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Thursday, Dec. 12 If you’re looking for a Latin Jazz band with as complete as possible a concoction of Latin and jazz musics, look no further than Maryland’s Afro-Bop Alliance. It’s percussionist Joe McCarthy—-the defining force of the band—-prodding them into rhythmic intensity and real Afro-Caribbean flavor. But one can’t discount the rest of the rhythm section: pianist Harry Appelman, bassist Tom Baldwin, and steelpannist Victor Provost are all among the finest musicians in the D.C. area (Provost was last year’s Jazzies choice for Musician of the Year), as are the horn players, Luis Hernandez, Vince Norman, and Tim Stanley. It’s a real all-star band, in other words, and they’re as inspired on the bebop repertoire as on the Latin tunes. Paquito d’Rivera said it best: “The mix they’ve achieved is so balanced that you never feel that the music is too Latin to be jazz or too jazzy to be Latin.” The Afro-Bop Alliance performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $12.
Friday, Dec. 13 There are few piano trios—-in the area, perhaps none—-that swing harder than Eric Byrd‘s. Maybe it’s the power with which bassist Bhagwan Khalsa and drummer Alphonso Young, Jr. play. Or perhaps it’s the strong injection of gospel music. The latter, of course, figures into Byrd’s expanded project, the Brother Ray Band: an eight-piece tribute to Ray Charles. Brother Ray’s great innovation was to develop soul music, of course, but his jazz bona fides shouldn’t be forgotten, and Byrd is a great boon in reconnecting the two sides of the genius. Byrd is a frequent performer at another great bridge between the jazz and gospel traditions, the Friday night concerts at Westminster Presbyterian, and for this performance he’ll lead the trio for the first set, and give over the rest of the night to the Brother Ray Band, in this case featuring great area players like saxophonists Paul Carr and Antonio Parker and trumpeter Brad Clements. 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I streets SW. $5.
Monday, Dec. 16 The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra was clearly still working through its Christmas program last Monday night. They’re presenting the Duke Ellington arrangements of Tchaikovsky‘s “Nutcracker Suite,” the famous jazz twist on the even more famous holiday classic. And while it was still rough going this week, this is a band with both ambition and dedication. You could hear it in the other Christmas-themed tunes the ensemble performed, including former pianist Amy Bormet‘s gorgeous arrangement of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Come next week, the whole program will almost certainly be spotless, and you, jazz-loving reader, should absolutely go and give it a listen. The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $10.