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Friday, Sept. 30 

It almost seems inappropriate in this context to talk about how smart Alison Crockett is. She’s one of the sharpest people you’ll ever encounter… but it’s not like you’re going to be discussing current events with her, right? Well, maybe you will. Crockett, a D.C.-based and thoroughly original singer, is simultaneously a shrewd, trenchant observer of the world’s workings. Think about the world’s workings these days and you can imagine the edge of exasperation, sadness, and even resignation in her music. At the same time, though, there’s that spark of optimism and hope—a vast goldmine of beauty in her music, and perhaps even more importantly an appreciation of the beauty hiding in even the darkest corners of the world. The ensemble backing her is on the same level of artistic credentials: trumpeter Thad Wilson, pianist Wayne Wilentz, bassist David Jernigan, and drummer Lenny Robinson. They perform at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW. $5.


When it comes down to it, pianist Frank Carlberg is one of those musicians whose sound is so distinct, so original, that it’s almost useless (and irrelevant) to try to describe it further (save that it’s dark, melodic stuff with a clockwork sense of rhythm and a hint of modern classical ideas). Guitarist Oscar Penas is a bit easier to put a finger on, with its marriage of jazz’s rhythmic variety to the musical language of his native Catalonia (Spain). Their styles, however, fit together remarkably smoothly—a pretty solid prerequisite for a duo performance. Penas is the name at the top of the bill, but with the strong voice of Carlberg in partnership with him, it won’t stay that way. Their performance begins at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE (Part of Atlas’s National Hispanic Heritage Month series). $20-$28.

Saturday Oct. 1 

Tacha Coleman Parr wears technical prowess as casually as old clothes. She’s got a beautiful, clear voice, warm and inviting, and she wields it with style and aplomb. Her dynamic control is especially welcome: It has robust and soft sides that she seems able to flip back and forth between like a switch on a child’s toy. But Coleman Parr doesn’t flaunt that formidable ability, doesn’t throw in your face how good she is. The cadence and attitude of her singing is the same as you might expect in a conversation with a friend you’d happened to run into on the street. Translation: She makes her audience feel instantly comfortable, even when singing songs in a context startlingly different from expectations. (The quiet jazz-ballad version of “Stop! In the Name of Love” is really something.) Tacha Coleman Parr performs at 8 p.m. at Mr. Henry’s, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Free.

Wednesday, Oct. 5 

He’s been a big part of the scene for only about five years, but in that short time it’s become very hard to imagine D.C. jazz without the salt-and-vinegar sound of Herb Scott’s alto saxophone. He as a natural funkiness to his playing (at least it feels natural), and so much soul to boot that at times he seems ready to leave the bounds of jazz—and just becomes a straight-up soul player. (Though how big a surprise can that be from the leader of a band called Herb Spice & the Cinnamonstix?) But it never quite goes all the way, because Scott’s improvisational abilities are too powerful to yield. He’s got a lot to say, and he says it with steam (on the fast tunes), and with surprising tenderness and just a tinge of coarseness (on the ballads). The Herb Scott Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.