Thursday, December 18
Take 5!, the happy hour jazz series at Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, is holding its last event of the year tonight. There’s an interesting concept behind the series: It features local musicians and sometimes custom-built local ensembles paying tribute to great artists of jazz past by performing sets full of their tunes. And this iteration is especially interesting: a bill of pieces written by or associated with the great organist Larry Young. (Young was truly a groundbreaking organist, one who pulled well away from the gospel- and blues-drenched tradition of the instrument and into the more cerebral and ethereal sounds of the “New Thing.”) But while it’s an evening of organ jazz, the leader is not the organist, but trumpeter Joe Herrera. Harry Appelman holds down the organ, with saxophonist Elijah Balbed, guitarist Michael Kramer, and drummer Kevin McDonald joining in. It takes place at 5 p.m. at the American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard, 8th and F Streets NW. Free.
Friday, December 19
This has been Christie Dashiell’s year. The young jazz vocalist has actually been a visible and popular presence for quite a while, but in 2014 she stepped it up even more. She was a featured performer on D.C.’s two best jazz recordings this year, Reginald Cyntje’s Elements of Life and Mark Meadows’ Somethin’ Good, and had some dynamite performances around town (and, by the way, got married). On top of that, she served as an Artist In Residence at Strathmore, a program that’s quickly become a rite of passage for jazz musicians in D.C. Clearly, Dashiell’s formidable singing talents struck as much awe with Strathmore as they have with everyone else (including her former professors at Howard), since they’ve awarded her the plum holiday slot for her AIR alumni concert. After they’ve been delivered in that satin voice and flawless sense of swing, Christmas carols will never be the same. Christie Dashiell performs at 2 p.m. at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda. $17.
Saturday, December 20
Yes, yes, Freddy Cole is Nat “King” Cole‘s younger brother and Natalie‘s uncle. But don’t dare to suggest that he built his career on family ties. Freddy graduated from Juilliard, then went in for a master’s degree at New England Conservatory. And what did he do after that? He hit the journeyman circuit, playing behind trumpeter Johnny Coles and saxophonist Benny Golson and learning the art and craft of jazz music the way God intended: in the trenches. He sings, too, though it’s probably not fair to call him a crooner; Cole has a bit of a growl in his voice, which will give just a bit of a bite to the Christmas songs he’ll be burning through this week. Cole’s bio says that he “Cole doesn’t apologize for sounding like his brother, Nat ‘King’ Cole”—-and perhaps the reason he shouldn’t is that he’s got so much of his own commitment and personality in the mix. Freddy Cole performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $25.
Sunday, December 21
Until now, D.C.-based Jeff Cosgrove has probably been best known for leading a band called Motian Sickness. It was a combo whose purpose was not simply to pay tribute to the late drummer-composer Paul Motian, but to actually render his final compositions. Also a drummer, Cosgrove finds himself a composer of the spontaneous variety on his new project. He leads a trio with pianist Matthew Shipp and William Parker, two of the most rightfully respected free-improvisational musicians around and a well-established potent combination in their own right. In this trio, the music is intense, often fiery and fast; just as often, though, it’s moody, meditative, even lyrical—-and that includes the drums, which Cosgrove approaches with sensitivity and an understanding of tonal possibilities. It’s not only an evening of wonderful music, but it’s an opportunity to take some of it home with you on the Cosgrove/Shipp/Parker CD Alternating Current, one of the great overlooked releases of the year. The Jeff Cosgrove Trio performs at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $15 advance, $20 door.