We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Friday, March 24
If there’s a queen of local jazz singers, it’s most certainly Sharon Clark, she of the booming but precise instrument. Alas, she’s moving to Europe this summer! The heir apparent, then, is Lori Williams, she of the subtler but equally precise instrument. But if Williams is subtle, she is also sumptuous; there is a pillowy feel to her voice, one that for all its delicacy, you could happily curl up and get lost in. One hesitates to quote a commenter from YouTube—in regards to anything, ever—but one of Williams’s videos drew a pertinent query last month: “What keeps this woman from being a superstar? She’s the total package.” Superstardom’s loss is the District of Columbia’s gain. An artist like this deserves top-flight accompaniment, and that she has in saxophonist Tracey Cutler, pianist Benjie Porecki, bassist Michael Bowie, and drummer Mark Prince. Lori Williams and Friends perform at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, March 25
Yes, there might be some R&B present in the music that the R&B Quintet plays—it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. But the name of the band actually comes from the names of its two principals, trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse and bassist Herman Burney. Rittenhouse is a sensitive but virtuosic player, a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the Army Blues, two local centers of incredible polish. He’s also a talented composer, as evidenced by his two album-length suites, The Francis Suite and The New York Suite. Burney is one of the city’s finest bassists, a North Carolina native who studied under the grand master of D.C. bass, Keter Betts. Surely these two veterans have met on the bandstand before—theirs is a fairly obvious pairing—but this writer has never seen them that way, and he’s looking forward to it. The R&B Quintet (rounded out by tenor saxophonist Grant Langford, pianist Vince Evans, and drummer J.C. Jefferson, Jr.) performs at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Sunday, March 26
Where once upon a time there were a few jam sessions occupying space on the District’s jazz calendar, today there are many for the discerning fan to sort through. Some, it must be said, are better than others… that’s rather the nature of the beast, of course. But one of the very best is the simply titled DC Jazz Jam, held every Sunday night at the Brixton on U Street. Now yes, the immediate knee-jerk reaction of readers to the Brixton is most likely the same as Jack On Fire’s, but no kidding—the spacious upstairs fills with great music and great musicians on Sunday nights. If you want to hear some of the best sharpening their chops, and challenging each other’s, it’s awfully hard to do better. And this week it’s being led by Jordon Dixon, WCP’s Best Jazz Tenor Saxophonist of 2016. It begins at 6:30 on the second floor of The Brixton, 901 U St. NW. Free.
Tuesday, March 28
It took a long time to realize this, but the saxophone trio format really is much more aggressive, even confrontational if need be, than a piano ensemble on all fronts. It doesn’t take Mozart to figure out that the lack of piano (or guitar, or any other chordal instrument) thins the harmonic backdrop of a tune, giving the soloists less rigid structure, more room to maneuver. Less noticeably, though, even the most violent piano playing can soften the band’s sound, ensemble and individual. Its presence acts as a cushion. All of which is to say, if you want to really hear a power saxophonist let loose, get rid of the piano. It also helps to bring in an equally powerful rhythm section, which is why Tedd Baker, tenor muscleman extraordinaire, works these days most often with bassist Kris Funn and drummer Quincy Phillips, as high-octane a combination as you’ll find. They perform at 7:30 p.m. at Quarter + Glory, 2017 14th Street NW. Free.