That’s right, folks—-the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival starts tomorrow in Rockville! It extends the whole weekend, and we’ll have a preview of it on Arts Desk tomorrow. Go if you can, but if you can’t, here are some other possibilities.
Friday, Feb. 15 There were no polls last year for Best Jazz Album Title, which was unfortunate for Branford Marsalis. His quartet album, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes, would have been an easy finalist. The album did, however, make a lot of critics’ and fans’ lists for the best album of 2012. Small wonder; even by Marsalis’ jazz credo (“Don’t play the changes, play the song”), it is an unusually melodious record. The title is remarkably descriptive in that regard: saxophonist Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Falkner play songs in all kinds of moods, shifting approach as each tune dictates, but doing so as a unit—-and taking every turn smoothly. The Branford Marsalis Quartet performs at 8 p.m. at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stadium Drive and Route 193, College Park. $38.
Saturday, Feb. 16
Michael Bowie is the founder, bassist, and composer for Siné Qua Non, a jazz fusion quintet that has been performing sporadically around D.C. for about a year. While it’s almost impossible not to peg Bowie as the leader (and his bandmates agree), he works very hard not to make it so. To Bowie, Siné Qua Non is a collective effort. The ensemble of steel-pan drummer Victor Provost, saxophonist and flutist Lyle Link, drummer Mark Prince, and percussionist Sam Turner is just that: an ensemble, working together toward the truest and most expressive interpretation of the music. As such, they function beautifully, fine musicians whose instant chemistry belies just how much effort they put into their work. Still, it’s neither escapable nor criminal to pinpoint Bowie as the visionary behind the project—-and visionary it is. (Disclosure: I wrote the group’s media bio that appears on Twins’ website.) Siné Qua Non performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins, 1344 U St. NW. $20.
Sunday, Feb. 17 Bill Cole is an unconventional reed player; he’s always on the lookout for new sounds and textures. Luke Stewart is an unconventional bass player, one who probes many styles of music for their musical possibilities. It turns out that what they were really looking for was each other. This Valentine’s Day weekend, don’t miss the marriage of two idiosyncratic conceptualists as they play beautiful music together. Cole, best known as the leader of the Untempered Ensemble, is probably the only jazz musician of renown who specializes in reed instruments from everywhere but the Western world. That includes the sona, shehnai, atenteben, nadaswaram, and the didgeridoo; he also has an interest in instruments with more than one reed, making him a multimultireedist. Stewart, meanwhile, is a one-man avant-garde department (literally, that’s his end of the operation at CapitalBop), who’s both a member of OOO Trio and the indie-rock/funk/soul/electronica outfit Laughing Man. What kind of adventures will they have together? Find out Sunday. Luke Stewart and Bill Cole perform with the Anthony Pirog Group at 8 p.m. at Bossa, 2463 18th St. NW. $10.
Branford Marsalis photo by Darlene Susco