City Paper is not for tourists
“D.C. is a hard-bop town,” one dyed-in-the-wool local scenester told me last June. Nearly a year later, that statement seems as far removed from what’s going on in D.C. jazz as the hard-bop era of the 1950s is from the 21st century. Yes, that style still remains a foundation here—hey, somebody’s gotta work the standards at those political fundraisers and law firm Christmas parties. But there’s something in the air in 2012 that’s encouraged jazz musicians to dig deeper and paint with a wider palette, from different angles. The prime movers in this approach, naturally, are the young players with correspondingly fresh perspectives. Bassist Kris Funn exemplifies those views in his new guitar trio, Corner Store (The Dunes, June 2), which mixes jazz swing with funk, slow-jam soul, and Hendrix-style rock workouts. On the other side of the coin is the Bobby Muncy Quartet (Twins Jazz, Sundays in June). Muncy, who also heads a project that interprets Radiohead songs in a jazz context, applies that project’s lessons as a composer of original, often angular, post-bop tunes. This bolder, broadened version of D.C. jazz is multigenerational, too. Consider Michael Bowie (pictured). Now 50, the bassist has recently assembled the new quintet Sine Qua Non (Bohemian Caverns, Tuesdays in May); the band deliberately sidesteps traditional jazz composition in favor of longer, more freeform classical structures and world-music textures via steelpan drummer Victor Provost and percussionist Sam Turner (saxophonist Lyle Link and drummer Mark Prince are also members). It helps to have venturesome promoters, too, which the District does. CapitalBop, the jazz website that started almost two years ago and quickly became a local juggernaut, has reinvented the way jazz is presented in this city with its monthly Jazz Loft series. The site’s three-night program during June’s D.C. Jazz Festival concludes on the 9th with an 11-hour “MegaFest,” which features food and drink, art exhibitions, a movie screening, and a panel discussion along with four band sets, in an empty retail space at 629 New York Ave. NW. The stuff of a “hard-bop town?” Not even close.
May 30: Fabian Almazan
The Cuban-born pianist for the Terence Blanchard Quintet shares his mentor’s cinematic ambitions, as well as his flair for drama, rhythmic and instrumental tension, and multilayered imagination. His solo career is just beginning, but Almazan is well on his way to becoming one of the great artistic legacies of his generation. Blues Alley, $18.
June 1: Randy Weston
This year’s kickoff performer for the D.C. Jazz Festival is a true giant, both in physical and artistic stature. Pianist Weston’s fascination with Africa—all of it—transforms his performances into an aural flyover of the continent, putting its rhythms, folk traditions, and its atmospheres on vivid display without loosening the music’s bonds to the jazz tradition. The Hamilton, $27.50–$38.
June 13: Joe Chambers’ Moving Pictures Orchestra
A 50-year veteran and unsung master of the jazz drums, Chambers is also a rare postwar jazz drummer to compose for and lead a large ensemble. His work for Moving Pictures is vast, taking in an ocean of styles, sounds, and ideas. For this performance, the orchestra will comprise more than a dozen of D.C.’s most able young musicians. Atlas Performing Arts Center, $15–$25.
July 13–14: David Murray’s Black Music Infinity Quartet
Murray was a revolutionary in the 1970s New York loft scene. His Black Music Infinity Quartet is inspired by that world, which makes it a firm promise of great jazz with one foot steeped in tradition, one foot in Tomorrowland. Bohemian Caverns, $25.
Due to a reporting error, the original version of this article said CapitalBop’s MegaFest takes place June 3. It takes place June 9.