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Friday, Feb. 24
Every music observer worth his or her salt—and quite a few observers elsewhere—knows that Wynton Marsalis won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1997, the first jazz musician to do so, for his massive three-and-a-half-hour work for vocalists and jazz orchestra, Blood on the Fields. Less known, perhaps, is that even this could not encapsulate the ambitions of the world’s most famous jazz man. In 1999 the trumpeter/composer premiered All Rise, a 12-movement piece for 14-piece jazz orchestra, two choirs, and small vocal ensemble. It explores varieties of music, from the European classical tradition to big-band swing to Latin American folk-inspired sounds to heavy American gospel. Any way you slice it, it’s a work of enormous scope… and Marsalis is not paring it down for its presentation in Washington. He will feature the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Morgan State University Choir, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, and the National Philharmonic Orchestra when All Rise begins at 8 p.m. at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda. $65-$175.
Saturday, Feb. 25
Yeah, it’s just one jazz festival after another here in D.C. Last week it was the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival; this week, Amy K. Bormet’s already-legendary Washington Women in Jazz Festival kicks off with the pianist /vocalist /composer /festival founder herself. Well, her and a quartet featuring saxophonist Sarah Hughes, bassist Karine Chapdelaine, and drummer Ana Barreiro. Well, them and the Capital City Symphony, the city’s amateur community orchestra. (Do not let the word “amateur” deceive as you as to the high quality of these musicians, please.) “This concert approaches the connections between two iconic art forms, classical music and jazz, from a number of intriguing angles,” promises the promotional material for this year’s WWJF. There’s no shortage of projects that approach the connections between classical and jazz, mind you… but something about “from a number of intriguing angles” really is, well, intriguing. Amy K. Bormet’s Ephemera with the Capital City Symphony performs at 9 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $25.
Sunday, Feb. 26
Here we are, closing another African-American History Month. And we can’t have it end without one of the District of Columbia’s enduring jazz traditions, which is also one of the highlights of the annual calendar. I speak, of course, of Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, the trio led by drummer and multi-percussionist Kahil El’Zabar of Chicago. This is his twentieth appearance in D.C. in February, making himself an institution on our jazz scene despite his residing halfway across the country. The lineup of the band has varied a bit—this year it’s trumpeter Corey Wilkes and baritone saxophonist Alex Harding—but the basic vibe of the music is the same. It’s a spiritual ecstasy, simultaneously hypnotic and… almost unhinged, it seems. In the past 10 years he has performed the annual concert at at least five different venues—this is the sixth—and at each one it’s an unmissable experience. Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. $20 advance, $25 door.
Monday, Feb. 27
If you believe, as Setlist does, that Dennis Chambers might be the greatest living drummer (in any genre), then you appreciate how important and how rare it is to find him truly working with his peers. But his employer this week, Victor Wooten, has a strong claim to be the greatest living bassist in any genre. Perhaps you know Wooten from his highest-profile gig, that of the bass player in Bela Fleck and the Flecktones—he’s a founding member and has held the seat for nearly 30 years. Even in that unique fusion of jazz and bluegrass, Wooten stands out with his low, irrepressibly funky tones. In his solo performances of more conventional jazz fusion, that funk is really unleashed, and it takes a brilliant technician and solid professional like Chambers to keep up. Ditto Bob Franceschini, the veteran tenor saxophonist that rounds out the ever-spectacular Victor Wooten Trio. They perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. in Alexandria. $35.