Friday, November 7 It’s a longstanding tradition in jazz (born out of necessity more than anything else) for the big names to employ local cats as their sidemen when they come to town—-at least when they come to a town that has local cats working in it. But how cool is it when the local musician has garnered enough respect that he pulls in the big names to be his sidemen? Ask Romeir Mendez, a Baltimorean bass player who requires huge sounds from his sidemen to keep him from devouring the bandstand whole. Granted, Terrell Stafford and Tim Warfield have history in D.C.; trumpeter Stafford spent part of his boyhood in Silver Spring and went to school at the University of Maryland, while saxophonist Warfield came here to attend Howard and started his full-time musical career working at the old One Step Down club. But both are now national jazz artists, sweeping up acclaim and audiences, and here they are, along with pianist Allyn Johnson and drummer John Lamkin, behind a terrific D.C. bass player. Be there. The Romeir Mendez Quintet featuring Tim Warfield and Terrell Stafford performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $20.
Saturday, November 8 In a sense, George Cables arrived at precisely the wrong time for his gifts to be fully appreciated. It was just as jazz was entering one of its most fallow periods, the early 1970s; Cables had the piano chair in Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers, one of the most coveted and star-making gigs in jazz history, but the music’s sagging commercial and critical fortunes conspired to keep Cables from the explosive, marquee-lighting career that he deserved. Musicians, however, have always known how great he was, keeping him working from the ’70s through today; he also leads his own trio, which put out the lovely Icons and Influences album earlier this year. They also know that he’s got a luminous portfolio of compositions, and many have striven to put tunes like “Circle,” “Morning Song,” and “Inner Glow” into wider circulation. But there’s nothing like putting Cables in a position to flaunt his technique and compositions himself, and that’s what KenCen is doing now. Cables (with drummer Victor Lewis) performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F Street NW. $26-$32.
Sunday, November 9 “Something More” is the name of Buster Williams‘ quartet. That’s been its name for nearly 25 years now, mind you, but the only constants in that time span are Williams and the instrumentation. As a matter of fact, Williams was in D.C. with the band in 2012, and the only things that band had in common with the current one are Williams and instrumentation. The former, of course, is a constant in a larger sense; Williams is a living legend of the bass, cutting his teeth in the early ’60s with Dakota Staton, Sarah Vaughan, and Gene Ammons and going on to an incredibly rich 50-year career, playing with some of the greatest names in jazz and becoming one of those names in his own right (even if he’s still somewhat obscure, any jazz artist will tell you how great he is). The aforementioned constant instrumentation, aside from Williams’ upright, includes alto sax (in this incarnation, Steve Wilson), piano Patrice Rushen, and drums (Lenny White)—-like Williams, unquestionable greats whose names aren’t as well known as they should be. A hell of a night of jazz is on the table here. Buster Williams and Something More perform at 7:30 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. $30.