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Friday, September 12
The single most unfairly neglected artist in Setlist’s pool of local talents? That’d be Sharón Clark, the great singer who now hosts the D.C. Jazz Singer’s Jam on weekends. She has a deep contralto voice—-though “deep” is admittedly a tricky term in the realm of the female voice; she’s no Nina Simone, though perhaps similar to the later years of Sarah Vaughan. Vaughan is actually a useful metric. It’s reductive and not terribly fair to compare Vaughan and Clark, but along with the echoes of the voice, the latter has quite clearly learned a thing or two from the former’s enunciation and phrasing. Her attack, though, has a soupçon of serious soul that could only have come from Clark herself. She’s a longtime D.C. artist, one of the stalwarts of our vocalist scene, and deserves more attention. Like a showcase, perhaps, at Westminster Presbyterian’s Jazz Night, in which she’s backed by a coterie of great players like pianist Chris Grasso (the king of vocal accompaniment), saxophonist Paul Carr, bassist Tommy Cecil, and drummer Lenny Robinson. They perform at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, September 13
Stefon Harris’ musical language is as immediately compelling as his vibraphone playing. In both his written compositions and his improvising, Harris exhibits a command of the classical jazz vocabulary—the vocabulary of Ellington, of Monk and Mingus, or Gil Evans—and a knack for assembling it in new and satisfying ways. Get accustomed to that, though, and he’ll throw you a curveball: like, say, refitting a go-go beat onto an Evans arrangement of George Gershwin, as he did on his most recent album, 2009’s Urbanus. Firmly as Harris grasps the tradition, then, he’s not afraid to take flying leaps into terra incognita. So the news that he’s coming to Washington with both a new band and new music can’t be anything but a thrill. Stefon Harris performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Sunday, September 14
It would take a lot more space than is allotted here to give an adequate description of Darius Jones‘ sound. He is capable of the clearest alto saxophone tone you’ve ever heard, and the coarsest; either way, it’s huge, iron-hard, and rather menacing. It moves in punching, percussive rhythms and fiercely bent notes, but also in solid, melodic shapes that can make you forget just how avant-garde he is. But that’s where Jones’ quartet comes in: Matt Mitchell on piano, Sean Conly on bass, and Ches Smith on drums create gnarled but dreamlike fantasias of sound that give Jones room to maneuver, but (perhaps paradoxically) also jagged, convoluted shapes in which to do so. Yet the blues never evades their capture, either. It’s complicated, all right—-and for the weekend, they’re joined by an equally complicated performer, the unpredictable French vocalist Emilie Lesbros. The word “vocalist” is not a stylistic choice; she’s much more than a singer, working chants, breathing sounds, and plain-and-simple noise into her performances. They perform at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $15 advance, $20 door.