Thursday, March 21
The trombonist and composer Grachan Moncur III is one of the unsung heroes of jazz. A man who first toured with Ray Charles, he then became a regular in New York hard bop—-a sideman for Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McLean. The latter served as his transition into the ’60s New Thing, with first modal jazz and then avant-garde reaching deep into his playing and (sadly underrated) compositions. Local trombonist Corey Wallace, one of the area’s best and most consistently exploratory musicians, is a fan. As a part of the Smithsonian’s Take 5! series, his new band the DUBtet (multi-reedist Brent Birckhead, pianist Allyn Johnson, bassist Max Murray, drummer C.V. Dashiell III) offer an appreciation of Moncur’s music from all those major parts of his career. The ensemble performs at 5 p.m. at the American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard, 8th and F streets NW. Free.
Photo: Herman Burney
Friday, March 22
The jazz saxophonist whose music was once a hit with the “don’t trust anyone over 30” crowd turns 75 this year. Charles Lloyd doesn’t play much jazz for hippies anymore, although his compositions are still often flavored with Eastern concepts; instead, he works in delicate, often exquisite renderings of the music—usually with his virtuosic and sensitive quartet (pianist and Kennedy Center jazz advisor Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rodgers, and drummer Eric Harland). Still, Lloyd hasn’t completely abandoned that era’s yearning for freedom. His birthday celebration promises to include a variety of dimensions: His quartet will be there, but Lloyd will also work with musicians like Indian tablaist Zakir Hussain, lyra player Sokratis Sinopoulos, and Greek vocalist Maria Farantouri. He’ll also duet with Moran, with whom he took some freeform excursions on their recent CD Hagar’s Song. By the end of the evening, the flower children won’t be the only ones with expanded minds. Charles Lloyd performs at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. $20-$65.
Saturday, March 23
The thing about Benny Golson is that he’s as much a raconteur as he is a musician. A premiere saxophonist—-and also one of the great jazz composers of the 20th century’s latter half—-he’s got Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center-level cachet. (In fact, Golson had an 80th birthday gala at KenCen back in 2009.) But the fact is that Golson’s performing personality just doesn’t fit there. He needs a more intimate setting, where he’s the one in command and can regale the audience on a personal level. And regale he does. The man is full of stories, of his own compositions and bands and of those whose songs he’s covering. (On a previous visit, he introduced “Take the A Train” with a hilarious remembrance of The Lawrence Welk Show.) This giant, this NEA Jazz Master and living legend of the music, is at his best when he’s comfortable as an old shoe, and that’s the key to seeing him play. Benny Golson performs Thursday to Sunday at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $40.
Sunday, March 24
Half of Janel and Anthony has been a regular part of Setlist: experimental guitarist Anthony Pirog, who’s also a regular presence in the jazz venues around the District. Less frequent on the scene, however, and just as (if not more) experimental, is cellist Janel Leppin. Leppin is classically trained, as befits her instrument, but defies any notion of genre (with folk, rock, jazz, electronic effects, and the avant-garde making their way in alongside that classical learning). Certainly, the vague notion of “improvised music” is the most accurate possible description for her work, and that’s awfully… inaccurate. Here’s a better one: stunning. Her music is stunning, and as such it’s getting a showcase of its own at this year’s Washington Women in Jazz Festival. Leppin’s band, Ensemble Volcanic Ash (pianist/vocalist Lisa Sokolov, harpist Jaqueline Poulaff, bassoonist Amy Fraser), here includes D.C. saxophonist Sarah Hughes and offers a set of Leppin’s unique compositions. The ensemble performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $15.
Photo: Scot Hull