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It’s neither a leap nor an insult to say that Ken Vandermark is the Wynton Marsalis of avant jazz: Instead of teaching the world to sing like Louis Armstrong, this MacArthur “genius grant” recipient has spent a still-young career digging up lost pioneers such as Joe Harriott, Joe McPhee, and Luther Thomas. He has jammed through the catalogues of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and Sun Ra—and he’s not above soloing for Superchunk or Peter Brotzmann. His own sax work is neither smooth nor creamy—you won’t find him on BET Jazz—but incredibly varied, be it his funky screeches with the Vandermark 5 or his polyrhythmic collaborations with Sun Ra drummer Robert Barry on Design In Time. But that was a half-dozen albums ago. Catch Vandermark with his latest lineup, musing over his latest inspirations, when he plays with Lovens and Lytton at 8:30 p.m. at the Black Cat’s Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $10. (202) 667-7960. (Jason Cherkis)