Simply the company he has kept—Sting, Jay Leno, Bruce Hornsby, the Grateful Dead—provokes suspicion about Branford Marsalis. How did he hold his nose and play “If You Love Someone Set Them Free” night after night with the Policeman? How did he grin and bear the Tonight Show host’s smarmy barbs without using his boss’s prodigious chin as a mute? But Marsalis’ own albums and projects (minus jazz-hiphop miss Buckshot LeFonque) are characterized by integrity and high-caliber playing. In the tradition of such great Marsalis albums as The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, Trio Jeepy, and Crazy People Music comes The Dark Keys. From the title track, a “Love Supreme” homage, to the politically pointed “Schott Happens,” The Dark Keys is an uncompromising trio album featuring Marsalis stalwart Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and Reginald Veal on bass. Switching between tenor and soprano, the saxman leads his troops through a torrent of sounds, styles, and situations with the confidence appropriate to a commander-in-chief. Sonny Rollins may still be his biggest influence, but that’s company Marsalis would undoubtedly like to keep, and has undeniably earned. At 8 & 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Rear Wisconsin Ave. NW. $29. (202) 337-4141. (Christopher Porter)