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Thursday, July 19
One wonders how Baltimorean saxophonist Clarence Ward III would feel about being compared to the old old school masters. Perhaps it’s unfair; certainly it’s incomplete. There’s no disputing that he’s got considerable bebop-and-everything-after powers in his language and his blowing. But ohhh, there’s quite a bit of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, and a smack of Lester Young in there as well. If there were one specific saxophonist that stood in good analogy to Ward, it might be Joe Lovano, one of the living grand masters of the tenor tradition who, like Ward, has absorbed the whole history of the instrument into his artistry. But it might be more fitting to say that his sound is timeless, and simply leave it at that. Well, no, don’t leave it at that. Go see him! Clarence Ward III performs at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW (in the basement). Free.
Friday, July 20
This writer remembers when, just about 15 years ago, a convincing and wholly soluble fusion of jazz and hip-hop was as elusive as the lost chord. Today, it’s as common as AABA song form. Which is not to say that it’s stale: the field is incredibly fertile, and jazz musicians are consistently returning to harvest something new and unexpected out of it. One of these, D.C. trumpeter and BCJO cofounder/coleader Joe Herrera, has found a wholly original approach that he calls Remix. The premise: DJ Unown spins some hip hop—old school and new—and the rest of the band (Herrera on effected trumpet, Dave Manley on effected guitar, Chooky Caldwell on effected bass, Chris “Biscuit” Bynum on drums—plays on top of it, creating a remix and simultaneously making the whole thing completely their own. (DJ Unown isn’t some innocent bystander, either: He does some remixing of his own.) They perform at 8 p.m. at Marvin, 2007 14th St. NW. Free.
Saturday, July 21
Coming soon! From the makers of the Petworth Jazz Project! It’s more neighborhood jazz, this time in the decidedly un-jazzed-up Shepherd Park! Yes, there’s a good chance that you haven’t spent a whole lot of time at gigs up in the city’s flower-named streets, being that it’s mostly detached single-family houses and Walter Reed. But, lo! It is Walter Reed at which jazz is happening at the hands of Petworthian Tom Pipkin this Saturday. He’s calling the new series (of which this will be the inauguration) “Jazz in the Parks,” and it takes place on the Great Lawn at Walter Reed. Donvonte McCoy leads things off with his splendid trumpet and ensemble; vocalist Lena Seikaly, among the city’s best, carries them forward. Bring a lawnchair or a blanket, pack a picnic basket, enjoy the wonderful music. Jazz in the Parks begins at 4 p.m. at The Parks at Walter Reed, 1010 Butternut St. NW (entrance is on the Georgia Avenue side). Free.
Wednesday, July 25
The swinging guitar of onetime-Washingtonian, now-New Yorker Justin Lees has a glassy veneer to its tone. By that I mean that it’s uncannily clear, but also that it’s got a glow, a sheen to it that makes it instantly recognizable. That’s helped, of course, by his other distinctions: a deep blues feel, subtle note bends, beautiful vibrato, and a tendency to quote or paraphrase Lester Young phrases. (I’ve also heard some licks that sounded suspiciously like Bill Evans.) He knows his instrument, in other words, but is not confined by it, which is tricky in the tradition of Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery. Lees also has the savvy to surround himself with the best, which is no doubt why he’s working (this week anyway) in a trio setting with bassist James King and drummer Dominic Smith. They perform at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Franklin St. NE. $10.