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Thursday, April 5
We here in D.C. are blessed to have some splendid jazz musicians with roots in the Caribbean—Reginald Cyntje, from St. Thomas; Amin Gumbs, from Anguilla; Victor Provost, from St. John. We also have an elite regular visitor to D.C. with similar roots: Monty Alexander, a pianist from Jamaica. Alexander is a major enough figure that he spent a few years ringing in the New Year at Blues Alley (and quit because he wanted to concentrate on what’s called the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival). Probably even more than our local names, Alexander carries with him the deep tradition of Caribbean music and of Jamaica in particular—it was he, in fact, who explained to this writer where the names “ska” and “reggae” came from. This manifests in his music, and if anything gets more prominent as he ages—but he is also completely at home in the world of bebop and swing, stride and boogie-woogie, and the blues. He’s a deep, deep musician. The Monty Alexander Trio performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. $45.
Friday, April 6
We said it seven years ago, and we stand by it still: the finest concert in the history of the DC Jazz Festival (so far) was the one given in 2011 by Bobby McFerrin. There is nothing like it in the world. What’s more, there are few things, like it or not, that are as awe-inspiring, as thoroughly wondrous, as watching this virtuoso vocalist—and take this as a truism: you have no idea what it means to be a “virtuoso vocalist” until you’ve seen McFerrin—stretch out. There’s throat singing, falsetto, percussion, delicate lyricism (with words and without), masterful improvising all around, and an incredible suffusion of beauty and meaning to everything he does. “Transcendent” is not a term to be used lightly, and it isn’t being used lightly here: A performance by Bobby McFerrin is a transcendant experience. Bobby McFerrin performs at 8 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $45-$85.
Saturday, April 7
Three facets of Aaron Diehl’s piano playing immediately stand out to these ears. First, there’s his chiming chordal touch, which owes much to the gospel music tradition (and to both Duke Ellington and Bill Evans) but has some pretty seasoning of Diehl’s own. Second, there’s his dexterous left hand. It’s usually the right hand that does the nimble work on a keyboard, but Diehl’s bass lines and guiding chords are astonishingly fleet and agile. Finally, and not unrelated to the first two, there’s his surprising warmth, a sunny welcome that beckons from within and underneath his frothy improv lines. Consider them three reasons to regard Diehl as an enterprising young pianist with a deeply promising future, one that merits you running out to see him play with his trio with bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Kyle Poole. Washington Performing Arts presents this performance, which begins at 8 p.m. at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. $35.
Wednesday, April 11
With his dark, spicy, oaky tone and big round resonance that makes the most of the wood in his instrument—not to mention solos that both are hornlike, yet also retain uniquely guitaristic elements—Pete Muldoon is one of the District’s favorite jazz guitar players. He doesn’t make these sounds in isolation, however. Not for him, the guitar-bass-drum trio tradition. Muldoon prefers to put some horns on the front line with him, and keyboards behind him. This week, Muldoon even brings in an organist—Allyn Johnson—which means there’s not even a bassist, since the organ holds the bottom. Into the void step those horns: Joe Herrera on trumpet, Elijah Easton on tenor saxophone, and at some point during the evening a special appearance by trombonist Reginald Cyntje. Fill it out with the talented drummer Dante Pope and you’ve got yourself a guitar sextet, one of the rarer breeds in jazz—but one stacked with ringers. Pete Muldoon performs at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th St. NE. $10.