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Friday, June 1
In complete honesty, the first time I saw Roberta Gambarini perform, I had never actually heard her on record before. I entirely expected this woman from Torino, Italy, to sing with the same rich northern Italian accent with which she spoke to the audience. Then she opened her mouth and sang Johnny Mandel’s “We Are There,” in what I can only describe as flawlessly articulated American English. My cultural biases are showing, admittedly—but this is also evidence of the hard work that Gambarini has dedicated to her craft. That kind of vocal precision is the result of serious commitment—as is her remarkable confidence, her rhythmic feel, her swooping melodic filigrees—and it has reaped rewards in terms of Gambarini’s artistry, as you can plainly see and hear. The late pianist Hank Jones, who spent years accompanying Ella Fitzgerald, and with whom Gambarini worked, once said that she was “the first person to come along who approaches Ella.” If you know jazz, you know how high that praise is. Roberta Gambarini performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $35.
Sunday, June 3
Here’s something trumpeter DeAndrey Howard told me about his own musical ability. “To rate myself, I think I’m about a mediocre player. But the key is, I know my limitations, I do know music, and I know what’s good and what’s bad. I know what not to do on stage.” People have gotten much farther on less. In Howard’s case, these things all make him a better musician than he seems to suggest; taste, discipline, self-awareness, and listening are every bit as important to making quality music as technical ability. Howard has learned to work with what he knows, and with what he can do—and that’s enough to make it sound great on the bandstand. His band Collector’s Edition doesn’t appear very often on the stage Howard curates in Brookland—there’s that discipline and self-awareness—which makes it something of a special occasion when they do. DeAndrey Howard and Collector’s Edition perform at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th St. NE. $10.
You may know D.C.’s own Jeff Cosgrove from the ensemble he once led called Motian Sickness, which was assembled to perform the final compositions of drummer Paul Motian. (Cosgrove is also a drummer, and like Motian he is restlessly experimental.) You may also know him from his fairly frequent work with the great avant-gardists Matthew Shipp (piano) and William Parker (bass). You may even know him from the band he co-leads with the young tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger. But all of that is quite different from a band co-led by Cosgrove and Brooklyn-based guitarist Steve Cardenas. Cardenas is not quite the rugged experimentalist that Cosgrove is; he does, however, have an expansive sonic palette that is rooted in deep melody. As well, he shares Cosgrove’s Paul Motian influence, having been at onetime a member of the drummer’s Electric Bebop Band. That, surely, is the place from which the two quartet leaders will start; who knows where they will go? I know a way to find out. The Jeff Cosgrove/Steve Cardenas Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Wednesday, June 6
A jam session is a nebulous thing. Some musicians prefer to see it as a chance to show off their own chops, to establish themselves as king of the mountain. Others regard it strictly as an open workshop or master class, where people who want to keep developing the craft go to challenge themselves and get real-time feedback from more seasoned, perhaps more technically able players. Most of the time it’s something in between—it’s treated as an opportunity for the players to communicate to each other in the language they’ve mastered, to play for themselves and each other rather than for the audience (though the audience is welcome to come by and hear it). Trumpeter Donvonte McCoy, who often ran the jams at the old HR-57, ran a pretty tight ship over there: it leaned a little toward the educational aspect, but he always understood and upheld the jam session tradition as important for musicians (and listeners) of all levels. He’s now running another weekly session, where he’s surely holding to the same rules. This one begins at 7 p.m. at Bin 1301, 1301 U St. NW. Free. (But order something!)