Thursday, December 19
Jazz drummer starts band to play Christmas songs. You’d think that was all the summary you needed for Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O, perhaps adding a mention of Wilson’s clowning on the bandstand. But, no. Wilson does skew silly in his persona, and the Christmas Tree-O does have a certain affection for the kitsch that is the spirit of the season. But he’s also a staggering technician on the traps, working out melodies even when he’s armed only with a snare and a cymbal. Moreover, he’s a tireless experimenter, and he, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, and bassist Paul Sikivie like to take the holiday favorites you love and yank them inside out. All the same, you might hear some of the traditional carols played straight and swinging. Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O (with special guest Terrell Stafford) performs at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $33.50.
Saturday, December 21
The brothers Jolley, scions of one of D.C.’s first families of jazz, have gone bicoastal. Drummer Nate has moved to Los Angeles, where he has broken into the production business; his twin, pianist Noble, divides his time between New York City and D.C. But like disparate chemical elements, they still form a potent compound when they’re brought together. Considering that they grew up immersed in the culture (musical and otherwise) of D.C., it should be no surprise that they vibrate with the energy of the city. Their music is packed with soul and gospel feeling, along with Nate’s charged-up rhythm and Noble’s glowing melodic lines. They’re also quite ambitious: They’ve scored some music for classical string quartet, which will join them on the bandstand. The Jolley Brothers perform at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh St. NW. $20.
Monday, December 23
Once upon a time, there was a D.C. jazz guitarist whom everyone loved. He created a deep mahogany sound on his axe, had a tremendous feel for the blues, and a beautiful and natural way with harmony and changes. His name was Rodney Richardson, and you’d find him in lots of wonderful places, like Will Rast’s organ trio; his own various guitar ensembles; the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra; and a dynamite quartet that he co-led with trumpeter Joe Herrera, playing originals and lesser-known jazz tunes. Richardson is no longer a D.C. jazz guitarist—he moved to Chicago, becoming an active musician in that city (and, recently, a father)—but he has come back this way for the holidays, sitting in for the past few Mondays with the BCJO. And on this night, the Herrera-Richardson quartet is reuniting. Eric Harper will join them on bass, Andrew Green on drums, and the lovely Lena Seikaly on vocals for a cool pre-Christmas romp. They hit at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $18.
Wednesday, December 25
What do you mean you’re not going to go see jazz on Christmas Day? Yes, you are. Don’t you know about the annual Christmas jam? Chuck Redd is one of the city’s longtime jazz stalwarts, a vibraphonist and drummer whose cheery sound and unfaltering swing have endeared him to audiences and musicians alike. For fifteen years, he’s made a holiday contribution to the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage programming; you might say he’s helping them live up to their pledge of offering live music 365 days a year. That’s certainly why Christmas Day at KenCen includes a live, festive session including other D.C. jazz staples like Redd’s brother, pianist Robert; bassist James King; drummer Lenny Robinson; trumpeter Tom Williams; and his wife, Delores King Williams. If past years are any indication, the repertoire will be a mix of jazz standards (both ballads and lively stuff) and holiday favorites—when Redd gets going on “Sleigh Ride,” it’s a thing to behold. The other likely feature? An audience much bigger than you’re thinking will show up when you say you’re not going to go see jazz on Christmas. The Christmas Jazz Jam takes place at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street NW. Free.