Thursday, Jan. 30
The only thing better than Lori Williams‘ velvet voice, expressive and elastic time, and delectable phrasing is the irrepressible joy she communicates with every syllable. Williams simply loves to sing, and it shows. In that sense she’s like Ella Fitzgerald, who was always absolutely delighted to be with you. But only in that sense: Williams sounds nothing like Ella Fitzgerald. She’s got a soft-edged, creamy voice that’s a natural vehicle for introspection. That, indeed, is often the takeaway of hearing her: Williams seems to be spilling her most intimate thoughts out through the microphone, asking you to weigh her ruminations carefully. Consider that for a moment: It’s a tremendous artistic accomplishment, one that should be given all the weight it asks for. Lori Williams performs at 9 and 10:30 p.m. at Dukem, 1114-1118 U St. NW. Free.
Friday, Jan. 31
Jazz is a family affair. From the days of the brothers Johnny and Baby Dodds, playing together in the New Orleans bands of the ’20s, groups of siblings have been leading lights of the music: the Dorseys, the Joneses, the Montgomerys, the Marsalises. Also at the top of that list are the Heaths: bassist Percy Heath, who died in 2005; saxophonist Jimmy; and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. Tootie is perhaps the least known of these, but is assuredly one of jazz’s great masters (if only the NEA would see it that way). He worked in major bop-based jazz ensembles, including the Benny Golson/Art Farmer Jazztet and the Modern Jazz Quartet. However, Heath has also played with some of the music’s great adventurers: He spent several years with the late Yusef Lateef, and his own first record was with Herbie Hancock and Don Cherry. His current trio, in fact, has two of the present day’s most forward-thinking players, pianist Ethan Iverson and Ben Street. They play standards—-but there’s nothing standard about their treatments. Albert “Tootie” Heath performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25.
Monday, Feb. 3
Helen Sung is one of many jazz musicians who’ve made Houston, Texas, one of the music’s most remarkable garden spots. She’s also one of many jazz musicians (a pianist in this case) whose original musical studies were in the classical tradition, and Sung’s got a particular aptitude for repurposing classical dance forms into jazz. That goes a long way to explaining her technical accomplishment; the percussive touch and the swagger she shows, though, are a little harder to explain. Simply put, Sung plays jazz with tremendous flair—-and on her new album, Anthem for a New Day, adds a Fender Rhodes electric piano to her arsenal, which only increases the flair. Conservatory or no, Sung’s got swing in her step, and a marvelous ability to express it. Helen Sung performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.