Friday, April 3
It’s been a long time but the ever-tenacious Jeff Stacey isn’t the type to let his productions just fade away. He’s been working to revive the U Street Jazz Jam since its Saturday night booking at Dukem stalled last fall. As Jazz Appreciation Month begins, he’s kicking the Jam back into gear at Dunya, an American restaurant located on Florida Avenue NW just a block east of U Street. For this reboot, the big guns are coming out, among them pianist Todd Simon and the incomparable rhythms of bassist James King and drummer Nasar Abadey. But if you need another reason to check out the launch, consider this: the awesome trumpeter Roy Hargrove is in town for a week at Blues Alley. And since Roy loves jam sessions, it would be no surprise at all to see him and members of his quintet hitting the bandstand for a tune or three. The U Street Jazz Jam begins at 10:30 at Dunya Restaurant and Bar, 801 Florida Ave. NW. Free.
Saturday, April 4
Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt‘s most recent excursions into D.C. have been electrified. He recorded and toured two albums (Water and Earth and Face Forward, Jeremy with a fusion quintet). But Pelt, ever restless, had other ideas to work out. He’s currently back in acoustic form, this time with a quartet. That’s piano (Simona Premazzi), bass (Ben Allison), and drums (Victor Lewis), with Pelt as the only horn. Not only is that new territory for Pelt, but try to think of all the trumpet quartets you can find in the post-bebop era. There are surprisingly few major ones (especially compared to the mountains of saxophone quartets you can think of). What you get is Pelt’s fluid, lyrical, faintly rough-edged trumpet unfiltered by a frontline partner. That’s a good thing. The Jeremy Pelt Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $23.
Monday, April 6
The bio for Afro Blue, Howard University’s a cappella jazz ensemble, compares their sound to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; Manhattan Transfer; the New York Voices; and Take 6. I can’t agree with any of those comparisons. Afro Blue sounds like nobody but themselves, which is to say astonishingly fresh and eclectic without abandoning the touchstones of traditional jazz. It’s all the more astonishing when you consider that the membership rotates so frequently (as older members graduate, newer ones join the fold)—and credit for that has to go to the ensemble’s founder, singer and voice professor Connaitre Miller, who’s still their leader and ensures that its guiding vision remains intact. There’s never a bad performance—but this one, incidentally, will also feature the presentation (by Yours Truly) of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Jazz Hero award for 2015 to Charlie Fishman, founder of the DC Jazz Festival. Afro Blue performs at 8 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Wednesday, April 8
Nicole Saphos impressed me when I first heard her play almost two years ago. “Saphos [is] not a flashy player, nor (for most of the set) even a particularly loud one,” I wrote. “But if you ask bandleaders of any size or instrumentation what they’re looking for in a bassist, they don’t usually say flash or volume. What they want is a hearty, rock-solid beat. That is what Saphos brought to the bandstand above all else. Even when you couldn’t hear that beat, you could feel it.” In the time since then, people seem to have agreed. Saphos took second place in the Takoma Park JazzBrawl in February, and has been gigging steadily all the way. And now she’s netted a monthlong residence at Twins Jazz, where she’ll hold it down every Wednesday in April. The bassist is bringing in different special guests each week; this week, it’s the formidable combination of D.C. veterans Chuck Redd (vibraphone) and Bob Butta. Nicole Saphos performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.