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Hey, D.C.! It’s been Jazz Appreciation Month, and though Setlist hasn’t thrown it around much you’ve probably heard about it anyway. (It’s also being called “JazzApril” this year.) So here’s a way to wrap up the celebration of great music—-with great music (and a terribly witty Parks and Rec allusion. You’re welcome).
Thursday, April 25 To play jazz in any meaningful sense, one must have rhythm. Everyone knows that. But not everyone has such an ecstatic rhythmic flair as New York tenor saxophonist Russ Nolan does. His new CD Tell Me displays a rare ability: Nolan tosses swing and funk grooves together with such aplomb that they can become all but impossible to tell apart, and certainly impossible to extricate. Think that’s easy? And consider the repertoire he works those grooves into; Stevie Wonder and Joe Zawinul are the more obvious choices here, perhaps, but then you bring in The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” Michael Jackson‘s “Man in the Mirror,” and Oliver Nelson’s delicate “Stolen Moments” and you’re in fresh territory. Which, of course, is what it’s really all about. Russ Nolan performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15.
Friday, April 26 The album title Songs From This Season is one that immediately makes you think of Christmas music. But that’s not what its author, alto saxophonist Tim Green, had in mind at all. Rather, it’s an album that wears all of Green’s influences on its surface: “The full gamut of my musical mind,” as the Baltimorean puts it. That includes a generous portion of gospel—-the closest the album really gets to anything like Christmas—-but also R&B, some classical and rock, and jazz from bebop to contemporary. The album includes several different players—-enough to create a number of completely different ensembles—-with the only constant being Green’s sleek, satin-sheened but durable alto sound. There is no doubt that he will be one of the greater lights of his era of jazz, one of those who stands firmly within the tradition but can also tell you which direction the winds of the future are blowing. Tim Green performs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $17.
Monday, April 29 Siné Qua Non, the new ensemble founded by bassist/composer/bandleader Michael Bowie, has been much talked about in D.C. jazz, working just about every venue in town—-including a multimedia performance at CapitalBop’s jazz loft last summer. It’s worthy of the attention: A multihued, multilayered sound that combines electric fusion with globe-spanning musical traditions (incorporating Victor Provost’s steelpan and Sam Turner’s eclectic percussion) and Bowie’s love of classical music (drummer Mark Prince was initially schooled as an orchestral percussionist). Oh, yes, and jazz (which is where the great D.C. saxophonist Lyle Link comes in). Bowie has thrown his formidable resources behind the project; it’s his baby, and he gives it the attention and devotion of one in his quest to get the music over in D.C. and beyond. The most recent result of that ambition is Sine Qua Non’s stellar recording, Simple Pleasures (disclosure: I wrote the liner notes), whose release the band celebrates with this concert. Sine Qua Non performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $20.
Tuesday, April 30 It was a sad screwup that I didn’t give coverage last month to Herb Scott, the soulful saxophonist-about-town who was March’s Artist in Residence at Bohemian Caverns. He is a fabulous player, deserving of the exposure, and I’m sorry I didn’t give it to him. I can, however, highly endorse this month’s Artist in Residence, D.C. scene (and Jazz Setlist) favorite Elijah Jamal Balbed. The tenor saxophonist who was our Best New Jazz Musician some years ago is no longer new, but still every bit among the best. He’s a predominantly straightahead player, and has done quite a bit of his own writing lately—-in fact, the title song from his debut CD, Checking In, is a finalist in this year’s International Songwriting Competition. In the local scene, Balbed’s already a star. Go find out why. Elijah Balbed performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $15.