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Thursday, Feb. 6 Tim Whalen has been kicking it up lately. Always a popular sideman in town—-and for very good reason—-Whalen has bands that seem to be increasingly visible on the scene. That’s especially true of his septet, but Whalen also leads a trimmed down quartet featuring one horn (tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker) and a rhythm section of bassist Zack Pride and drummer C.V. Dashiell III. Taken as individuals, each of these players are among the strongest and most flexible in the area, able to turn on a dime and go in new directions as the music dictates. That’s an expansive quality, one that requires above all else exemplary listening… perhaps the most underrated skill in the musician’s arsenal. It’s one that will almost certainly make these great musicians mesh into a terrific ensemble. The Tim Whalen Quartet performs at 9 p.m. at Dukem Jazz, 1114-1118 U St. NW. Free.
Friday, Feb. 7 The flamenco music of Spain has quite a bit in common with the jazz music of America. Both are crossbreeds of folk traditions and classical craft; both have a distinctive harmonic language; both a precise kind of rhythm at their core. So it comes as no surprise that there’s been quite a bit of intersectionality in the two styles: On the American side, you have Charles Mingus‘ “Ysabel’s Table Dance”; Miles Davis‘ “Flamenco Sketches”; interpretations of Rodrigo‘s “Concierto de Aranjuez” by just about everybody. But of course, Spanish musicians get in on the action too, and Oscar Peñas is one of the most consistently interesting among these. The Catalan guitar player identifies as a jazz musician, but the harmonic and rhythmic colors of jazz are so strong in his music as to be an inextricable part of it. It’s a smart and knowing mix of traditions that, like the best of either jazz or flamenco, will make you want very much to dance. Oscar Peñas performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club, 2700 F St. NW. $26.
Photo: Zulema Mejias
Sunday, Feb. 9 It’s fitting that Kahil El’Zabar and his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble perform on a Sunday. The spiritual power of their concerts means that attending them is a lot like going to church. The Chicago drummer and percussionist (who performs in D.C. every year in celebration of Black History Month) is the subject of a new documentary that reportedly paints a deeply complicated, perhaps even difficult, picture of him. It suggests that El’Zabar’s ability to evoke the spirit and the ancestors of jazz comes through a great deal of struggle. If so, that makes it that much more profound that it takes him over so wholly. And it does: To see El’Zabar perform is to watch him go into a trance, shouting at odd intervals and shaking his head and leg with a sort of…controlled abandon. That’s not a contradiction; it’s art. Kahil El’Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (with saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins and trumpeter Corey Wilkes) performs at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15.
Tuesday, Feb. 11 Let’s just put this the way J.S. Williams put it himself: “What do you get when you have the top jazz trumpeter, pianist, bassist, and drummer in DC for 2013 according to DC’s City Paper all on one night?” Technically, he shared the title this year with Donvonte’ McCoy, but Williams did take the Jazzy this year—-as did Noble Jolley, Kris Funn, and John Lamkin. The latter three are the sidemen in this case. It’s Williams’ gig, his second as the February artist in residence at the Bohemian Caverns. It’s a great place to hear the ringing of his bright, aeronautic tone, inspired by Williams’ hero Clifford Brown but all his own from the minute it escapes the bell of his horn. He performs at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $10.