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Friday, June 2
April’s annual Calvin Jones Big Band Jazz Festival at UDC may raise the question among some in the District of Columbia of who Calvin Jones might have been. Well, for a start, he was a trombonist, composer, and bandleader who spent the last thirty years or so of his life in Washington. But more to the point, he was an educator whose shadow looms enormous here. He spent nearly 30 years directing the Jazz Studies program at UDC, creating a dual legacy that continues to this day in the forms of both the program itself and the many alumni thereof. It’s the latter who pay tribute to Jones this week, in a septet that includes Howard “Kingfish” Franklin on drums and DeAndre Shaifer on trumpet, two of the UDC program’s proudest accomplishments, and a book full of Jones’s prolific compositions. They perform at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW. $5.
Saturday, June 3
One of the coolest lectures I ever saw was about five years ago at Strathmore; the speaker was one Dr. Charles Limb. Limb is a brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins University who has been exploring the concept of artistic creativity not as an abstraction, but as a measurable neurological phenomenon. And he has experimental research to present that shows that he’s on to something. Some of that research involved musicians in dialogue, showing that players who traded improvised phrases between each other were using the same areas of the brain that we use for language and conversation. It was a suggestion not only that music is a language for its practitioners, but that it resonates with the listeners the same way that words do. That Limb is now appearing alongside pianist Vijay Iyer and bassist Esperanza Spalding, though, suggests that he’s not just presenting research—but live-and-in-person examples. They appear together at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater (part of the Kennedy Center’s Sound Health series), 2700 F St. NW. $20.
Wednesday, June 7
Twenty-eight years old, Christian Sands is already a veteran of the jazz world—a highly acclaimed one. An acknowledged child prodigy, he studied at the feet of D.C. native Dr. Billy Taylor (and then performed at Taylor’s memorial service in January 2011). He was a member of Christian McBride’s acoustic ensemble Inside Straight, and is now a member of his trio (where he has a much higher profile; to quote Billy Hart, kindergarteners don’t get these kinds of opportunities). Sands has a fresh, pretty touch that he parlays into subtle rhythmic and structural experiments during his solos. Even subtler still are the harmonic shadings that he toys with in the process. And like so many musicians of his age group, Sands has a deep understanding of hip-hop and new ways in which it can be married to the language of jazz. These are fundamental components of his gorgeous, sophisticated work on the new CD Reach, his debut for Mack Avenue—whose release Sands celebrates this week at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.