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Thursday, Sept. 10
No musical genre, it’s fair to say, pays as much attention or gives as many opportunities to its formal students than jazz does. Jazz education remains a controversial front, but it’s also an indispensable component of the apparatus, in part because it provides a means of employment and resources for its faculty. And it’s the faculty, not the student, who are taking center stage at the University of Maryland’s second annual NextNOW Fest, a welcoming party for the students and the kickoff to the season at the university’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Saxophonist (and UMUC Jazz Ensemble director) Chris Vadala, trumpeter Chris Gekker, guitarist Gerry Kunkel, pianist Jon Ozment, bassist Tom Baldwin, and drummer Chuck Redd are joined by acclaimed vocalist and UMD alum Lena Seikaly to get the jazz ball rolling in College Park. They perform at 6:30 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the University of Maryland campus. Free.
Friday, Sept. 11/Saturday, Sept. 12
Jason Moran was once a skater, still gets excited by watching what they do, and has in the past improvised music as skaters worked a ramp at San Francisco’s SFJAZZ. This week, he returns to that particular well—or shall we say bowl?—of inspiration, bringing his trio Bandwagon (with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits) to once again accompany a group of athletes on skateboards. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Kennedy Center is now hosting a temporary skatepark, complete with a large bowl built on the Front Plaza by a contingent of local skaters and builders. It’s the center of a two-week festival (“Finding a Line: Skateboarding, Music, and Media”) that’s intended to highlight skateboarding as an American cultural touchstone, and it continues with two nights of performance by Moran and Bandwagon while skaters shred the bowl. Jason Moran and Bandwagon perform on the Kennedy Center’s Front Plaza, 2700 F St. NW. $22.
Sunday, Sept. 13
I’ve called Mary Halvorson “the greatest guitarist of her generation,” or some variation thereon, more than once. Never has that been more apparent than on her newly released solo guitar album, Meltframe, a set that’s by turns scalding, plaintive, haunting, and startlingly lyrical. Throughout, she paints with her trademark colors, including glowing resonances and notes that don’t merely bend, they take hairpin turns. Her fellow traveler and often bandmate (both in each other’s bands and as sidemen in others’), Ches Smith, travels similarly unique paths. Smith is a drummer, but he’s very much interested in the sonic colors that they offer him, like a percussionist: He can play a conventional drum line, but then repeat a rimshot for a full minute, or run across the kit with sticks and then again with mallets. (Smith also plays vibraphone and some electronic instruments, and approaches them very much the same way.) These are two originals, performing solo sets back to back. How can you turn away? Mary Halvorson and Ches Smith perform at 8 p.m. at Paperhaus, 4912 3rd St. NW. $15 suggested donation.
Wednesday, Sept. 16
The growling articulation in Clifton Anderson‘s trombone playing is a thing to behold. Trombone gets a bit of a short shrift in jazz, leaving this excellent trombonist somewhat out in the cold. That’s tempered by the fact that Anderson has been playing for a quarter century with Sonny Rollins; still, working with the man some consider the greatest jazz improviser who ever lived must result in being overshadowed. But sharing the front lines with Sonny has also been the world’s most formidable finishing school. Anderson has developed a remarkable ability to build a solo, featuring a smart alternation of short- and long-note lines that is inherently tense, and a sneaky way of lobbing harmonic explorations via passing notes. His, in short, is a name that we should all be much more familiar with. Clifton Anderson performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $22.50.