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Thursday, Jan. 24
The Smithsonian’s American Art Museum runs jazz performances in its Kogod Courtyard every third Thursday, but this year it’s trying a novel sort of series. Local musicians are taking on the music of jazz greats, living and dead, with local and legend matched by instrument (trumpeters covering trumpeters, pianists covering pianists, etc.). This first installment of the new year falls in what will be the 80th birthday year of Wayne Shorter, not only one of the world’s most accomplished tenor and soprano saxophonists, but arguably the greatest living composer in jazz. Appropriately, his early pieces are being treated by one of D.C.’s most accomplished tenor saxophonists who’s also a formidable composer: Elijah Balbed, leading a sextet featuring trumpeter Alex Norris, guitarist Samir Moulay, pianist Harry Appelman, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Billy Williams. The ensemble performs at 5 p.m. at the American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard, 8th and F streets NW. Free.
Saturday, Jan. 26
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Eddie Palmieri is living proof. Unable to afford the union-mandated wages for trumpet players in the early ’60s, he instead stocked his Latin jazz/dance band La Perfecta with what the budget allowed: two trombonists and a flute. It was a complete departure from the industry’s trumpet-powered conventions—-and it rewrote the rules as Latin bandleaders young and old reconfigured their ensembles to sound like Palmieri’s. None of them came close. That was actually just the first of many innovations and accomplishments for Palmieri, who just last week officially received his Jazz Master fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. And the man likes to celebrate, so expect his septet concert to be a hot one. The Eddie Palmieri Septet performs at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F Street NW. $35.
Photo: Cesar Flores
Sunday, Jan. 27
The DC Jazz Composers Collective‘s long journey to fruition was not merely about themselves, although founders Kevin Pace, Bobby Muncy, and Gene D’Andrea are all hardworking composers. But when the collective became an official nonprofit company in 2011, it was with the intention of promoting original music from all corners of the District of Columbia jazz. They would perform their own music as well as spotlighting the contributions of their peers and colleagues, educating the public on the exciting new work being done. Case in point: This weekend the collective (along with its favorite drummer, the wonderful Andrew Hare) will be sharing the stage in a unique capacity with alto saxophonist John “The Smoker” Kocur. The exuberant horn player is also a dexterous composer, and the evening’s first set will present the group performing his writing. The second set—-and really, you’ll want to stay for both—-finds Kocur working with the collective on their compositions, including new work that was written specifically for Kocur. Big ups to the DCJCC: This is new music unbound. The DC Jazz Composers Collective and John Kocur perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10
Tuesday, Jan. 29
It’s one of the oddities of jazz that after 50 years, the likes of Cecil Taylor remain as controversial as they ever were…and after 30 years, so does Wynton Marsalis. He’s tempered his rigidity somewhat, mind you, but remains a strict disciple of traditionalism in jazz. The music of Armstrong, Ellington, Monk, and Mingus are the be-all and end-all (emphasis on the “end-all”) for Marsalis, and his music centers appropriately on their developments. His disdain for the evolution of the music since then is what keeps him controversial—-but this writer frankly thinks it’s overblown. That music may be old, after all, but it’s still good stuff, and worthy of exploration both on its own and through derivations. If Marsalis feels the need to keep it alive, more power to him. And that’s perhaps the primary function of his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the resident big band of New York’s main jazz institution (where Marsalis is the longtime artistic director). It plays new music, of course, and new arrangements of repertory tunes, but in the end its real purpose is the preservation of the jazz tradition for new audiences. And that’s as it should be. Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO perform at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. $35-85.