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Thursday, July 17 It takes some serious chops to infuse a dreamy, wistful tune like “Lullaby of Birdland” with the kind of world-weariness that Alison Crockett does. The singer/pianist isn’t some sort of bleak prophet of doom; it’s not hard to find the spark of optimism in her standard singing or her original material. But Crockett, who is as much a soul singer as a jazz one, is simultaneously a shrewd, trenchant observer of the world’s workings. It’s a position that has brought her an edge of exasperation, perhaps some sadness, and even a bit of resignation. And yet, there’s that spark of optimism and hope, and a vast goldmine of beauty in her music, and perhaps even more importantly an appreciation of the beauty hiding in even the darkest corners of the world. It’s a nuanced landscape that reflects the worldview of a genuine artist. Alison Crockett performs at 9 p.m. at Dukem Bar and Restaurant, 1114 U Street NW. Free.
Friday, July 18 If you’ve been watching the jazz scene this year, you’ve noticed The Greater U Street Jazz Collective has been a prominent fixture of late. The quintet is not new, and its members are all veterans of D.C. jazz, but Ballin’ the Jack, their recent CD, has given them reason to gig around town, and a repertoire to do it with. Bassist Thomas View, trumpeter Carl McIntyre, saxophonist Russell Carter, pianist Pete Frassrand, and drummer Art Cobb are spelunkers of D.C.’s long and deep history of African-American heritage, and of its jazz heritage in particular. U Street is certainly not the only place to see jazz, and for that matter it’s not the only place to see the GUSJC: They played in Anacostia during the DC Jazz Festival, as part of Vernard Gray‘s principled East River Jazz Fest. But when they do play U Street, well, that’s poetry that you should experience, isn’t it? The Greater U Street Jazz Collective performs Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $15.
Tuesday, July 22 Ordinarily I would refrain from recommending the same artist twice in two weeks—in five years of the Jazz Setlist I’ve never done so before. But John “The Smoker” Kocur is in the midst of his July residency at Bohemian Caverns, and he’s an artist worth believing in, at least enough for back-to-back mentions. And it’s not just his hard-toned but limber alto sax sound, his long phrases of short notes that effectively blend legato and staccato, nor his smart but tasteful compositions. It’s his band. Cristian Perez, whose nylon-string guitar feats feature a liquid, crystalline approach of his own, may be Kocur’s musical soul mate. The rhythm section of bassist Charlie Himel and drummer Andrew Hare would sound great anywhere, but Kocur stirs real feeling in their playing to boot. Last week, there were 16 people in the audience for the Kocur Quartet; D.C., we can do better. The John Kocur Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m.at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th Street NW. $10.