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This weekend is the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, which is tough to compete with in terms of jazz happenings. (Look for a preview on Arts Desk soon.) But these four performances do a pretty good job of it anyway.
Thursday, Feb. 11 Sensitivity in a musician is about more than just playing softly. It’s about understanding the needs of a piece, and the ability to deliver those needs at whatever level of volume and intensity is needed. The softness is perhaps the hardest to deliver, so it gets tagged as “sensitive” most often. But there are few other players of any instrument that demonstrate just how wide-ranging the notion of sensitivity is than pianist Aaron Diehl. One of the Columbus native’s performances can run the gamut of dynamics, but also of styles: tender ballads, blues, stride piano, hard-driving bebop, standards delivered with torch-song feeling, and original compositions with surprising and beautiful twists. (Diehl particularly likes to throw in dark underlines with his left hand, a craft that’s woefully underemployed in jazz piano.) And it all comes with that impeccable gift for feeling that can only be called, yes, sensitivity. The Aaron Diehl Trio performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $28.
Friday, Feb. 12 It’s safe to say that Michael Price is outspoken, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a local jazz musician who disagrees with that assessment. (When asked, for example, if his spate of regular gigs at Columbia Station included some of the Adams Morgan spot’s frequent jam sessions, the pianist chuckled and replied, “No. We’re not here to be the carpet for those who would wipe their nasty feet.”) But nobody can say that Price can’t play. Indeed he can, and with quite an intricate sound. Price has both a percussive, chordal tack and, when needed, a more dulcet and mellifluous tack. But he also folds in a fondness for blues licks, and another for the “funny” notes, those Monkish tweaks to the harmony. He puts them into service on Fridays as the head of the Good Life Trio, which also features Kris Monson on bass and Frank Grayson on drums. (Last week they also featured tenor saxophonist Michael Brandon, who regularly works with Price, but he’s not an official member of the band.) They perform at 6:30 p.m. at Columbia Station, 2325 18th St. NW. Free (but order a drink).
Saturday, Feb. 13 Frankly, I don’t have the vaguest idea how to describe The Oversoul Manual. It’s something in between a medieval plainsong performance, a contemporary oratorio, a freeform improvisation, and an exploration of dissonance in the human voice, perhaps with a bit of throat-singing thrown in for that guttural edge. All that can really be said of it is that it’s a soundscape like no other. Darius Jones, the avant-garde saxophonist who has performed frequently (he’s especially a favorite of the gang at CapitalBop, who are producing this performance), wrote the piece: a 15-movement portrayal of an alien birthing ritual; there’s not a saxophone to be heard, though. Just the astonishing collective instruments of the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit, a vocal quartet comprising four of the most accomplished, most versatile women of voice that have ever graced a Washington stage. They perform at 8 p.m. at the Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. $10 advance, $15 door.
Sunday, Feb. 14 Yes, yes, of course there are Valentine’s Day jazz packages aplenty, and yes, the romance of the music combined with the intimacy of the club atmosphere mean that of course you should go out for a night with your partner of choice. And if you must choose—and you must—the magic of the night belongs to Loide. Immigration lawyer by day, Loide’s artistry mostly happens at night, but it’s no less rich for it. Rich is precisely the word for the territory she covers: Her vocal chops and delivery come straight out of jazz tradition, but somewhere along the way they dragged the neo-soul and Latin crooning traditions into the mix, all of which merge in her performance and original compositions. (Sometimes in the same song!) One wonders how she would fare onstage as well, because Loide knows as much about drama and finely honed suspense as any singer you’ve encountered, in any genre. That kind of flexibility deserves accompanists to match—and she has them: pianist Janelle Gill, bassist Tarus Mateen, and drummer Mark Prince. That’s a perfect valentine. Loide performs at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25 (show only), $77 (show with prix fixe dinner).