Thursday, May 18
The running theme of the Take 5! jazz series at the National Portrait Gallery is to present local artists in sets that pay tribute to the elder, sometimes deceased, masters of the tradition. Sometimes, though, those local artists begin to develop national and international reputations as masters themselves. Case in point: Warren Wolf, the Baltimore-area vibraphonist who makes his own records with all-star lineups and is a member of both the Mack Avenue Superband and the SFJazz Collective (speaking of all-stars!). His primary influence on the vibes was and is Milt Jackson—who was also the primary inspiration of vibes great Bobby Hutcherson, who passed away last August. That puts Wolf into a good starting place in which to assail the music of Hutcherson at Take 5!—with the help of pianist Joshua Espinoza, bassist Jeff Reed, and drummer Eric Kennedy. They perform beginning at 5 p.m. at the Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard, 8thand F Streets NW. Free.
Friday, May 19
My friend and colleague Sriram Gopal is not wrong when he refers to Smithsonian’s Jazz in the Garden as Getting-Sloshed-on-Sangria-Whilst-Jazz-Plays-in-the-Background in the Garden. But I would add a caveat or two: First of all, you could do a hell of a lot worse for Friday evenings after work than get sloshed on sangria while jazz plays in the background. Second, a jazz gig is a jazz gig, and your favorite D.C.-area players are happy to see you in their audience, sangria-slosh or no. Although in this case, the players are neither from the D.C. area, nor (strictly) jazz. The NYC-based Matuto combines Brazilian jazz and samba with bluegrass music, making for what could be understatedly called one of the rarer (read: weirder) forms of fusion out there. But its rarity (weirdness) makes it all the more fascinating. Matuto performs at 5 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden, 9th Street and Madison Drive NW. Free.
Saturday, May 20
Ambrose Akinmusire is well on his way to becoming the finest, most impressive trumpeter of his generation. First and foremost, he plays with an achingly beautiful and penetrating tone on the horn—one that calls to mind Louis Armstrong’s enchanted appraisal of Bix Beiderbecke, “those pretty notes went right through me.” His extraordinary technical fluency deserves much praise as well; on his new recording A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, Akinmusire holds a difficult high A note for a full 16 bars. But in addition to all that, Akinmusire is extremely ambitious. His compositions are packed with melody and passion, but also with very tricky rhythmic and harmonic maneuvering. It’s fascinating stuff, and he pulls it off precisely because of the melody and passion that he throws into the mix. The Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet performs at 8 p.m. at the Library of Congress’s Coolidge Auditorium, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free.
Monday, May 22
This writer had a chance earlier in the week to chat with Billy Hart, a titanic drummer and ever-contemporary musician (who also just happens to be native to Washington, D.C., but that’s immaterial here). We spoke briefly of pianists, and Hart mentioned a number who he thought represented the vanguard of the young generation on that instrument. Among them? One Gerald Clayton, a 33-year-old player from Los Angeles who is the scion of a musical family: His father is the bassist John Clayton, his uncle saxophonist Jeff. While it’s fair to say that Gerald works hard to incorporate hip-hop influences into his jazz, it’s not fair to limit that to the beats. It has more to do with a larger rhythmic, and perhaps more generally aesthetic, conception of the music—short, repetitive phrasings; an aggressive, even pugilistic veneer. Whatever you want to call that, it’s entirely music of the present. Gerald Clayton performs with his trio (bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Kendrick Scott) at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.50.