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Thursday, Sept. 21
There really is something special, not to mention historical, about the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual jazz concert. It is something of a keynote plenary session for the CBCF’s annual legislative conference: a free and open event hosted by John Conyers, the Michigan Congressman and Dean of the House of Representatives who is also the U.S. government’s most dedicated advocate for jazz. Its history of performers is a list of titans: Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, Betty Carter, Randy Weston, Geri Allen. This year’s concert affirms the rise of D.C. bassist Ben Williams—who was the opening act for Weston at the 2013 concert. His star has only grown in the jazz community since then, and in 2017 he is leading an expanded version of his longtime band Sound Effect—complete with string quartet and another rising star, the sparkling vocalist Jazzmeia Horn—in a set of songs that Williams is calling “The Protest Anthology.” It begins 8 p.m. in Ballroom A of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW. Free, but registration required (http://cbcfinc.org/alc).
Friday, September 22
While Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a mere three years old, almost from its release it possessed the kind of cultural heft that takes most movies a half-century or so to acquire. It was the first non-documentary film to grapple with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy, for one thing. For another, it was helmed by a young director who had already been hailed as a visionary. So had its composer, Jason Moran, an acclaimed jazz artist who also happens to be artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center. Which, in turn, happens to have an in-house symphony orchestra. Everything—the film, the composer, the venue, the ensemble—demanded that they all be combined, and they will this weekend. After the stirring screening, DuVernay discusses the film and the events it covers with one of its significant characters: U.S. Representative John Lewis. Selma, with live performance of the score by Jason Moran and the National Symphony Orchestra, screens at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. 2700 F St. NW. $24-$89.
Saturday, September 23
The mantra of so-called creative music—well, one of the many mantras—is “from the ancient to the future.” It’s about understanding, respecting, and conversing with historical traditions (especially those of Africa and the African diaspora). Which is also, as it happens, an important mantra for the DC Alley Museum, an outdoor museum of murals that aims to keep alive the legacy of DC’s Blagden Alley as a base for the underground cultures of the city. It’s a great point of intersection of different approaches to ancient-to-future, which makes it an ideal venue for those creative musicians. That includes Chicagoan and AACM member Ernest Dawkins, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his work on the saxophone, as well as D.C.’s own sonic explorers Nasar Abadey (drums) and, of course, Luke Stewart (bass), whose name is never far away from a discussion of creative music and sonic exploration. They play in a trio (with opening by another trio, that of drummer Trae Crudup) at 10 p.m. at the DC Alley Museum, Blagden Alley NW (between 9th and 10th Streets NW, and M and N Streets NW). Pay what you can.
Sunday, September 24
We’ve discussed many times how trombonist Reginald Cyntje’s upbringing in the U.S. Virgin Islands has shaped his music, particularly with its love of Caribbean rhythms and melodic flair. But now, Cyntje is working to pay tribute to his homeland in an entirely different, more intensive way. He and his fellow USVI natives-cum-DC jazz musicians—that’s steelpannist Victor Provost and drummer Amin Gumbs—have organized a concert to raise money for relief from Hurricane Irma. And D.C. is pitching in to help. Confirmed so far as participants: Cyntje and Provost; trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse; saxophonists Paul Carr, Marshall Keys, and Antonio Parker; pianists Allyn Johnson and Tim Whalen; bassists Tarus Mateen and Herman Burney; drummers Gumbs and Lenny Robinson, Marshall Keys. It is if nothing else a reminder of the high caliber of musicians that D.C. is awash in, and it’s for an unimpeachable cause. The concert begins at 2 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th St. NE. $25 suggested donation.