understands, and loves the various permutations and possibilities of groove. Tony P contains multitudes. Hear some of them when he takes the stage at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $15.
Sunday, July 14
A lot of us who love jazz don’t necessarily love jazz vocalists. Certain vocal styles have developed into a kind of cookie-cutter pattern: predictable, singing the same twenty or so standards with the same sorts of embellishments. All of this is to say that Akua Allrich is no cookie-cutter. She is not like anyone else. That includes her two idols, Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba; both of those classic singers are readily distinguishable in Allrich’s own singing style, but she would never be confused with either of them. Jazz, R&B, gospel, torch singing, they’re all apparent in her music. None of them define her. No, Allrich is a stylist, and she has 100 percent ownership of that style, which should put her at the top of the list of DC cultural treasures. She will be fronting The Tribe (with pianist Mark G. Meadows, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Tyler Leak) when she appears at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 Fourteenth Street NW (downstairs). $20.
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.