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Friday, Feb. 22
When local pianist Darius Scott came down with the flu this past week, he was unable to make an announced gig at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival. The person he called to take over the gig? That was Antonio Parker, who put on an absolutely crackling set of blues, modal jazz, and a few ballads that served as yet another reminder of what a fiery talent he possesses. His incredibly soulful playing has tremendous roots in the blues, but he’s restless enough to let it branch pretty far out—though he remains a firmly entrenched straight-ahead player. That’s not a bad thing by any means. Parker, in fact, is one of the best, most reliable jazz musicians in the District, and has been for over 15 years. Go see him. 9 p.m. at HR-57, 1007 H St. NE. $15.
Saturday, Feb. 23
There’s no shortage of gifted trumpet players in New York, but Jeremy Pelt stands out from the crowd nevertheless. It’s not so much because of his playing, though that is phenomenal; 36-year-old Pelt continually impresses musicians twice his age with an old-school concept of work ethic, commitment to his art, and open ears. For the past six years, Pelt led a finely tuned post-bop quintet, notable for the unique combination of chemistry and tension between band members and for their facility with Pelt’s often complicated melodies. But the trumpeter broke up that band earlier this year and now surrounds himself with a larger, electric ensemble that has been in development for the better part of a decade. Pelt’s newest album, Water and Earth, came out last month, and celebrates its release with shows Friday and Saturday at Bohemian Caverns. 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $22.
Sunday, Feb. 24
Kahil El’Zabar performs in D.C. with his Ethnic Heritage ensemble, featuring saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins and trumpeter Corey Wilkes, every February in celebration of Black History Month. With one possible exception—and even that I’m not certain about—I have never missed a performance. El’Zabar, a drummer and percussionist with a veritable warehouse of instruments at his disposal, imbues his music with the deep, mysterious spiritualism often associated with John Coltrane. It’s a powerful experience. The sight of El’Zabar, his head swiveling as he picks out an intriguing melody on kalimba and groans in apparent ecstasy, is as indelible as anything I’ve ever seen on a bandstand. 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.
Monday, Feb. 25
Lord knows that in general, the University of the District of Columbia is a neglected resource. But one of its strongest assets is one that’s rarely noticed by the general public: the UDC jazz studies program. Many of the city’s finest players have passed through that program; indeed, many of them are still there right now. Foremost among those, of course, is Allyn Johnson, the crackerjack pianist who directs the program and its ensembles. They deserve more attention, and here’s your chance. An all-star, eight-piece version of the UDC Jazz Ensemble (featuring Johnson on piano, Doug Pierce and Deandre Shaiffer on trumpets, Reginald Cyntje on trombone, Lyle Link on saxophones, Steve Novosel on bass, and Howard “Kingfish” Franklin on drums, plus vocalist Sandra Y. Johnson) performs tonight at MLK Library. 7 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. Free.