Yes, kids, it’s DC Jazz Festival time again come next Wednesday, June 10, and your humble correspondent will have coverage. Lots of it. So this week’s Setlist (following two weeks’ hiatus for a much-needed vacation) will cover a mere six days of jazz before the festival commences. Hope it’s enough to keep you excited.
Thursday, June 4 A fellow named Jordon Dixon, of whom I’d never heard before, took the stage several weeks ago at the Mr. Henry’s Jazz Jam and had already crushed it in four bars. Dixon’s tenor saxophone has a low, dark-hued tone—like the sound of stout—but also a pungent center that’s revealed gradually in his solos, as he breaks down the structure of the song he’s improvising on. If you haven’t heard him either, it might simply be because he hasn’t been around these parts for very long: Dixon moved to D.C. two years ago after his discharge from the Marines (he was a musician there, too). He has since been studying with the august professor Allyn Johnson at the UDC music program, but he’s more than had his share of performing chops already. Jordon Dixon performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.
Friday, June 5 The various locations of Sala Thai, especially those at U Street and Petworth, are secret hot spots of D.C. jazz. It’s not always easy to tell, even when you’re sitting in one of the restaurants, because the performances tend toward “dinnertime jazz”—quiet, unobtrusive stuff that’s intended as background music (which, contrary to what you might have become accustomed to, is anathema to jazz). But if you put your ears into it, the talent is there and on display, certainly when you have a combo as fierce as the one that guitarist Matt Ingeneri is bringing to the Petworth outpost this weekend. Alto saxophonist Herb Scott, organist Hope Udobi, and drummer Howard “Kingfish” Franklin join Ingeneri in an ensemble so soulful that it will scorch the floor. Can they maintain dinner-music restraint with power like that? The Matt Ingeneri Organ Group performs at 7 p.m. at Sala Thai, 3716 Georgia Avenue NW. Free. (But order something, huh?)
Saturday, June 6 Of course, it wouldn’t be a pre-festival Setlist without some of the official pre-festival events. Enter DCJF’s “Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days,” the pre-fest free weekend of music and activities for all ages at the Phillips Collection. The kids can take part in a scavenger hunt, art projects, storytelling, and an instrument petting zoo. The galleries are all open, and feature one of the festival’s coolest ideas: musicians wandering around the exhibits and responding to works on their instruments. There’s also the Phillips’ Music Room, which throughout the day is hosting performances by area musicians. The lineup includes violinist David Schulman and his band Quiet Life Motel; bassist Herman Burney and his trio; Trio ESP; the Antonio Parker Quartet, and the Allyn Johnson Trio. It begins at noon at The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st Street NW. Free.
Monday, June 8 Tenor saxophonist Elijah Jamal Balbed, who frequently uses all three of those names, has a crackerjack new CD out by the name of Lessons from the Streets. There’ll be a review of it in next week’s City Paper, but for the moment, what you need to know is that it features the extraordinary vibraphonist Warren Wolf, a regular on the Baltimore/D.C. scene that’s causing quite a stir of his own in the larger jazz world. The saxman and the vibist, both classicists of a sort (not strictists, mind you), do exemplary work together on Streets, and seem to have generated enough chemistry that Wolf is now guest-starring with Balbed’s JoGo Project. JoGo is a hybrid in the truest sense, a fusion ensemble that makes a unique brew of go-go (Balbed was in Chuck Brown’s last band), jazz, rock, and R&B. Say, how would you like to hear this band, with Wolf, in a prestigious venue for no admission? They perform at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street NW. Free.