Get our free newsletter
Yes, it’s back to the gig rotation as normal, now that another DC Jazz Festival has come and gone. But fear not, gallant fan! There is still good music aplenty—including another festival that you might have missed.
Thursday, June 18
At the Phillips Collection, the weekend before the DC Jazz Festival, musicians take their instruments into the museum’s galleries, searching out pieces of art that move them to an improvised musical response. But improvisation isn’t all we have in jazz; the DC Jazz Composers Collective formed as a living reminder that original composition is an important component of the music as a living, breathing art form. And so the DCJCC (saxophonist Bobby Muncy, pianist Gene D’Andrea, and bassist Kevin Pace) is shaping that component into the same mold that the Phillips Collection has been using, but at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. They’ll be performing as part of the Smithsonian’s Take 5! Jazz Series. The wonderful trombonist Reginald Cyntje will be a featured guest. And the material? Originals, naturally, and all inspired by specific works in the museum’s collection. It begins at 5 p.m. in the American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard, 8th and G Streets NW. Free.
Friday, June 19
Allyn Johnson has new material. That may be all the information that an attentive D.C. jazz fan will need as a reason to book reservations for this weekend at Bohemian Caverns. Johnson plays piano with the chops of Oscar Peterson, the erudition of Vladimir Horowitz (Johnson is chair of the jazz studies program at UDC, but that’s not really the reason they call him “The Professor” around here), and the taste and flexibility of Mulgrew Miller, whom Johnson will be honoring with a new recording soon. But it’s not just new music that the pianist is unveiling this weekend. It’s a new band—-or at least a new version of his extant band, Sonic Sanctuary. This one is a very unusual quintet: guitarist Samir Moulay and violinist Kendall Isadore joining his trio of bassist Romeir Mendez and drummer C.V. Dashiell III. And actually, Friday night there’ll be a guest at the traps: phenomenal talent Sean Rickman. They play at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $18.
Sunday, June 21
The last album by Terence Blanchard, 2013’s Magnetic (one of the best of that year), flirted strongly with electronica but didn’t really hint at the full-on passionate affair Blanchard is having with electronics on his new one, Breathless. It’s not just electronica, either, but contemporary R&B, funk, and hip-hop—-call it groove, with a spoken-word side. The feel is very zeitgeist, perhaps urgently so: Breathless is a meditation on the epidemic of police brutality against and killings of African-Americans. (The title is a not-so-subtle evocation of Eric Garner’s last words.) But amongst the heavy and often inspired grooves (played by his new band, the E-Collective) is the ever-ready trumpet of Blanchard, wielded with grace and fluidity and deeply fraught with emotion. Blanchard takes occasional flak for certain signature techniques, like his sensuous glissandi and half-valved notes, but he understands how to load them with as much meaning as any full chorus. Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $40.
Monday, June 22
On the tail of each year’s DC Jazz Festival (though sometimes they coincide) is the much smaller, and thus occasionally overlooked, Nordic Jazz Festival. Sponsored by the embassies of Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland, the festival is a panorama of musicians from each of those countries, presenting their newest jazz and jazz-inspired ideas to us provincial types. (The District is an international city, it’s true, but American jazz fans tend to get stuck on, well, American jazz.) The highlight of this year’s lineup is the trio led by Finnish guitarist Olli Hirvonen. It’s not always quite clear that Hirvonen is a jazz guitarist; his guitar often takes on the distorted snarl of indie rock, and he can sometimes vamp on a single motif in a way that feels contrary to jazz’s usual sense of momentum. But what you’ll find in a careful listen is the distinct harmonic approach of a jazz musician’s ear and, far more importantly, rhythmic freedom and variation in his own playing and in the interaction, with and without him, of bassist Ethan O’Reilly and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr. They perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $12.