Friday, July 6
You’re going to notice a running theme in this week’s Setlist: Drummers. And why not? We’ve got plenty of killin’ ones, so let’s start with one of the best. Quincy Phillips is the trap man behind the now-(here-)legendary Young Lions, should be tired from the mountain of energy he drags with him everywhere. But as luck would have it, he has, well, a mountain of energy to draw from. A technical wizard and a soulful, funky man, Phillips certainly has pocket (more on that below), but he also has a great tendency to creep to the front edge of the beat. It’s a device that invariably acts as a shot of adrenaline to the people around him. If that’s not enough to convince you… well, look, you don’t get a job in Roy Hargrove’s quintet and Christian McBride’s big band if you’re not real, real good. Phillips and his band Jumbo Shrimp perform at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW. $15 advance, $20 door.
Sunday, July 8
The (not so) secret ingredient of D.C. jazz culture? Pocket. If you’re not sure what that means—first of all, welcome to Jazz Setlist! It’s the solidity of the groove. When everyone is hitting together on all the accents, precisely calibrated for the dead center of the beat, we say that this band is “in the pocket.” That’s what the young aspiring musicians in this town learn first and foremost, and that may be no more aptly depicted than in the drumming of Howard “Kingfish” Franklin. Fish, who proudly received the name from D.C. jazz mentor Calvin Jones, is not only rock solid on the beat, but he can and often does essentially play the whole melody on his kit without displacing a single musical syllable. That, folks, is pocket, and the musicians in the quartet he’s playing with—trumpeter Deandre Shaifer, pianist Noble Jolley, bassist James King—will let you know it. The Howard Kingfish Franklin Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Franklin St. NE. $5.
Monday, July 9
Speaking of great D.C. drummers, let’s talk about Lenny Robinson. Here is a man who once led a band in New York that alternated Kenny Kirkland and Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano—in other words, he played in the big leagues—and yet he found a musical home in Washington. That says a lot about both the jazz scene in the District of Columbia and about Robinson himself. But straight to the heart of it, this dude is clockwork precise. “Clockwork” is not a word I use accidentally; you could set your watch to Lenny’s time. He’s also a drummer who takes to experimentation like a fish to water. Not to say that he’s Muhal Richard Abrams, mind you—Robinson is a pretty straight-ahead musician. But at the first sighting of a spot to veer off that straight-ahead path and explore what that spot has to offer, Robinson will gladly do it. This is especially apparent in his trio, which he appropriately calls “Mad Curious.” But a quartet performance a couple months back included a performance of “Star Eyes” that was breathtaking and will not soon be forgotten by the people who saw and heard it. Robinson leads a quartet again at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.
Tuesday, July 10
Close observers have been watching Elijah Easton mature as a saxophonist for a few years now. He’s a member of the Twins Jazz Orchestra, and the frontline partner in the edge-skirting Joe Brotherton Quintet that holds down Wednesday nights at Jojo. Come 2018, Easton is not only a mature player, but a damned exciting one. He’s got an alarm-like round tone, one that gives pride of place to its low end, and will absolutely turn on a dime just as you’re getting comfortable. To prove it, he has a turn-on-a-dime trio, featuring Tarus Mateen on bass and either Allen Jones or Dana Hawkins on drums, and you never know what the hell will happen next when they get going. Get going they do: Easton and his trio have been maintaining residency at the Service Bar on U Street, and you’ll find few who disagree that this is one seriously hip gig. It begins at 9 p.m. at the Service Bar, 928 U St. NW. Free.