Dayna Stephens
Dayna Stephens

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Thursday, March 16

The great jazz broadcaster “Symphony Sid” Torin always referred to the ensembles he announced as “organizations.” If he were here today, and were being honest, he would probably refer to the Twins Jazz Orchestra as a “semi-organization.” There’s a definite loose, perhaps even ramshackle quality to the TJO. The 8:30 starting time is rather flexible, and they sometimes start playing while musicians are still arriving for the gig; Wilson, the lead trumpet as well as the conductor, will often shout out chord changes in mid-tune; and this writer, for one, may never have seen them twice with the exact same personnel or configuration. Nevertheless, when they do get going, the orchestra unfailingly delivers beautiful, exciting music that’s as unpredictable as everything else about them. Best of all, in the second set, things get avant-garde! The Twins Jazz Orchestra performs at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U St. NW. $10. 

 Sunday, March 19 

Ask jazz musicians from all around the country who pass through our fair city on tour, and they’ll tell you that (at least part of) what distinguishes D.C.’s music is its deep, tight pocket—the way that the band works closely together, with locked beat and ideal tempo, to create a steady and ear- and foot-pleasing groove. Much of the responsibility for that feeling falls on the drummer… and there may be no deeper, tighter pocket than that in which Howard “Kingphish” Franklin resides. Franklin grew up in the rich and heavy hard bop tradition of the District of Columbia, so of course that solid beat is his first musical language. Fortunately he has a group of shrewd, gifted musicians that can back him up on it: saxophonist Tim Greenpianist Alan Jay Palmer, and bassist Shawn Simon. They play at 6 p.m. at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th St. NE. $5. 


Tuesday, March 21 

Give Dayna Stephens a ballad or mid-tempo tune to work with, and the tenor saxophonist comes out with a lean, feathery sound reminiscent of Lester Young, Stan Getz, or Mark Turner. Give him a fast one, on the other hand, and he’ll burn it down, with pugilistic flurries that leave you dizzy and breathless. Even here, though, you’ll detect a certain feathered edge in his sax tone, and that rare ability to make a tenor saxophone sound like an alto—without giving up the warmth of the tenor. Stephens’s new CD Gratitude (inspired by the successful efforts of friends and fans to raise money for his 2015 kidney transplant) comes out April 7—but you can hear the songs, and the band (guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Eric Harland) this Tuesday night. The Dayna Stephens Quintet performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $30.