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Thursday, Sept. 22
Some will argue that Setlist is skirting the limits of the jazz genre by including Roy Ayers as a pick. But that’s a bit of a wrongheaded perspective. Ayers, a legendary vibraphonist, was one of the inventors of what we now think of as jazz-funk. (And he did so during the fusion era, when the whole point was to skirt the limits of the genre.) And even as he began to drift further into the R&B world, there was some hot shit happening on his records. Check out the harmonies on “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” for example, or the saxophone and vibraphone solos on “Searching”—or even the rhythmic variations on the proto-disco hit “Brother Green.” Ayers, in short, built a successful bridge between the increasingly esoteric jazz world and that of African-American pop music, a feat that many, many musicians are still trying to figure out today. He performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40-$45.
Friday, Sept. 23
Traditional jazz is not what you probably think it is. The stereotype is of a bunch of old dudes in visored caps, playing “Muskrat Ramble” and “St. James Infirmary” and, of course, “When the Saints Go Marching In” with stomping march rhythms and raucous trombone/trumpet/clarinet counterpoint. And indeed, any traditional New Orleans ensemble worth its salt has all that stuff in its repertoire. But trad was always about the social element; it’s party music, dance music, and it tries to give the people what they want. So what you get even with those legendary keepers of the flame Preservation Hall Jazz Band is music that sounds as vital and gritty and fun as anything on the radio. The 53-year-old ensemble hits the beats harder, plays the licks bluesier, boils the interplay hotter than you have any right to expect. Never once do you turn up your nose at a song because it happens to be 100 years old. That’s why the music remains alive, and it’s hard to find a better way to mark the opening at long last of the National Museum of African American History and Culture this weekend. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (with D.C.’s own Dupont Brass) performs at 8 p.m. (showtime) at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. $35.
Saturday, Sept. 24
One of the things you’ll start to notice about Brad Linde, if you follow his course from gig to gig, is just how eclectic his taste and vision in jazz is. He is a protégé of Lee Konitz, and therefore of the “Tristano School,” and you might hear it in his work with Ted Brown, but you wouldn’t get that from listening to the classic sound of the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. Still, Linde does have a soft spot for the avant-garde or avant-garde-leaning; within that zone, too, his taste is tremendously catholic, going from tributes to introspective freeform clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre to the trad-avant mashup Dix Out. He has also been known to go right back to the source, Ornette Coleman, he who coined the term “free jazz” as well as the conception itself. Linde, however, appreciates him as a composer as well, with his astonishing gift for melody (Coleman may be the greatest composer of song bridges in jazz history) and yet, at the same time, openness to reinvention. Linde (and guitarist Josh Walker) celebrates him with a program called “Tomorrow Is the Question! The Music of Ornette Coleman.” It begins at 9 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $20-$28.
Sunday, Sept. 25
The funny thing about John Scofield’s new project Country for Old Men, in which he explores the country music repertoire, is that it’s the jazziest sounding project he’s done in quite a while. That’s a funny thing because Sco is an extraordinarily restless guitar player. He was schooled in the fusion of late, post-retirement Miles, and since then he’s veered from straightahead jazz to earthy blues and roots music, jam-band extensions, and blistering rock lines. So one might not expect a country-based project to find him returning to straightahead post-bop jazz, as this one does. But Sco is Sco, and so of course there’s another twist. He delivers each note with a concerted twang: not quite the windswept rural-isms of his colleague Bill Frisell, but enough to remind you that he’s exploring a tradition that has its own accent, if you will. John Scofield performs at 8 p.m. at The Hamilton, 14th and F Streets NW. $25-$58.