Thursday, April 26
A few years ago I referred to Brulee as “singer-songwriter jazz,” and it still applies. The quartet (Louis Matza on guitar, Andrew Brown on bass, Aura Kanegis on vocals, and new drummer Mike Metzger on drums) loves the harmonies and the swing of jazz, as well as the smoky ambiance. But they also really dig the machinery of the pop song, and they work wonders with it. (Here’s a favorite, “In Defense of a Blue Shower Curtain,” from their 2013 album To A Crisp.) They promise a different sound from that one, though: the exchange of Metzger for founding drummer Lex O’Brien has brought them a new tightness, a metronomic precision that has re-oriented the musicians as surely as it will re-orient you, the listener. And it’s hard to think of a better atmosphere in which to do all that re-orienting. Brulee performs at 8 p.m. at Sotto, 1610 14th St. NW (downstairs). Free.
Friday, April 27
Guitarist John Pizzarelli is also a singer, but he sounds nothing at all like Frank Sinatra. His is a high voice, whispery and delicate in a way that completely belies his firm confidence. It is, as a matter of fact, a voice made for bossa nova. It is, as a further matter of fact, quite a bit like the voice of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the sine qua non of 20th century Brazilian songwriters—who sang backing vocals on the 1967 classic album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. Pizzarelli is enough of a crooner, dissimilar voice notwithstanding, to want to pay tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of that beautiful record, and so he does so—on his own terms, and with the bottomlessly warm seven-string guitar sound that identifies him even more surely than his voice does. John Pizzarelli performs his tribute to Sinatra and Jobim at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40-$45.
Monday, April 30
Happy International Jazz Day, first of all! Perhaps you’re celebrating it in this year’s official UNESCO hub of St. Petersburg, Russia. If that’s not the case, here’s a suggestion right here at home—one that actually celebrates the music of our fair city. Setlist speaks, of course, of the Calvin Jones Big Band Jazz Festival, the District’s annual trilateral summit between three of the area’s university big band ensembles: the UDC Jazz Ensemble, directed by Allyn Johnson; the Howard University Jazz Ensemble, directed by Fred Irby III; and the University of Maryland Jazz Ensemble, directed by Chris Vadala. You’re always on the lookout for ongoing jazz concerns that also provide a glimpse into the possibilities of the musical future, aren’t you? There’s no finer gauge for it in the District than this yearly extravaganza. The Calvin Jones Big Band Jazz Festival begins at 8 p.m. at UDC’s Theater of the Arts, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW. $10-$20.
Wednesday, May 2
We critic types like big pronouncements. We like grand statements of ambition and vision. In doing so, we forget what a personal, intimate, subjective experience music really is—and certainly is supposed to be. Sarah Hughes, for example, isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, isn’t looking to pioneer some new subgenre of jazz or creative music or even really looking to expand its vocabulary for posterity. It’s not about posterity. She simply wants to find a place wherein she’s creatively fulfilled and comfortable. That’s more than enough—hell, it’s everything. And it seems that with her new quartet, Coy Fish, she is on to something. The band’s self-titled record finds her with an astonishing sense of confidence in her own imagination, not to mention a deeply compelling curiosity about its boundaries. Keep an eye and ear on it: It can only get better from here. Coy Fish (featuring Hughes on alto saxophone, Sam Burt on saxophone, Dan Ostrow on bass, and Nate Scheible on drums) performs at 7 p.m. at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. $18-$20.