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Thursday, Oct. 13
It’s probably not unfair to compare a jazz jam session with, say, watching professional athletes in a spontaneous scrimmage. It’s about developing one’s chops, about learning the playbook, and about interacting with one’s colleagues, as well as plain ol’ having fun. But a scrimmage just isn’t that interesting to watch somehow, while a jam session is spectacular. When it’s a good one, the energy is just as high (if not higher) than at any professional gig, because it’s spontaneous creativity let loose. Musicians are often trying to upstage each other, or to prove themselves in a scenery-chewing fashion. They’re encouraged to absolutely burn the place down. Not that your regular gigs are staid, attenuated affairs, but they’re not quite the badassery of a good jam. So it’s always nice to see new ones popping up around town, and one of the newest is a new affair at Union Market. The house band includes saxophonist Zet Harris, pianist Todd Simon, bassist Mark Saltman, and drummer Deandrey Howard. Can’t say who else might show up—but then that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? The Union Market Jam begins at 7:30 at 1399 5th St. NE. Free.
Friday, Oct. 14
Earlier this year Reginald Cyntje was planning to record his fifth album, Moods and Colors, live at Bohemian Caverns; the Caverns’ surprise closure in March came before Cyntje was able to get the project done. But the trombonist, who has shaped himself into a genuinely formidable composer, believes in the pieces he had written for that project, and has continued to workshop them with his favorite group of musicians. A version of that group, anyway: In this case, Cyntje is working with Brian Settles on tenor sax; Tim Whalen on piano; Herman Burney on bass; Lenny Robinson on drums; and special guest Theljon Allen on trumpet. The music is beautiful, spiritual stuff, and it deserves a hearing. Check it out at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Saturday, Oct. 15
Here is a guarantee: Fred Hersch will one day—soon—win an NEA Jazz Masters fellowship. Hersch will turn 61 next week, and has long since been fit to be described as one of the greatest living jazz pianists. He is capable of great tenderness on the keys, but also of tremendous whirlwind velocity, and (crucially) playfulness… and lyricism, lyricism, lyricism. That, above all else, is his calling card, and it’s as essential to Hersch’s many wonderful compositions as it is his improvisation. Now, having said that, Hersch also likes to throw in some unpredictability factors, among them a rather edgy rhythm section in his trio: bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. Expect the unexpected when the Fred Hersch Trio performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Gallery, 2700 F St. NW. $36-$39.
Wednesday, Oct. 19
Jazz steelpan is rare enough to be a novelty, but Victor Provost knows that novelty only goes so far—so he cultivates abilities to back it up. First and foremost, the D.C. pannist has a gift of the highest order for melody. Listening back to his 2011 recording of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” what’s striking is that Provost’s solo has little in common with the written tune—and yet it’s also built on one or two basic melodic kernels that he’s able to retool, refract, vary, and develop for quite a solid two minutes. What you’ll hear on Provost’s new album Bright Eyes, though, is not merely his melodies, but his ability to build and sustain an idiosyncratic kind of momentum with them. He’s an astonishing talent, and D.C. is incredibly lucky to be his home (and his home audience!) He performs a CD release party at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.