Friday, Feb. 26
The great pianist Mulgrew Miller used to refer to the playing style of his friend, the alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, as “hijiki.” It’s actually a pretty good phonetic word for Garrett’s snaky, rhythmically short and staccato, harmonically daring sax lines. Even with its elements of Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Jackie McLean it’s a complete re-conception of using the alto sax in a jazz context. And he comes by it honestly, having run the gamut of jazz in his long career, from the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the late fusion of Miles Davis. In other words, Garrett has steeped himself in the history and tradition of the music and emerged with something new and unique. Well, it was unique; in the last thirty years, he has (along with Steve Coleman) become the most important alto saxophonist on the scene, hijiki and all. The Kenny Garrett Quintet performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, on the University of Maryland campus in College Park. $25.
Sunday, Feb. 28
It’s not as easy as it might seem to find free improvisers who really gel. Just like the more “inside” players, free musicians each have their own styles and concepts, and it’s sometimes a lifelong quest to find cohorts who are on the same mission and who have the right chemistry to work together. (If you remember nothing else, remember that free jazz doesn’t mean “free to just play anything, anytime.” It’s a tip for life.) Thank God, then, that drummer Ches Smith, pianist Craig Taborn, and violinist Mat Maneri found each other. All three of them have their own separate, quite fruitful careers; it was never inevitable that they’d join forces. But they did, with remarkable results: a stirring, high-drama aesthetic that has coalesced into compelling, but fully open, compositions, and no domination by any one member of the trio. Smith, Taborn, and Maneri perform at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2011 11th St. NW. $15 advance, $20 door.