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Thursday, Sept. 19 September brings a definitive end to the D.C. jazz doldrums. The Thelonious Monk Competition occurs, the performing arts centers begin new seasons, and, of course, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation holds its Annual Legislative Conference and Jazz Issue Forum and Concert. Hosted by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Dean of the CBC and jazz’s de facto representative in Congress, the annual gala has a list of past performers that would make anyone’s head spin, from Count Basie to the Modern Jazz Quartet. The most amazing aspect, though, is that it’s free and open to the public, giving you absolutely no reason (short of the room reaching capacity—an impressive feat at the Convention Center) to miss it. You have even less reason when the headliners are The Larry Ridley Jazz Legacy Ensemble and The Bobby Watson Quintet, with Watson, a legendary alto saxophonist, featured before the concert in a Meet The Artist conversation at 7:30. The CBCF ALC jazz concert begins at 8 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW. Free.
Sunday, Sept. 22 Arguably the most acclaimed composer and big bandleader going these days, Maria Schneider doesn’t play an instrument on the bandstand. She’s too busy shaping the music that the 17 instrumentalists in her charge are performing. That music contains more than its share of classical structure and voicings, but also the harmonic and orchestral innovations of jazz arrangers and mentors like Gil Evans and Bob Brookmeyer, plus elements of rock, pop, and other genres. Since founding the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra twenty years ago, Schneider has amassed a formidable book of compositions, award-winning recordings like 2004’s Concert in the Garden and 2007’s Sky Blue, and a place in the pantheon of all-time great big band honchos. That’s not hyperbole, folks. Ellington, Henderson, Basie, Evans, Brookmeyer, Jones and Lewis…and Schneider. The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra performs at 7 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland campus in College Park. $40.
Wednesday, Sept. 25 Billy Hart grew up, both in the personal and musical senses, right here in Washington, D.C. Indeed, he kicked off his career supporting fellow natives like saxophonist Buck Hill and vocalist Shirley Horn before he moved to New York and became one of the most adventurous jazz drummers in the country, joining Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis on their groundbreaking jazz fusion projects. 45 years later, he maintains that reputation: Hart, who sometimes uses the name Jabali, leads a fiercely forward-thinking quartet that includes influential saxophonist Mark Turner, pianist Ethan Iverson, and bassist Ben Street. They play music with a unique combination of sturdy melody, edgy harmony, contagious rhythm, and surprisingly delicate texture. For all his boldness on the instrument, Hart’s sensitivity is unparalleled. The Billy Hart Quartet performs at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE. $30.
Note: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this post provided an inaccurate date for Billy Hart’s performance. He plays Sept. 25, not Sept. 21.