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Thursday, Dec. 5
“D.C.’s Newest Jazz Club” is the tagline that they’re using, and at least one night a week it’s true. As D.C. jazz promoter Jeff Stacey noted in our People issue last week, Dukem, perhaps the most highly regarded Ethiopian restaurant in Washington (a city of many, many Ethiopian restaurants, if you haven’t noticed), is inaugurating a Thursday night music series called… wait for it… Dukem Jazz. It’s not an experiment, mind you; Dukem Jazz has already been marked as a permanent fixture. Every Thursday at 9 p.m., on the corner stage on which the eatery has presented Ethiopian music for years, you can see some of the best in D.C. jazz music being performed with no cover. Appropriately, its premiere features an artist of international flavor: Akua Allrich, the unbelievably soulful singer who generously seasons her performances with the rhythms and flair of (primarily) West Africa. (Sharón Clark and The Young Lions are on tap for future performances, so stay tuned.) Allrich performs at 9 p.m. at Dukem, 1114-1118 U St. NW. Free.
Saturday, Dec. 7
How’s this for an award-winning jazz musician: Arturo Sandoval has just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He is only the sixth jazz artist to win the award in its 50-year history, which goes to those “who have made an especially meritorious contribution to (1), the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” If that doesn’t rank him among the jazz elite, nothing will. Sandoval, a Havana-born musician, was actually jailed while serving in Cuba’s army when a superior caught him listening to jazz; he later joined the band of his idol, Dizzy Gillespie, defected to the United States, and became a citizen. He’s even had an HBO movie based on his life. What else can anyone say to endorse such a man? Go see him. Arturo Sandoval performs Thursday through Sunday, 8 and 10 p.m., at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $45.
Sunday, Dec. 8
We tend to get avant-garde musicians (who aren’t D.C. area residents) visiting us maybe once a year, if that. But multi-reedist Bill Cole is making his third visit of 2013. Intriguingly, though, he’s given those performances in three different contexts: duets with experimental bassist Luke Stewart, his own six-piece Untempered Ensemble, and now, the Bill Cole New Trio. Now granted, the trio makes up half of the Untempered Ensemble, with saxophonist/flutist Ras Moshe and bassist Shayna Dulberger joining Cole onstage. But that doesn’t mean it’s anything even remotely predictable, Cole devotee or no; how can it be, when the leader is playing instruments like the didgeridoo, nagaswarm, sona, and shennai while rooting them in the jazz tradition? The Bill Cole New Trio performs at 7 and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.
Monday, December 9
Last fall, D.C. bassist Tommy Cecil and L.A. pianist Bill Mays released Side By Side, a sensitive duo album of the songs of Stephen Sondheim. They are now poised to release Our Time, a second volume of Sondheim duos… and one that’s actually superior to its predecessor. The sensitivity is intact, perhaps even heightened; even more heightened is the thoughtfulness. There are smart touches throughout, such as giving Cecil (as melodic a bassist as they come) the main theme on “Finishing the Hat,” then having him undergird Mays’ melody line on “Losing My Mind” with a thumping, syncopated riff. It’s a quiet and beautiful record that deserves to be celebrated. As luck would have it, that’s precisely what Mays and Cecil are doing, with a CD release party featuring the two musicians and, in absentia, Sondheim. It takes place at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley. $25.