Thursday, Oct. 27
There’s no good reason for having waited this long to profile Afro-Bop Alliance, a seven-piece band from Maryland. Indeed, these guys might be more devout than any other ensemble between New York and Miami in the mission of presenting Afro-Caribbean and Latin jazz in all their permutations. The depths to which their rhythms and seasonings go is truly astonishing. (Try this: put on one of its records, or see them live, and close your eyes and try to guess how many percussionists are working at any given time. You will overestimate.) What’s more they’ve been recognized as such, having won a Latin Grammy and been nominated for an actual Grammy. Setlist should have told you to go see them a long time ago… but it’s never too late. The Afro-Bop Alliance plays at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Friday, Oct. 28
We here at Setlist stand to run out of descriptors for why you should go and see Roy Hargrove at Blues Alley—why, in fact, you should go every year to see him, since his autumn stand at the Georgetown Club is a longtime annual tradition. His virtuosity on the trumpet; his tight-as-holy-hell rhythmic feel; his deep, deep soul; his way with a melody (it deserves to be said again—“Strasbourg/St. Denis” might be the best jazz composition of the last 15 years). So here’s one that’s underplayed: forty percent of Hargrove’s quintet are D.C. natives. Bassist Ameen Saleem and Quincy Phillips are homegrown talents, now part of the extraordinary ensemble that’s holding down Blues Alley for the weekend. Two other superlative players, alto saxophonist Justin Robinson and pianist Sullivan Fortner, complete the quintet. They perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40.
Saturday, Oct. 29
Here’s a hypothetical: You’re a jazz drummer, a living legend—but you’re playing the night before your NEA Jazz Master brother celebrates his 90th birthday in the same venue. How to ensure that you neither upstage, nor are upstaged? If you’re Tootie Heath, you do it with a program that is guaranteed to be unique. Jimmy Heath, a tenor saxophonist, will obviously not mark his Sunday night milestone with four drummers and nothing else. Eighty-one-year-old Tootie, however, brings in a legendary contemporary (Louis Hayes) and two much younger players (Sylvia Cuenca and Joe Saylor) for a one-night feast of rhythm and percussion. At times it’s an ensemble performance, at times an improvised conversation; more often than you think, it’s a melodic wonderland. And at no time does it resemble anything that will make you say, “Well, I’ve already seen everything that we’ll get at Jimmy’s show tomorrow.” Tootie Heath’s “The Whole Drum Truth” begins at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Gallery, 2700 F St. NW. $39-$45.
Sunday, Oct. 30
Because, really, you’ve got to go to Jimmy Heath’s 90th birthday. It’s a tremendous gala, one of the biggest you’re going to see this year. As mentioned above, Heath is a great tenor saxophonist (and composer) and NEA Jazz Master; he’s the middle brother of three Heaths (with the aforementioned Tootie, and the eldest, late Percy) who are major-league veterans of the jazz scene—but Heath has the deepest resume as a bandleader and composer. Hence his meriting the Kennedy Center tribute; the rest of this pick can be filled simply with a recitation of the participants. Tootie, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Cowell, Tony Purrone, Sharel Cassity, Mtume, and the Jimmy Heath Big Band featuring Roberta Gambarini, Antonio Hart, John Lee, Michael Philip Mossman, Steve Davis, John Mosca, Jason Jackson, Douglas Purviance, Gary Smulyan, Mark Gross, David Wong, Bobby LaVell, Mike Lee, Jeb Patton, Freddie Hendrix, and I’ve actually run out of room to list the rest. “Jimmy Heath at 90” takes place at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. $20-$55.