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Friday, Jan. 8 If I say that Kristine Key can lay back on a vocal so that it almost seems out-of-time, it sounds like I’m criticizing her rhythmic chops. Quite the contrary: Key understands rhythm better than some drummers do. That’s what allows her to dare so much with them. When she falls behind the beat, especially on a swinger, it creates suspense—is she going to make it?—and a thrill when she inevitably does. Nor is her voice a mere rhythm instrument. She has a clear but husky voice that can slip in and out of its affecting vibrato, and articulation that she’s polished like a high-tech machine. An artist like that demands the best of accompanists, and she has them in spades: trumpeter Deandrey Howard, saxophonist Tracey Cutler, pianist Jon Ozment, bassist Cheyney Thomas, and drummer Richard Seals. They perform at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, Jan. 9 Setlist did not come out last week, but the Jazzies did. Reginald Cyntje, probably the local scene’s most visible trombonist, was 2015’s Composer of the Year. I cited the “imagination and craftsmanship the trombonist has been developing,” and added, “Wait till you hear what he has planned for the next one.” Well, you don’t have to wait any longer. Cyntje’s next suite of compositions is entitled Moods and Colors. The emphasis (at least outwardly) is on the colors: What they mean, what they express, how we see and feel them. It’s fertile ground, and Cyntje’s compositions thereon are complex, dramatic stuff. It will be the material for his fifth album… but this one won’t be made in the studio. Cyntje and his band (saxophonist Brian Settles, pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Herman Burney, drummer Amin Gumbs, but interestingly not the longtime steelpannist Victor Provost) are recording it live, this weekend. At Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18.
Sunday, Jan. 10 Chris Grasso seems to glide from one residency to the next; they end before anyone wants them to, but he lands firmly on his feet in the next one. Currently, that next one is at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, where pianist Grasso is holding down two Sundays a month with his trio and whatever special guests he desires. This week, the trio comprises Grasso and his regulars, bassist Zack Pride and drummer David McDonald. The guests include trumpeter Thad Wilson, who has rather burst back onto the scene in recent months and is undoubtedly one of the ablest horn players we’ve got. But Grasso also loves working with singers, and here is no exception: the always-bewitching, fiendishly smart Alison Crockett also joins the ensemble. A killing combo? You bet. The Chris Grasso Trio with Thad Wilson and Alison Crockett performs at 7:30 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7719 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. $20.