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Saturday, Dec. 19 Every time I see Kenneth Whalum III play, I can’t help but think that I’m seeing the future. Like almost every tenor saxophonist of the past 50 years, his base is the work of John Coltrane—but that’s only where he (sometimes literally) starts. His music grasps the potential of R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music, and how those genres have intersected in the past 15 years; he’s finding new ways to extend jazz into that intersection. You can hear it in last year’s single, “Away,” featuring Big KRIT on vocals. But once again, like Whalum’s grounding in Trane, that only represents the beginning. Perhaps that represents the present, rather than the future … and yet somehow it feels like tomorrow. Kenneth Whalum III performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $22-$28.
Sunday, Dec. 20 Washington is the poorer for having given up the Jolley Brothers, drummer Nate and pianist Noble, to L.A. and New York, respectively. That said, Noble hasn’t exactly made himself a stranger to his native city. He’s still a first-call piano player on gigs all around D.C., and his sound is as pithy and luminous as it was when he and Nate were leading the bandstands around these parts. Noble is once again returning to local bandstands this weekend, bringing along the musicians he grew up with and played around town with for so long: a trio with bassist Zack Pride and drummer C.V. Dashiell, and the vocalist Christie Dashiell, one of his closest collaborators and one of the most beloved performers in D.C. But Noble is also a resourceful and ambitious dude, and trio with vocals can’t contain all his ideas. Hence, he also brings in a string trio to flesh out the sound: cellist Kevin Jones, violist Dawn Smith-Johnson, and the very young violinist Elise Haukenes. The name of the game? Noble Jolley’s Christmas Special. It begins at 8 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $18.
Tuesday, Dec. 22 Why stop with one Christmas jazz concert? Especially when you also have the option of seeing alto and soprano saxophonist Marshall Keys at Blues Alley. If you haven’t encountered Keys before—well, honestly, that’s hard to imagine, high as the demand is for him here. He’s a dapper, thoughtful, eloquent man in his person and his playing, with a clean and sturdy sound on whichever horn he’s playing. But what’s really powerful with Keys is his profound sense of melody, which seems to have no end. He favors long lines, puts them forth with relish that is matched by his aplomb. This writer must admit, though, not having heard Keys playing much in the way of holiday music. But the fact that he’s listing this performance as a “Holiday Jam” is certainly tremendously promising. Keys performs at 8 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.
Photo: Ron Green