Terence Blanchard and E-Collective perform Sunday at Blues Alley.
Terence Blanchard and E-Collective perform Sunday at Blues Alley.

Thursday, Sept. 28 

Let’s talk about GoGo Penguin. They’re young; they’re from Manchester, England; and they’re not always easy to characterize as jazz. The music is awfully short on discernible improvisation, for one thing—it’s got the “motoric” repetition we associate with electronic music, or dance music (or both). For the same reason, there’s not always much in the way of rhythmic variation. And yet, and yet. The texture of the acoustic piano, bass, and drums is indubitably drawn from jazz, and that’s not nothing. The textural plane it dwells on makes all the difference in the world. It creates the kind of timbral and harmonic interactions that are often subliminal in jazz, but have more impact on the ear than we know. Moreover, there are moments of improvisation, solo and collective, in GoGo Penguin’s matrix. There are even moments of rhythmic change-up. And when they come, they can be as good as anything the major piano trios think up. GoGo Penguin performs at 8 p.m. at The Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW. $15-$29.75. 

Saturday, Sept.30 

Thus endeth September, and with it (save for a makeup date next week) endeth another season of one of the best summertime neighborhood music programs that D.C. has. (Not that summer shows any indication of ending anytime soon, but that’s another story.) The Petworth Jazz Project is a family-focused event, as evidenced by the masses of parents-with-children that come to hang out once a month from May to September for munching, lounging on the PJP-provided picnic blankets, and listening to the free music that invariably includes a program for the kids as well as the serious stuff for the grown-ups. The kids’ music has this summer been provided by the great Baba Ras D, and rest assured he is great. The music? Well, that’s been the rotating commodity, and this time out it is headlined by Akua Allrich, whom I told you about a couple of weeks ago and every purple word of it remains absolutely applicable. The Petworth Jazz Project begins at 6 p.m. at Petworth Recreation Center, 8th and Taylor Streets NW. Free. 

Sunday, Oct. 1 

Terence Blanchard performs at Blues Alley every fall. But it’s not always with his E-Collective, the electronica/hip-hop/jazz ensemble that he assembled in 2015. (Blanchard appeared with them last year at the Kennedy Center, where he was an artist in residence during the 2016-17 season.) Blanchard has long been associated with the neo-traditionalist school (which, in fairness, is where he got his start), even though he’s always been more than willing to push the envelope. But he’s never before made quite such a definitive leap as now: The E-Collective exists to explore the sociopolitical realm of America in the 2010s, and as such it demands exploration of the musical realm in that time and place, too. The band’s album, Breathless, isn’t a nod to Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film, but to Eric Garner’s 2014 dying words, “I can’t breathe.” Terence Blanchard and E-Collective perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $50–$55.  

Monday, Oct. 2 

Because jazz is ultimately a music of detail, it’s less trivial than it seems to pick one small element of a musician’s playing and focus on its effect. Take Eri Yamamoto, for example. You’re more likely to hear the Japanese-born pianist in a trio (with its strongly developed and integrated rhythms) than solo. But when she does playing unaccompanied she deftly avoids the trap of the new-agey, melodic-but-all-too-ethereal ballads (think George Winston) that solo jazz pianists can easily fall into. How does she do it? Blue notes. It sounds ridiculous, an insignificant trifle. But throwing in those pitch bends (you can’t really bend a pitch on the piano, but a masterful jazz player knows how to approximate it) seems to ground Yamamoto. Its earthiness keeps her music from dissipating in the atmosphereand perhaps serves as a consistent reminder of the rhythmic, folk-based tradition in which she works. You’ll see. Eri Yamamoto performs solo piano at 7 p.m. at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St. NW. $15-$30.