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Monday, May 15
The critical consensus about The Claudia Quintet is that they sound like no one else. This critic joins that consensus… but that being the case, how the hell do you write about them? Simply list their idiosyncrasies? (For a start, it’s a band whose front line comprises clarinet, accordion, and vibraphone.) Try to thread the rhetorical needle between all the flavors of music they bring together? (Progressive jazz, post-rock, contemporary classical, and that meaningless avant-garde catch-all “new music.”) Perhaps we can just call it the ultimate omnivorous expression of its leader, drummer/composer John Hollenbeck? Really, none of that tells you much. The band’s music is long on meditative, cerebral atmosphere, on wide intervals worthy of Anton Webern, on complex textures that, rather than getting absorbed in themselves, yield rich, lyrical melodies that a mainstream listener could easily enjoy. That’s still vaguer than it should be somehow—so here’s what The Claudia Quintet is: Worth your undivided attention. They perform (with an opening set by Janel and Anthony) at 8 p.m. at Songbyrd, 2477 18th St. NW. $15.
Tuesday, May 16
The more one sees and hears of Rochelle Rice, the more impressed one is. The vocalist has remarkable range (both in her instrument and in her stylistic choices), a deep well of influences that she celebrates in performance, and dexterous songwriting skills of her own. Indeed, at this very moment, Rice is preparing new material to perform at Blues Alley on Tuesday night. At least one new song will be included among the two sets in the Georgetown club, which will also include tunes by Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell, as well as the jazz repertoire. “Songs of justice and love,” that’s how she puts it. And she will be joined by the always polished accompaniment of pianist Mark G. Meadows, bassist Tyrone Allen, and drummer Mark Prince, though word is that Elijah Balbed may be joining in the festivities on tenor saxophone. Rochelle Rice performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Wednesday, May 17
They’re named for Night of the Cookers, the great 1965 trumpet summit between Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard. But The Cookers is a summit of far more than trumpets (though its duo, David Weiss and Eddie Henderson, is not to be trifled with). There are two titanic saxophonists (Billy Harper on tenor, Donald Harrison on alto), the brilliant pianist George Cables, legendary bassist Cecil McBee, and D.C.’s own Billy Hart on drums. Individually, they never quite got the majestic standing they deserved; I like to call them an all-should-have-been-star band. If this sounds like a dismissal or diminution, rest assured it’s anything but. Each member is an extraordinary talent, and they bring their best compositions past and present to the mix. (“Capra Black,” Harper’s longtime theme song, is in their repertoire.) It’s jazz history—and yet refreshingly present. The Cookers perform at 8 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7719 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. $35.