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Friday, June 15 The clear, soulful voice of Akua Allrich is the primary reason to go hear her, of course. She’s a warm, powerful presence whose singing talents are too vast to be constrained to jazz. (I’ve suggested neo-soul was a major part of her repertoire in the past, but the global elements in her music aren’t to be underrated either.) But you could hear that on a recording. What’s harder to quantify is her charisma in person. Allrich has that kind of magnetism that is most often associated with Louis Armstrong: She makes people happy. The moment she sweeps onto the stage, wearing the brightest of smiles, Allrich makes the audience feel at home, like they’re once again sitting down with an old and beloved friend to hear about their newest adventures. Her art has volumes more dimension that that, of course—-but her astonishing ability to put you at ease is what sells it. Akua Allrich performs at 7:30 p.m. at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, 16th and Kennedy streets NW (in Rock Creek Park). Free.
Saturday, June 16 It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the trio that was once perhaps the linchpin of D.C.’s jazz resurrection. Each of The Young Lions has been busy as of late. Drummer Quincy Phillips tours with a trumpet great, Roy Hargrove; bassist Kris Funn leads his own band, Corner Store, and tours with another gifted trumpeter, Christian Scott. As for pianist Allyn Johnson, he’s heading up the jazz program at the University of the District of Columbia, and, recently, has been working on a recording with his gospel project Divine Order. There’s not a dud in that bunch…and yet it still means something special when the three of them come back together for a night or two. The band that brought jazz back to U Street in the late ’90s shows traces of all the things that make D.C. jazz: deep gospel influence, hard swing, and willingness to experiment. The Young Lions perform at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $23.
Sunday, June 17 Surface to Air advertise themselves as an “Acousto-Indian Jazz Trio.” You’d think that would provide plenty fodder for description, but even that doesn’t offer a fair touchstone for describing their music. Guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, bassist Jonti Siman, and drummer/tablaist/percussionist Rohin Khemani all have rigorous jazz training, but claim inspiration from the world-jazz movement that began to germinate out of the fusion and avant-garde scenes of the 1970s. Add to that the obvious Indian influence that comes from Khemani’s playing, and a shared passion for the drama and atmosphere of film music (their self-titled debut album includes an interpretation of Carter Burwell‘s theme from the movie Blood Simple). What they do with all that doesn’t fit an easy description, and certainly not an easy comparison. Except to say this: It’s lush, subtle, beautiful music. Surface to Air performs at 8:30 p.m. at Bossa Music & Bistro, 2463 18th St. NW. Price TBA.