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Thursday, December 13

The extraordinary performance by the Mary Halvorson Quintet last night was a triumph for its leader/guitarist—-but it also betrayed her bassist, John Hébert, as something of a secret weapon. Hébert showed himself to be an extremely dexterous and imaginative player with an elastic sense of time and melodic interpretation. He injects these same qualities into his work as a composer, developing that work with the similarly open-eared trio of pianist Benoit Delbecq and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Two years ago they recorded the magnificent album Spiritual Lover, named for a tune by Hébert’s mentor Andrew Hill. Hébert was also heavily influenced  by his upbringing in the culturally rich city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is that world that provides the inspiration for the new music he and the trio just recorded this week and will be performing this evening. The John Hébert Trio performs at 7:30 p.m. at La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Rd. $25.

Friday, December 14
Benjie Porecki can only be described as a “how does he do that?” piano player. We’re talking about a guy with unbelievable diversity: He plays jazz, blues, funk, reggae, gospel, and rock without batting an eyelash. And he’s not just going through the motions. Porecki approaches each of these styles with the deep understanding and feel that one would normally associate with a single-minded genre fanatic. His  musical expertise is astounding even when you don’t consider that he also plays guitar and trumpet. That can be seen in the choice of similarly skillful jazz musicians that will accompany him in this stellar quartet: saxophonist Brad Collins, bassist Michael Bowie, and drummer Mark Prince. This is the cream of the crop, gigging at one of the city’s greatest jazz showcases. The Benjie Porecki Quartet performs at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.

Saturday, December 15

When Anthony Braxton’s name appeared on the Kennedy Center’s jazz schedule, it signaled a shakeup, precipitated by new Artistic Advisor Jason Moran. Braxton is not your traditional practitioner. In fact, Braxton may be the closest thing jazz has to a mad scientist. He takes a highly cerebral, organized approach to his chaotic-sounding compositions and solos, using notation and titles that resemble geometry problems. He also plays nearly every reed instrument in existence—primarily the alto sax but also the soprano and sopranino saxes, and bass and contrabass clarinets, among God knows how many others—and collaborates with warehouse-sized ensembles. For his first Kennedy Center performance in two decades, however, he leads the suitably unique Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet with Ingrid Laubrock on the second saxophone, Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet, and Mary Halvorson on guitar. Even Moran will join in as a guest on the piano. Those smiling bureaucrats in the Kennedy Center audience won’t know what hit them. Anthony Braxton’s Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $38.

Hébert photo by OhWeh. Porecki photo by Randy Santos. Braxton photo by Carolyn Wachnicki.