Thursday, Oct. 5
Jazz fusion often gets written off as long dead, having done itself in in the late ‘70s by means of self-indulgence and a loss of direction. Now, it must be conceded that in those years, and even into the ’80s, some of the stuff that came out of the fusion sphere was pretty terrible. But when, in 2017, two players from that age joining forces still generates buzz and draws sellout crowds, well, it tells you something. Indeed, this ain’t Chick Corea and Steve Gadd’s first dog-and-pony show together. Drummer Gadd was in keyboardist Corea’s legendary band Return to Forever for a minute, and played on at least three of Corea’s other records in the high fusion era. They also worked together as side players on quite a few occasions. But for these to powerhouses to co-lead a fusion band, that’s as exciting today as it would have been in 1975. Add in guitarist Lionel Loueke, saxophonist Steve Wilson, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, and percussionist Luisito Quintero, and the excitement only grows. The Gadd-Corea band plays at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $115. (The 8 p.m. set is sold out every night thru Sunday.)
Saturday, Oct. 7
It’s not something you’d think of as a venue, per se, but Blue House Productions is one of the most popular recording studios among D.C. jazz musicians—and they deliver glittering, hearty audio product. So when they announce a daylong jazz festival, it augurs two things: superb musicians and superb sound. Sure enough, the lineup includes four of D.C.’s finest, most innovative, most promising young jazz artists in the District of Columbia and environs. Mark G. Meadows, the pianist/ vocalist/ bandleader/ composer, tops the bill. Next comes singer Akua Allrich, who just keeps finding herself in situations where I have to write about her (to our mutual delight). Her erstwhile musical partner, bassist Kris Funn, leads his great Corner Store band, and bassist and singer Nicole Saphos gets things started. Buy local: Keep local artists working! The Blue House Jazz Festival begins at 1 p.m. at Blue House Productions, 4213-C Howard Ave. in Kensington. $20.
In this centennial birth month of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, both born in October 1917, it’s important to remember that they were two of the architects of the jazz concept known as bebop, still the basic paradigm for the music you listen to today. Discussion of bebop’s development nearly always begins with the late-night jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse, in Harlem, in 1940—41. Monk was the house pianist for those sessions, and Gillespie was one of the most frequent participants. These were the two that outlined the harmonic backstop, truly the shape of jazz to come. And true to their historical mission, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra plans to celebrate that legacy with a program called “Dizzy & Monk: The Rise of Bebop.” Lineup information is not available, but don’t be surprised if what you see is a small-group configuration of the full big band. (In which case there’s a darn good chance that you’ll get to see alto saxophonist and SJMO musical director Charlie Young as the analogue to Charlie Parker.) They begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Wallace Coulter Performance Plaza of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. $25.
Monday, Oct. 9
There are very few jazz ensembles, in Washington or anywhere else, comprising a violin, viola, bass, accordion, piano, and percussion. But that’s our own Arco Belo, which filters standards and the Great American Songbook through the lens of the Argentinian tango. (Just in case you wondered where you recognized that instrumentation from.) Bassist Ethan Foote serves as the house arranger for the sextet, and writes stuff that is most surprising in how strongly it swings. In fact the rhythmic aspect of Arco Belo’s performance (led by Foote and percussionist Lucas Ashby, who almost looks like he’s at a standard drum kit until you see that he’s straddling a cajon) is so aggressive, so powerful that it almost sneaks the melodic payload by you. But accordionist/pianist Simone Baron, violinist Aaron Malone, violist Nicholas Black¸ and cellist Carol Anne Bosco will never quite allow that to happen. Arco Belo performs at 7:30 at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Franklin St. NE. $8.