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Thursday, March 31
Guitarist Mike Stern‘s quartet project “4 Generations of Miles” is not hyperbole, nor is it a metaphor. Stern was the guitarist in the first band Miles Davis formed when he came out of his self-imposed retirement in 1981. Saxophonist Sonny Fortune, on the other hand, was a member of the last band Miles worked with before he went into retirement in 1975. Bassist Buster Williams worked with him in the ’60s, when he substituted for Ron Carter in what’s known as the Second Great Quintet; Jimmy Cobb, of course, was the drummer on the legendary 1959 album Kind of Blue. Stern has trotted out this project before, releasing an album in 2002, but this is a new lineup and the first to have every member come from different phases in Miles’s career; even Stern and Fortune, both of whom played fusion with the great trumpeter, did so in very different contexts. And how will all these very different musicians sound when there’s no trumpet player to boot? There’s only one way to know for sure. Mike Stern’s 4 Generations of Miles performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $35.
Friday, April 1
Any pianist with training in Afro-Cuban jazz can play tender, introspective lyricism with the same ease as slashing, pounding rhythms. But to pivot back and forth between them with no apparent transition, the way Alfredo Rodriguez does, is to demonstrate a whole other stratum of talent. Which explains why Quincy Jones would serve as both his mentor and the producer of his second album, Tocororo—lest we forget, Jones was once among the shrewdest of jazz composers, arrangers, and bandleaders. (That he has the ear for top-shelf we surely won’t forget.) His protégé is on the same path, crafting beautiful melodies that are perhaps topped by the choices he makes in performing them—including the sudden breaks of delirious Caribbean groove. Only thirty years old, Rodriguez is on his way to a long and fruitful career in jazz; catch him now, at the cusp of it. Alfredo Rodriguez and his trio perform at 7 and 9 p.m. at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. $25.
Saturday, April 2
File Benny Carter under Least Appreciated Giants; indeed, he might just top that list. Carter did as much as Johnny Hodges to give the alto saxophone its identity in jazz, but he also played clarinet and trumpet with equal ability. He was also one of the first major jazz arrangers, and entirely self-taught: he simply brought lead sheets home from his gigs and used them to decode the secrets of the craft. (Later he worked in that capacity with Ray Charles, and for countless movies and TV shows.) He was a consummate composer, with tunes like “When Lights Are Low,” “Blues in My Heart,” and “Blue Star” to his name. And he was prolific, living until 95 and continuing to perform and record for most of that time. In his day he was known as “King” Carter; today he’s almost an obscurity. He deserves all kinds of tributes and explorations—and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra’s concert is a good start. “Benny Carter: The Groundbreaking King of Jazz” begins at 7:30 p.m. at the National Museum of American History’s Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza, 14th Street and Constitution Ave. NW. $25-$40.
Sunday, April 3
Drummer Jeff Cosgrove doesn’t get enough attention, including in Setlist; he’s a locally based drummer, tending towards the free and experimental side of jazz. That’s particularly interesting because he’s working this Sunday night with a band that is not generally associated, together or severally, with free and experimental jazz. Well, perhaps Mark Lysher, the bassist, does have some association, since he works beautifully in just about every context (including fairly regular work with Cosgrove). Both D.C. pianist Harry Appelman and New York/Connecticut saxophonist Noah Preminger are known for their phenomenal approach to melody—but Cosgrove assures us that both are “great loose/free players,” who don’t get the appropriate props for that conception. He also says that it will be a mix of experimental and more conventionally melodic music…but given the composers they’ve chosen to work with, including Irving Berlin, Andrew Cyrille, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, I’d expect the balance to tip towards the experimental. They hit at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.