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Thursday, March 22
They don’t give out weekly residencies to mediocre players, but Marshall Keys goes beyond pretty good, too. The D.C.-born-and-bred alto saxophonist is a truly great musician. He has a solid, soulful tone and a knack for lines that start out as snappy licks and seemingly take on a life of their own, developing into elaborate, smartly constructed melodies. Better still, though, is Keys’ rhythm and space. These two are intimately related in his playing, since as he improvises he calculates the places where a silence from his horn will have the deadliest impact. Frequently it’s at the spot where his longtime drummer Mark Prince is placing a suspenseful fill, but Keys isn’t always so predictable. Sometimes it’ll come as a pause in the middle of a very long run or vamp—where it seems like he’s only taking a breath, but man, the spots where that guy takes his breaths. Marshall Keys performs at 7:30 with Mark Prince and keyboardist Federico Pena at JoJo, 1518 U St. NW. Free.
Friday, March 23
Let’s be 100 percent honest: The jury is still out on Joey Alexander. Or at least it should be. Alexander is now 14 years old, and unqualified-ly fluent in the language of jazz piano. He’s not only fluent, he’s a stylist, one with apparent sophistication and depth that are both shocking for a child musician. This writer, however, remains somewhat skeptical. Does this boy know of what he speaks? Can he? He knows how to imbue Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” with tenderness and grief, but he hasn’t experienced the crushing defeat of swearing off love and escaping to a seedy dive. Ditto Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”; there’s a certain childlike element to it, but also an earned wisdom that in Alexander is doubtful at best. Is he mature (decades) beyond his years? Or is he as highly adroit in mimicry as in his technical chops? One thing’s for sure: Either answer marks him as a genius. Alexander’s is a profound and profoundly rare talent, so experience it as you can. The Joey Alexander Trio performs at 8 p.m. (with drummer Jamison Ross opening) at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 North Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda. $25-$75.
Saturday, March 24
It’s not the first time Akua Allrich has played the Kennedy Center, though she’s not exactly on heavy rotation there either. But anyone who’s heard the woman sing knows that she belongs in that hallowed hall, a civic treasure who merits the trappings of a national one. Allrich is a spectacular talent. Her primary inspirations, as she makes clear every year, are Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba. She sounds like neither. Indeed she sounds like no one. Only herself, with confidence and a clear sense of unique direction that mines the whole of the African diaspora, plus a ridiculously acute sense of rhythm (generally, though not always, assisted by her bassist and musical soulmate Kris Funn) and an impossible quantity of soul. If you’ve been in her audience, you’ve been in the palm of her hand. If you haven’t, try it: the palm of her hand is a delightful place to be. Akua Allrich performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club, 2700 F St. NW. $26-$30.
Wednesday, March 28
She creates luminous compositions and arrangements, spins lustrous, unaccompanied introductions. But even on ballads, there’s a hardness to Yoko Miwa’s piano touch. Every stretch of notes has a little bit of piston in it, a little bit of percussive momentum that drives the music forward even if it seems to want to linger a moment on this or that turn of phrase. That’s not to say that Miwa ignores the nuances of the songs she plays; far from it. She does, however, treat them in unpredictable ways that evokes a curious tension on the keyboard. Maybe it’s just a suspense within the ear of the listener: How is she going to choose to push this tune? And how will she urge her rhythm section to follow her on that path? She always delivers. The Yoko Miwa Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. as part of the Japanese Jazz Series at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.