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Wednesday, June 10
Violinist David Schulman is a favorite of the D.C. Jazz Festival—in a low-level sense. He’s frequently been a part of its Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days program at the Phillips Collection, as one of those musicians you’ll find roaming through the galleries, responding to the art with his instrument. He’s also usually had a gig or two on the DCJF bill, at a restaurant or bar. This time around, it’s the same, but for the first time (at least to my knowledge) Schulman is sharing the bill with his trio, Quiet Life Motel. The band, featuring Eddie Eatmon on bass and Felix Contreras on percussion, gives improvised jazz a certain kind of earthy, rhythmic spice; Schulman describes the sound as “by turns nocturnal, reflective, funky, and cinematic.” That last is key, as all of Schulman’s compositions and the band’s performances have a kind of dramatic arc baked into them. It’s delicious. David Schulman performs at 5 p.m. at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, 999 Ninth Street NW. Free.
Thursday, June 11
One of the best things about the template DCJF founder Charlie Fishman laid down is its embrace of jazz artists from around the world, a crucial element of the music’s greatness. But in the festival’s decade of existence, Australians have been a rare part of the mix. This year, local sax-of-all-trades Brad Linde, another one who relentlessly pursues diversity, is not only bringing in an Aussie, he’s giving him a spotlight. Linde and a 14-piece group that he calls his Big Ol’ Ensemble is dedicating an evening to performing the compositions of one Elliott Hughes, a trumpeter and composer from Western Australia who is conducting the band. The ensemble is actually on a brief tour that also includes New York and Baltimore, with a band that includes New York stars like Jon Irabagon and Ryan Keberle as well as locals like Linde, trumpeter Joe Herrera, and recent D.C. departure Billy Wolfe on saxophone and clarinet. Brad Linde’s Big Ol’ Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $20-$25.
And when you’re done with that, make a rush to the 9:30 p.m. set by the great singer Gretchen Parlato and the great guitarist Lionel Loueke. Separately, as you might have guessed, they’re both great. Together? Wow. It’s the closest thing that the current generation of jazz has to a Lady Day and Prez relationship (perhaps even more so than our own local rendition, Akua Allrich and Kris Funn). He’s extremely sensitive to her dulcet, intimate approach, and she is deeply in sync with his natural sense of rhythm. Just go. Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke perform at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $28.
Friday, June 12
You probably wouldn’t put tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman and piano trio the Bad Plus (top) together in your own mind. The former is a soulful, often tough tenor man who follows in the path of Sonny Rollins. The latter is a rhythmically and harmonically quirky trio that’s best known for its pop-rock sound and unusual jazz covers, but perhaps even more noteworthy for its unique, avant-garde-leaning originals. But DCJF has brought them together indeed, and though it’s often the Bad Plus’s quirks that seem most apparent, the collaborative CD The Bad Plus Joshua Redman is remarkable for how fully the two styles have meshed. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave Kings are scholars par excellence in the jazz tradition, even if they most often try to subvert it; Redman, of course, is the scion of a musical family, his father Dewey Redman being a free-jazz innovator and also a soulful tenor player in his own right. He’s a scholar and something of a subverter, too. The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman perform at 8:30 p.m. (with opening act Underwater Ghost) at The Hamilton, 14th and F Streets NW. $48-$63.
Saturday, June 13 – afternoon
The DCJF’s extravaganza in Yards Park last year proved one of the unquestionable highlights of the program, a full afternoon and evening of performances in the glorious springtime on the Anacostia Riverfront. This year, there are actually two days of performances at the Yards, but the timing (just after work on a Friday night) is not convenient for most concertgoers. Still, there’s some great action happening on Saturday, as well. Starting things off is Marshall Keys, an Arts Desk favorite and a terrific alto saxophonist in D.C. Then comes media darling Esperanza Spalding, helming a new project called Emily’s D+Evolution, which Spalding says involves theater and poetry and “live musical vignettes.” The two closers are sort of peripheral to jazz—-hip-hopper Common and Afro-beat royalty Femi Kuti—-but have deceptive amounts of common ground with it, the kind that might give non-jazz-inclined listeners a foothold nonetheless. It starts at 3 p.m. at The Yards Park, 355 Water Street SE. $45.
Saturday, June 13 – evening
It’s always tough to make choices at a jazz festival, and on Saturday night, DCJF offers perhaps the toughest choice of all: genius drummer Jack DeJohnette at the Hamilton, the festival’s mainstage, or a diorama on the 50th anniversary of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) at CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft Series. It’s possible to see both, but unless you’ve got lots of petty cash it’s not terribly feasible; given the choice it’s the AACM show that deserves your attention. It’s got three acts: First, Organix Trio, a Baltimore band led by multi-reedist Jamal R. Moore. (Moore and the trio are not part of the Chicago-based AACM, but have worked with and been directly influenced by some of its stalwarts.) Next up, a trio of some of AACM’s current greats: flutist Nicole Mitchell, one of the greatest ever to play the instrument in jazz; cellist Tomeka Reid; and drummer Mike Reed. The closing act is an orchestra led by saxophonist and composer Ernest Khabeer Dawkins, performing his massive Memory in the Center, an Afro-jazz opera. It’s by no means a traditional opera, but it tackles the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela. It begins at 8 p.m. at the Hecht Company Warehouse, 1401 New York Avenue NE. $20.
Sunday, June 14
Trumpeter and flugelhornist David Weiss, who’s probably better known within jazz musician circles than among audiences, did God’s work when he assembled the Cookers. It’s a septet featuring himself; alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, another somewhat neglected mid-career player; and what I like to call an all-should-have-been-stars lineup filling out the group. (That’s tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, pianist George Cables, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Billy Hart.) These are serious greats—-and I don’t use that word loosely here—-whom diehard jazz fans will know, and less zealous ones may recognize from their voluminous sideman credits. Together they are, at last, a top-line act with a massive, virtuosic, absurdly soulful sound that cannot be ignored. And, as individuals as well as an ensemble, they’re making some of the best music of their career. The Cookers perform at 8 p.m. at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Sixth and I Streets NW. $28.
Monday, June 15
It’s tempting to speak of alto saxophonist Oliver Lake in terms of his free and avant-garde work. This, after all, is a cofounder of St. Louis’ Black Artists Group, a collective of experimental musicians that helped revolutionize black arts in the late ’60s and early ’70s; he’s also a cofounder of the exploratory, highly acclaimed World Saxophone Quartet and the author of (or sideman on) dozens of cutting-edge musical experiments, including the current Trio 3 with bassist Reginald Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille. But then again, there’s the Afro-centric lyricism of some of his other projects (like his debut, Ntu: The Point from which Creation Begins), or the delicacy of his String Project, or the hearty punch of his Steel Quartet, or the unearthly combination of free improvisation and soul groove of his Organ Quartet. Lake contains multitudes; any guesses on which will be front-and-center when he performs with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra? They perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20.
Tuesday, June 16
Snarky Puppy is, I suppose, a big band. It has a pool of about 40 musicians to pull from, and you’re likely to see anything from 10 to 20 musicians onstage. But it may be the least conventional big band on the planet: The percussion section is usually its biggest and it usually includes two keyboards as well. As for its sound, I can’t add much to what I said last year: “Funk, soul, and rock are all on the front lines for this Brooklyn (by way of the University of North Texas) ensemble, with burning guitar and heavily processed horns mixing with a small army of manic percussion. They’ve also got quite a generous helping of electronic music in their bag of tricks, but insofar as electronica goes, what Snarky Puppy does is surprisingly retro. Put it this way: They’re more Harold Faltermeyer and ’80s Miles Davis than, say, Aphex Twin or Daft Punk.” Snarky Puppy performs at 8 p.m. at The Hamilton, 14th and F Streets NW. Sold out, but try for cancellations.