Thursday, Oct. 30
Singer Kristin Callahan has been a staple of the Baltimore jazz scene for quite a while, but in the last several months she’s been an increasingly regular presence in D.C. venues as well. And it’s a lucky thing for all of us. Callahan has a beautiful, soulful voice—-and supple, too, able to be simultaneously breathy and full-throated. She also has a rhythmic knack that puts her just a hair behind the beat, and a beautiful, languorous way with a ballad. She’s gifted enough, in fact, that she seems to attract all of the area’s most in-demand musicians into her performances, and this one is no exception. Pianist Todd Simon, bassist Blake Meister, and drummer Dante Pope join Callahan on the bandstand at 9 p.m. this evening at Dukem, 1118 U Street NW. Free.
Friday, Oct. 31
Halloween, with its costumes and supernatural focus, is about exploring alternate realities. “Other planes of there,” in the words of Sun Ra, who also trafficked in costumes and the supernatural. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Ra’s “arrival”: The jazz composer, pianist, and big band maestro insisted that he was born on Saturn, arriving on Earth in 1914. He built a complex mythology around ancient Egypt and Ethiopia, religion, numerology, and the cosmos that he instilled liberally into his experimental music and his band, the Arkestra. It was only partly a matter of spectacle—Ra’s fellow travelers were true believers, and, continuing together more than 20 years after their mentor’s 1993 “departure,” still are. Doubly appropriately, their D.C. appearance on Halloween night features a costume contest for the kids. The Sun Ra Arkestra performs at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW. $20.
Sunday, Nov. 2
The Sun Ra Arkestra isn’t the only “Arkestra” to come to D.C. in celebration of Sun Ra’s centennial. Burnt Sugar, the Arkestra Chamber is the brainchild of the fiercely smart and musically omnivorous guitarist Greg Tate (who also grew up in D.C. and attended Howard), is an improvisational ensemble whose genre I think could best be described as “avant-garde everything.” Jazz and funk are heavy favorites in the mix, but punk, heavy metal, electronica, contemporary classical, and more or less the full spectrum of music of the African diaspora (Tate is a journalist and scholar of African-American music) make their presences known. And the band is led via a technique called “conduction”—-a system of hand gestures used in the manner of a symphony conductor, but to facilitate improvisation, not precomposed music. Burnt Sugar is something of a free-floating assemblage; somewhere between 25 and 40 musicians can be called upon to form ensembles in any number of size. In this case, an octet comes to town. They show begins (with our own Trio OOO opening) at 6 p.m. at Liv Nightclub, 2001 Eleventh Street NW. $18 advance, $23 door.
Wednesday, November 5
In his quartet, Miguel Zenon has one of the most sensitive and perceptive small jazz groups around. Those are important traits when working on a high-concept vision like the alto saxophonist’s: Zenon, a native of Puerto Rico, has an ongoing project that uses the jazz vocabulary to explore the music—folk, art, popular, et al—of his homeland. With each new installment, the project gets more ambitious. He outdoes himself yet again on his 2014 recording Identities are Changeable, on which the quartet is joined by a 12-piece big band to portray the experiences of the New York Puerto Rican (“Nuyorican”) community. It’s music that was written for a large ensemble, an unusual turn for the saxophonist. Still, there are numerous passages for the quartet to play alone, and there’s much to be said for that more intimate, sympathetic context. Certainly Zenon himself must think so, since it’s the quartet (including pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig, drummer Eric Doob) that he’s got playing the music on his U.S. tour in the fall, along with video artist David Dempewolfe. The Miguel Zenon Quartet performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $20-32.