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Actually that’s not quite true. Nothing is closed, per se, but there is a bit of a slump this week as the usual set of touring artists and local staples get ready for the holiday, meaning out-of-town trips or passing up gigs to go grocery shopping. There are also a number of musicians coming around that this writer hasn’t seen, and therefore can’t write on with any authority. Here, though, are two important recommendations for this coming weekend.
Thursday, Nov. 19 Tina Brooks loved himself a groove. A tenor saxophonist of the Charlie Parker–Sonny Rollins school, but with a preternaturally crystal-clear tone, one can listen back to his late ’50s-early ’60s output and hear in real time Brooks working those bop phrasings into his own bluesy, rhythmically inventive style. Brooks, in fact, may have anticipated more fully than anyone the transition from “funky” hard bop to full-on soul jazz, and he broadcast that anticipation. But no one noticed, and Brooks languished in obscurity (and heroin addiction), never again recording after 1961 and passing away in 1974. Thirty years later he was rediscovered, and a decade after that D.C. pays him tribute. Specifically, the tough-but-lyrical tenor saxophonist B.J. Simmons (who, like Brooks, doesn’t get enough attention) pays tribute to the unsung hero in a sextet that also features Fred Foss on alto sax, trumpeter Theljon Allen, pianist Hope Udobi, bassist Romeir Mendez, and drummer Howard “Kingfish” Franklin. They perform at 5 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard, 8th and F Streets NW. Free.
Friday, Nov. 20 University big bands are a big deal in the jazz world, and in D.C. in particular; we have a festival every April in which three of the area’s university big bands face off. However, for whatever reason the American University Jazz Orchestra is not one of these. Whatever the reason for that, one of the side effects is that the band and the hardworking director, guitarist/educator Joshua Bayer, don’t get the attention and/or respect that they should. Well, here’s a good chance to remedy that oversight. The AUJO’s Friday night performance promises to be “a varied program of music for big band, including swing, bebop, and blues.” A pretty good cross-section, you might say. It’s also packed with special guests: In additio to Bayer, who’ll be performing with the band, appearances are lined up by drummer Harold Summey, tenor saxophonist Paul Carr, alto saxophonist Peter Fraize, and pianist/organist Todd Simon. It starts at 8 p.m. at AU Katzen Arts Center’s Abramson Family Recital Hall, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. $10 (or $5 with student ID).