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Thursday, May 17
One of the District of Columbia’s breakout artists of the moment is undoubtedly Steve Arnold. The young bassist has very quickly become one of the most in demand on the scene, and he plays with aplomb and with dexterity in seemingly every style. One of his colleagues noted not too long ago that Arnold’s late success probably comes in part because he always seems to enjoy what he’s doing. But we shouldn’t downplay the quality of his sound alone, particularly because Arnold is a superlative composer as well as a player (and aside from improvisation, which yes, does count, nobody’s sitting there watching Arnold compose.) The good folk behind the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead fellowship agree: Arnold was just announced as a member of their next class. This night he can be heard playing duets with alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes—the other breakout artist of the moment. 8 p.m. at Petworth Citizen, 829 Upshur St. NW. Free. (But order something!)
Friday, May 18
First, in the interest of full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes to Azar Lawrence’s new CD, Elementals, in a professional capacity. So if you like, take it with a grain of salt when I say that it’s beautiful, searching, but supremely confident music by one of the living masters of the tenor and soprano saxophone. You would know from everything said above that Lawrence was a student of John Coltrane even if you didn’t know that he got his big break as the saxophonist in McCoy Tyner’s 1970s band. His sound, though, is a little different: harder, a little more coarse, trending lower in the register than ‘Trane’s did. The music he surrounds himself with, too, is a little harder, but still steeped in the gospel and modalism of the master. The band includes Lawrence’s favorite drummer Brandon Lewis, along with the brilliant trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, pianist Frank Martin, and the wonderful (and wonderfully named) bassist Essiet Essiet. Azar Lawrence performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25-$30.
Saturday, May 19
We hold these truths to be self evident: When Victor Provost puts on a show, you make a beeline to go check it out. It’s coming up on a decade now since the St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands) native arrived in D.C., packing his steelpan drum along with him. Many of us who were observing the jazz scene at the time predicted that he was going to be a star. Nine years later, Provost has worked with Wynton Marsalis, the late great Hugh Masekela, and others; tours the world; and has become something of a protégé of clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, having released his second album, Bright Eyes, on the latter’s label. He’s a brilliant player: His music leans toward the Afro-Caribbean idiom that you might imagine given his Caribbean roots, but he also knows the bebop canon with equal thoroughness and works all of it with virtuosic, impossibly swinging lines that will leave the attentive audience member absolutely breathless. Victor Provost performs beginning at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW. $15-$20.
Sunday, May 20
I’m asking for trouble with what I’m about to say, but it must be said anyway: Arturo O’Farrill has surpassed the pathbreaking achievements of his namesake father. Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill was one of the architects of Afro-Cuban jazz, a Havana-born émigré who wrote arrangements for Benny Goodman, Machito, and Dizzy Gillespie before launching a big band of his own. When he passed away in 2001, his son took up with the remnants of O’Farrill’s band and made them the core of his own Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. The younger O’Farrill, born in Mexico City and raised from the age of 5 in the great melting pot of New York City, opened up the musical vision he inherited to include all of Latin American music, including the Latin American diaspora that surrounded him in New York, also incorporating progressive (sometimes even free) jazz, hip-hop, reggaetón, and whatever other sounds he could use. The result is a music with all the fire and danceability of salsa and other Cuban and Latin traditions, but also a remarkably thoughtful, sensitive music that seems too robust even for as large a category as the Cuban Art Festival. Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $25-$45.