Thursday, April 16 One of the smartest, and unfortunately least prolific, performing ensembles in the D.C. area is the terrific D.C. Bass Choir, a project exploring guess-which-instrument under the auspices of Herman Burney Jr. (The rest of the bass choir’s membership is rotating, which is partly why it doesn’t perform more often, but also a fine platform for an instrument whose practitioners are not short-handed in D.C.) Burney is a student of the late, great Keter Betts, probably the most important bassist ever to emerge from our fair city and certainly the spiritual father of the D.C. bass tradition. He has passed on the lessons of “Papa Keter” to many of his own students, and he searches for their qualities in his colleagues as well. (The current iteration of the Bass Choir includes Kris Funn and Victor Dvoskin, both of whom stand alongside Burney as among the finest we have around here.) In the case of this evening’s performance, Betts is present in more than a musical legacy: The music is accompanying an exhibition and panel discussion of Betts’s jazz photographs of D.C. called Bassically Yours. The performance begins at 6 p.m. in the Betty Mae Kramer Gallery at the Silver Spring Civic Building, 1 Veterans Place in Silver Spring. Free.
In the ’40s, pianist Earl “Bud” Powell codified the vocabulary of the jazz piano trio: piano, bass, and drums. He only led a single recording session with a full front line. (Granted, it’s one of the greatest recording sessions in jazz history, but I digress.) So it’s unusual to find a Powell tribute album that’s performed by a quintet: tenor saxophonist Elijah Balbed and guitarist Paul Pieper in addition to bassist Eliot Seppa, drummer Shareef Taher, and the leader, pianist Tim Whalen. But what is jazz for if not to filter the masters through one’s own personal vision? Whalen does that in every respect. He transforms “Un Poco Loco,” Powell’s tightest and most rhythmically complex piece, simply by adding a loose-feeling and protean-shaped piano solo. “Blue Pearl” boasts a downright sexy Latin vibe, and it’s hard to describe exactly what they do to “Celia.” At the same time, though, the latter also evinces some of the Powell-esque turns of phrase in Whalen’s playing. As in all great music, everything that diverges must converge, and vice versa. The Tim Whalen Quintet (with Dave McDonald on drums) performs at 9 p.m. at Dukem, 1118 U Street NW. Free.
Friday, April 17 Do you love the Marx Brothers? I love the Marx Brothers. Their movies defined what “funny” meant for much of the 20th century in America (across race and class boundaries, no less), but they also stealthily contained some of the most memorable songs of their era. At least one even managed to endure into the next era: “Who’s Sorry Now,” a rock ‘n’ roll-ish hit for Connie Francis, appeared in 1946’s A Night in Casablanca. Brad Linde knows his Marxes, musical as well as comical, and has a 10-piece ensemble ready and waiting to pay tribute to them. “A Night at the Bopera” renders the music in Linde’s most favored idiom, the confluence of freeform improvisation and “cool” jazz that he so often visits in his projects (the Tristano school, for the geeks among you). It takes place at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $22-$28.
Sunday, April 19 Vijay Iyer has kicked the ass of just about everything he’s touched. He’s probably the most talked-about jazz piano player working today, a composer and improviser of cerebral and ambitious bent: His music (which, for all its intellect, has a kind of opaque, enigmatic emotion to it) extends from a foundation in the jazz avant-garde into European classical, Indian folk, and classical forms, with even a few forays into American pop. (Iyer’s newest album, Break Stuff, contains all of that, plus some classic, genuinely jaunty swing, and some glimpses of minimalism too.) Since 2013, it’s been enough to warrant him a teaching position at Harvard, a MacArthur Foundation award (the “genius” grant), and the directorship of the summertime Banff International Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music in Alberta, Canada. It’s the musical ideas, though, that got him there. The Vijay Iyer Trio performs at 7 p.m. at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, the one venue in town whose address I don’t need to put here. $28.