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Friday, March 13 The ensemble billing themselves as Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes’ Little Big Band tonight—-emphasis mine—-consists of 14 players AND a special guest! Is someone confused about numbers here, or about what constitutes “big” and “little”? I suppose there are grouchy people who could look at it that way, sure. But there’s a more powerful message here: If 14 players is a little all-female big band, there are probably far more gifted and jazz-educated women in the D.C. area than you’ve been led to expect. Which is the whole point behind the Washington Women in Jazz Festival, carrying on throughout the month of March (International Women’s Month, of course). Trombonist Gunn is an adventurous player and thinker—-the kind that would write a big band arrangement of Radiohead‘s “Knives Out,” which she’ll be premiering at this performance. Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes’ Little Big Band performs at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Fourth and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, March 14 The two Great Miles Davis Quintets, probably the most famous five-piece bands in all jazz, lasted three years and four years, respectively. The classic John Coltrane Quartet, less than five. Even the best jazz ensembles don’t last very long without changing personnel. So when you find one that’s been intact, identical, for 17 years, you know you’re seeing something special. That’s the Michael Thomas Quintet. Trumpeter Thomas, tenor saxophonist Zack Graddy, pianist Darius Scott, bassist Kent Miller, and drummer Frank Walker IV have been bringing it since 1998, playing the most classic and approachable of hard bop sounds. We’re talking solid swing grooves, soulful harmonies, riffy and lyrical melodies, and blues so thick you can grab fistfuls of it as it leaves the instruments’ surfaces. Put simply: When you hear the word “jazz,” this sound is likely what you think of. The Michael Thomas Quintet performs at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $15.
Sunday, March 15 Guitarist Pete Muldoon has a remarkable new recording. It’s called The Score and it’s a very inventive, quite gorgeous scheme for low horns (tenor saxophonist Elijah Balbed and trombonist Reginald Cyntje) along with his guitar and a rhythm section (pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Eliot Seppa, and drummer Sam Prather). The solos are as good as you’d expect from that lineup, and the arrangements are even better, with stunning interaction between the front-line voices such as I’ve never heard before. And in the hands of Muldoon—-and really, he is the one who makes the difference in this case—-it’s almost unnvervingly bluesy. He brings a stinging six-string touch that adds a gutbucket edge to the tenderest of melodies. You’ve got to hear it for yourself, and the release party he’s holding with the band from the CD is a pretty good way to do so. The Pete Muldoon Sextet performs at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $15 advance, $20 door.
Wednesday, March 18 The list of happening jam sessions in our town keeps growing. The latest entry is on Wednesday night, when alto saxophonist Herb Scott runs the Capitol Hill Jazz Jam out of the newly refurbished upstairs at Mr. Henry’s. The venerable restaurant and bar recently restored its long-dormant Friday night jazz programming, a staple of the scene for decades (where a young Roberta Flack was discovered). But that wasn’t enough for Mr. Henry’s, and the joint has put Scott at the helm on Wednesdays and allow him a great deal of freedom of programming. This week, that means not just a jazz jam, but a jazz cutting contest! There aren’t many of those around these days, and this one is the even rarer vocalist cutting contest. Scott’s designed it in three rounds, with prizes at the end; it’s hard to know how something like this will go, but it will be really fun to find out. The Capitol Hill Jazz Jam and vocalist cutting contest takes place at 8 p.m. at Mr. Henry’s Restaurant, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Free.