by Michael J. West
Tuesday, July 30
You don’t have to be looking for a jam session to have a great time at Abe Mamet’s jam in Mount Pleasant. The young French hornist plays his rarely-jazzed instrument through celebrated pieces of bebop on his own (i.e., with his quartet, whichever rhythm section happens to be on hand as the house band that evening), so even before he’s opened the floor to all comers, Mamet has dazzled you with staples of the jazz repertoire on his French horn. That said, the jam itself fills up quicker than any this writer has ever seen (and on a Tuesday night, yet!) Last week, after Mamet had played his first three or four tunes, the very next song featured no less than seven sit-ins, five of them on various horns alone (including flute!). Every which way you look at it, it’s overflowing with excitement and remarkable hipness. Abe Mamet begins the jam session at 9:30 p.m. at Café Marx, 3203 Mount Pleasant Street NW. Free (but order something!)
Friday, August 2
Pianist/vocalist Mark G. Meadows has slowly transitioned from a primarily instrumental player into a singer-songwriter. What’s really impressive, though, is that he’s done so without abandoning jazz, and what’s more without diminishing his pianistic chops. He sings his own self-written songs (and unique arrangements of pieces by other composers) but includes complex and devastating piano lines and solos. That also includes room for similar improvisation and craft by his bandmates in The Movement. Its lineup varies, but it remains a splendid showpiece for Meadows’s music, which is as full of surprises as it is social consciousness. Be the Change, Meadows and the Movement’s new EP, is a fascinating dichotomy of social justice musical expression and hat tips to Stevie Wonder, the pianist’s favorite songwriter. It’s fine work—for a recording. Not to disparage recordings, mind you, but Meadows puts on a hell of a show that his EP can’t adequately represent. Mark G. Meadows and the Movement perform at 7 and 9 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 Fourteenth Street NW (downstairs). $20.
Victor Provost is one of the DMV’s most valuable resources, even if we did have to import him. Provost hails from St. John’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which only makes sense given that he plays the steelpan (or steel drum, as most of us know it in the continental United States). It’s also no surprise that his music leans heavily on Afro-Caribbean rhythms and textures. However, he is also completely fluent in the language and repertoire of jazz. While Provost has a substantial book of his own compositions to draw on (you can hear them on his two albums, Her Favorite Shade of Yellow and Bright Eyes), he will also break out the Great American Songbook standards as well as Coltrane, Bill Evans, and even the occasional pop and reggae song. Whatever he plays, it will sound fantastic. It always does. Victor Provost performs at 9 p.m. at Jojo Restaurant and Bar, 1518 U Street NW. $10.
Sunday, August 4
There’s been prior discussion around these parts of the Airmen of Note, the U.S. Air Force’s big band jazz ensemble, and of tenor man Tedd Baker in particular. Well, this is not about Tedd Baker. It’s about his comrade in arms on the tenor saxophone, a man by the name of Grant Langford. Langford might be Washington D.C.’s answer to Johnny Griffin, who once billed himself as “the world’s fastest saxophonist”; like Johnny, our man Grant can eat an uptempo tune for lunch. Of course we don’t dig fast for fast’s sake; the speed is only relevant if the stuff still makes sense when he slows it down. When you do, you find that he has a deep vocabulary that’s learned all the right lessons from the blues. Little wonder that Langford also plays both alto and tenor sax for the still-active Count Basie Orchestra—which, in fact, is sacred ground for a tenor saxophonist. In this instance, however, you’ll find him holding down the lead of a small bop-based ensemble. Grant Langford performs at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Franklin Street NE. $10.
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.