Thursday, August 2
Once upon a time George V. Johnson was something a spectre: A musical force you heard stories of, who had his own personal mythology and a few people who swore he was the real thing—but to actually encounter him was a rare, ephemeral experience. For two or three years now, though, Johnson has been a real presence—a wonderful, welcoming presence, and you never ask yourself if it really happened. Johnson is a vocalese singer, an artist who puts words to tunes (and transcribed improvisations) that were previously known as instrumental exercises. Each practitioner of vocalese tends to do his own writing of such tunes; Johnson’s signature is his lyric for Charlie Parker’s appropriately (and uniquely) rare samba “My Little Suede Shoes.” But that’s just a single starting point of his work, all of it delivered in his silky-smooth, rhythmically perfect baritone. George V. Johnson performs beginning at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW (downstairs). Free.
Friday, August 3
The line on tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf is that he first drew influence on (are you sitting down?) John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. The phrasing and harmonic approach certainly echo Trane, though to this writer’s ear there’s a great deal more of Rollins’s brawn and lyrical forthrightness apparent. That said, Weiskopf ain’t no imitator. He’s got a surety of tone that sounds like no one else, and both a certain structural carefulness and an easy way with the blues that can, in jazz, seem like a contradiction. Then again, the other thing about jazz is that navigating the contradictions is half the fun. Nothing paradoxical at all, though, about Weiskopf’s unflagging swing. It starts from the first note he plays and simply will not let up—it even seems to become more stubbornly locked in the longer it goes on. Dig it. Walt Weiskopf performs at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Sunday, August 5
Setlist unabashedly plays favorites, and Lori Williams is by any measure near the top of the favorites list. This D.C. vocalist’s instrument contains the kind of nuances that one could get lost in. She has the kind of attenuation and subtlety that we associate with jazz singing instantly—a kind of jazz-vocal ‘discipline,’ for lack of a better term. But Williams slips in hints—and sometimes dead giveaways—that she has packed away the kind of soul power that would make her a tremendous R&B or gospel singer. Perhaps it’s a sort of vocalist’s twist on Ernest Hemingway’s “iceberg theory”: What you hear on the surface is only about 10 percent of what’s really there. As it happens, what is there is crystalline clarity, perhaps the most precise articulation of any singer in town, and a range that will, when she runs it, produce shivers. Lori Williams performs her album release show (with special guest Bob Baldwin) at 8 p.m. at City Winery, 1350 Okie St. NE. $25-$35.
Monday, August 6
Whether on acoustic or electric, nylon strings or steel, the beautiful round tones of Dani Cortaza’s guitar playing are hard to overrate. His virtuosity, acuity, and plain old imagination on the instrument are all top-notch, as any fellow guitarist (or indeed fellow musician) in the DMV will confirm. The Argentinean-born Cortaza specializes, naturally, in Latin jazz—Argentinian, Brazilian, and otherwise South American (and vicinity). He does so with (a) gusto; (b) some of the best collaborators D.C. has to offer. Previously Cortaza has worked frequently with trumpeter Tom Williams and saxophonist Luis Faife; drummer Mark Prince is also a longtime associate. It’s Prince who accompanies Cortaza this week, along with keyboardist/pianist Wayne Wilentz (the go-to for Brazilian jazz in this town) and bassist Michael Bowie (the go-to in this town, period). Perhaps the best part of all? Everyone who buys a ticket to the show will also get a copy of Cortaza’s new CD. Proceedings occur at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.