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Thursday, September 25 This is the kind of moment you want to speak about as “the city’s big annual jazz gala.” But you get stuck, because this city has no shortage of big annual jazz galas. All the same, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference is a special one, with an annual jazz concert. Since 1971, the CBC’s national policy forum has included a performance by a major jazz world figure. Or two. Or three, in the case of 2014’s iteration. Howard University’s a cappella ensemble Afro Blue and pianist, composer, and NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston are the evening’s opening acts. The headliner brings the evening full circle: another pianist and composer, and undoubtedly a future NEA Jazz Master, who’s also a Howard University alumnus. Geri Allen is one of the premier piano players of her generation, a tireless innovator who can swing as hard as anyone, can funk perhaps harder, but is best known for her abstract-expressionist tendencies. She’s a wonder. The whole evening is a wonder. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s Ballroom A, 801 Mt Vernon Pl. NW. Free.
Saturday, September 27 If there’s ever a danger that Terence Blanchard won’t be interesting to watch perform anymore, why then, Terence Blanchard will unfailingly add a riveting new dimension to his music. You likely know Blanchard mainly as a trumpeter and composer (the latter in both jazz and film); the New Orleanian is also a bandleader and educator of renown, who’s found more than his share of ways to combine those two roles. But the aptest way to describe what he does may be that label that Ralph Ellison‘s Invisible Man applied to himself: “a thinker-tinker.” He’s a man whose restless musical intellect commands him to keep redesigning, repurposing, reconceiving the various ingredients and even the ends of his own art. Most recently, Blanchard has been experimenting with the possibilities of electronic sound and production, and damned if it hasn’t altered the shapes of what he plays. Such is the life and work of the thinker-tinker. Terence Blanchard performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blue Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $40.
Sunday, September 28 When pianist Michael Price brought pianist Allyn Johnson along with him two Sundays ago for a duet performance, even Price didn’t give himself much of a chance. “First attack begins @ 5:00pm,” he wrote in announcing the gig. “I probably won’t survive beyond that unless His Eminence Allyn Johnson decides to be merciful.” Price more than held his own, though. Playing an electric piano to his partner’s acoustic, he actually ended up pairing Johnson’s block chords with his own stride rhythm approach, then playing the melodic side either in quick flashes or in strings of short phrases that he played with a snazzy glow. He also threw in tumbling figures that would often reference other, related tunes—-laugh lines for the jazz nerds, if you will. Well, as it happens, this is a regular Sunday gig for Price, and if you won’t always get to see him competing with the D.C. area’s acknowledged piano king, you will certainly get to see him stretching out with a rhythmic accompaniment: He usually plays with bassists, in this week’s case with the wonderful Nathan Garrett. Go see them! (Oh, and did I mention that it’s at the place next door to the Howard Theatre, which was once Frank Halliday’s Pool Hall, where Duke Ellington first heard ragtime?) Michael Price performs at 5 p.m. at the Right Proper Brewing Company, 624 T St. NW. Free.
Wednesday, October 1 It is a humbling experience when two of the finest musicians on a scene join forces to lead a new project. You suddenly gain a new perspective on just how much talent there is to be had in D.C.—-and that’s before considering the mammoth talents that they lead. Take Eastern Standard Time. It’s a new sextet helmed by Tedd Baker, a tenor saxophone stalwart possessed of huge sound and even huger swing, and Victor Provost, whose steelpan virtuosity would make him a unique and special force in District jazz even without his sparkling melodies and brilliant rubato. They front a four-man rhythm section of astonishing prowess: guitarist John Lee, pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Kris Funn, and drummer Billy Childs Jr. Perhaps the best teaser for that is the one that Baker himself has stated: “It’s gonna be ridics!” Indeed it will. Eastern Standard Time performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley. $20.