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Thursday, August 20
A young fellow from Baltimore named Nico Sarbanes started to impress some people in the D.C. and Baltimore scenes (and environs in between) about four years ago. He was just a kid in high school, but his trumpet sound was beautiful. Sarbanes ran off to Montreal, where he spent four years studying jazz trumpet at McGill University. Now that he’s returned, Sarbanes sounds better than ever. He’s got a gorgeous, quicksilver tone, polished to a high and clean shine—a Wynton Marsalis tone. His articulation, by contrast, is propulsive and staccato; his rhythm is high in energy and challenges the time of the song; his phrasing is clever, resourceful, and full of bluesy twists. He also has a crooner’s singing voice, heavy and older-sounding than his 22 years. Sarbanes returns to D.C. with a fine lineup: Elijah Balbed on tenor sax, Jake Silverman on piano, Ethan Philion on bass, and Savannah Grace Harris on drums. They play at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Friday, August 21
Speaking of bluesy twists, Romeir Mendez might be the king of them. The bassist has a way with space, for one thing—-his improvisations divide themselves into discrete, separate phrases, as though delivered by a skilled orator. He drive homes big, important points. And he does it with a deep, thick sound on the upright, resonating from the deepest bottoms of the wood, with an unquestioned sense of the blues. You don’t have to be a musicologist or even hear him on a 12-bar workout to recognize those shapes, that feeling, in everything he plays. He’s an extraordinary asset to local jazz, and Friday night, he does a not-too-frequent appearance as a bandleader with tenor saxophonist Marcus Tenney, pianist Allyn Johnson, and drummer Billy Williams. And we haven’t even talked about his formidable presence as an accompanist to powerhouse soloists like those—go and find out! The Romeir Mendez Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $18 advance, $23 door.
Sunday, August 23
Yes, D.C. has witnessed a renaissance in its jazz jam session culture; it’s been mentioned many times, not least in this column. But in all that talk, the session that sparked that renaissance may have gotten short shrift. Drummer Will Stephens founded the DC Jazz Jam six years ago at Dahlak Eritrean Restaurant, and it quickly became a popular Sunday night hang for jazz musicians, featuring special guests blowing along with the house rhythm section every week. When Dahlak closed this spring, the Jazz Jam took a few weeks to find itself new permanent digs, but in July it lay claim to the Brixton, the two-story British pub (and Jack on Fire target) at 9th and U streets. Beyond the location, little else has changed about the jam, including its stellar guest musician rotation. This week it’s pianist Wade Beach, one of the District’s venerated veteran musicians. Beach has a lovely, if stark, conception of jazz piano harmony and a great facility and imagination for bluesy twists. The man knows his stuff—and here is your chance to play with him, or at least to hear a whole truckful of other musicians do so. The DC Jazz Jam begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Brixton, 901 U Street NW. Free. (But order something!)