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October is generally a very good month for jazz in Washington, D.C. This particular October, though, has thus far been complicated by furloughs, lost icons, and freak car crashes. Still, if you have the cash to spare, there are places to find good stuff.
Thursday, Oct. 17 Jazz fusion really is, to a great degree, a world of its own. And in that world, while there are many technical wizards on every instrument, the essence of the bass really boils down to the late Jaco Pastorius and the still-kicking Stanley Clarke. Pastorius, for all his flair and fluency, still kept the bass sounding like a bass. Clarke, on the other hand, can make it sound like a guitar, like a harp, even like an orchestra, depending on what the needs are at any given moment. But he still tends to keep that bottom going, and more often than not it has a funky thump to it. Don’t get me wrong, though, Clarke can swing with the best of them too. He began his career with mainstream musicians like Curtis Fuller and Dexter Gordon. Even so, he is synonymous with the bass in the world of fusion. Stanley Clarke performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $60.
Friday, Oct. 18 Dianne Reeves is as brilliant a vocalist as there ever was. Her instrument is the most technically precise this side of Sarah Vaughan, and her knowledge of the Great American Songbook, as well as of the jazz repertoire, is apparently bottomless. She may also be greatest scatter alive, a gift she uses sparingly enough that when she brings it out it’s got that much more of a wallop. Also packing a formidable punch, however, is the group of musicians accompanying her: guitarist Romero Lubambo, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Terreon Gully. Each are on that list of jazz players known as “world class,” and have earned those stripes—-only the best accompanists for one of the world’s greatest singers, naturally. Dianne Reeves performs at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $29-$70.
Wednesday, Oct. 23 If you were to choose one musician to epitomize the new Golden Age of D.C. jazz, Brian Settles might be a great choice. The 38-year-old tenor saxophonist was a graduate of Duke Ellington High School, made the inevitable jump to New York City for his music degree (from The New School) and wits-matching with the world’s foremost jazz players. But Settles came back home, getting his Master’s at Howard and deciding to stay for the long haul—-and becoming one of the District’s most beloved and respected jazz artists. Even so, he uses his New York connections where need be, as in his band Central Union. It features Jeremy Carlstedt on drums, Jean Marie Collatin-Faye on percussion, Neil Podgurski, and New-York-resident-but-D.C.-native Corcoran Holt on bass. Their first album, 2011’s Secret Handshake, was a landmark in area jazz, a visionary mix of inside and outside musical components that experimented with a variety of rhythms, structures, and sonorities. It augurs well for the as-yet-untitled second album by Central Union, material from which Settles and the band will unveil at this performance. Brian Settles and Central Union perform at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $25-$30.