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Setlist usually limits itself to three or four picks a week, but this is one of those rare times where there are just too many good shows to stop at four.
Thursday, Dec. 10 The Thursday night Dukem Jazz program has certainly been consistent in quality. It’s high, if you hadn’t guessed. But it’s a bit more unpredictable in terms of style, which is a highly unusual feature of restaurant jazz: Out for a bite at D.C.’s most popular Ethiopian establishment (and in this town that’s saying something), you never can be quite sure what kind of jazz you’ll hear on the bandstand. And that’s doubly true when the guys on the bandstand are sonic experimenters of the highest and boldest order. Guitarist Anthony Pirog, who has just recently established himself as one of the rising talents in the country, is leading a brand new quartet; his frontline partner therein is tenor saxophonist Brian Settles, who has been one of the rising talents in the country for some time now. Both musicians have creative minds that wander down untrod paths, which ends to result in unusual but thoroughly compelling music. They are joined by bassist Nathan Kawaller and drummer Mike Kuhl, and if it’s as compelling as promised, by other musicians who will turn the second set into a jam. The Anthony Pirog Quartet performs at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at Dukem, 1118 U St. NW. Free. (But order something!)
Saturday, Dec. 12 “Almost impossible to get all those guys in town nowadays,” said Bohemian Caverns honcho Omrao Brown of his weekend booking for The Young Lions. That’s true, and it’s telling. Each of the members—drummer Quincy Phillips, bassist Kris Funn, pianist Allyn Johnson—is a busy freelance musician doing something, somewhere around the country. Phillips tours regularly with trumpeter Roy Hargrove, one of the most prolific live performers going; Funn is a member of the working band of another trumpeter, Christian Atunde Adjuah, who’s currently promoting his new release Stretch Music. Johnson works around town, in New York, and elsewhere, being a first-call pianist plain and simple. But together they form the trio that everyone agrees was the cornerstone of the U Street jazz renaissance, with a boiling-hot groove that never, even after a long hiatus, seems to temper itself. The Young Lions perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18-$23.
Sunday, Dec. 13 Tenor saxophonist Elijah Easton has been around here for a little while (he’s even held down a slot at a previous CapitalBop Jazz Loft), but he’s “undiscovered” enough that it still feels okay to call him a newcomer—and one of the most exciting. He’s got a reliably low tone with the slightest hint of gravel in it, and the keen rhythmic sensitivity of the rising jazz generation—the kind that has discovered how to split the difference between funk and swing in a single groove. This week he actually headlines the Jazz Loft for the first time, topping a bill that also includes the extraordinarily worthy local pianist Hope Udobi, and the unique local-by-way-of-Armenia pianist Levon Mikaelian, whose recent album United States of Artistry is a haunting and idiosyncratic filtering of jazz through his Caucasus heritage. That’s some kind of night, folks. The CapitalBop Jazz Loft takes place at 7 p.m. at Union Arts, 411 New York Ave. NE. $15 (suggested donation).
Tuesday, Dec. 15 Trombonist Shannon Gunn has moved into a permanent weekly spot at Columbia Station in Adams Morgan, it seems. The band is her unusual Firebird Organ Trio. Unusual, that is, because the instrumentation of trombone, organ, and drums, is not one with a lot of precedent—and it’s made even more unusual in that while Gunn and drummer Allen Jones come back every Tuesday (though sometimes Tre Crudup gets behind the skins), the organ seat is filled by a different person at every performance. Regardless of the specific instrumentation, you don’t find a whole lot of organ trios without a single, full-time organist in the ranks. This week’s keystakes winner is a fellow you might have heard of, answers to the name Allyn Johnson. He appears to know a thing or two about jazz, gospel, and keyboards. The Firebird Organ Trio performs at 8 p.m. at Columbia Station, 2325 18th St. NW. Free. (But order something!)
Wednesday, Dec. 16 It’s probably a reflex at this point to hear a description like “jazz pianist and singer/songwriter Patricia Barber” and just assume we’re talking about a classic torch singer who’s writing updates to the American songbook. Even that name, Patricia Barber, sounds like someone you’d encounter at an everyday cocktail lounge. But perhaps all you need to know comes in her credit on the 2003 album Modern Cool: “vocal, piano, table knives on strings.” Her music, in other words, is edgy, experimental stuff, and the lyrics are dark and often andry and shiver-inducing. (The title track of her new album Smash, for example, compares the end of a romantic relationship to a gruesome car accident.) Barber also loves to juxtapose these components with wholly unexpected contexts—and there may be no less expected context than performing them with Renee Fleming, perhaps the most celebrated American opera soprano. It’s such an astounding programming idea that perhaps it’s best to avoid any further attempts to describe it. Barber and Fleming perform the songs of Patricia Barber at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $85.