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Thursday, March 29 To achieve a name like “Captain Fingers,” you’ve either got to be a top-line porn star, or one hell of a guitar player. Lee Ritenour doesn’t seem to have any screen credits. Guitar player it is. And he’s truly stratospheric in his ability—-possessing enough of a rock veneer that he was brought in for punch-up on Pink Floyd‘s The Wall, and enough jazz chops to have successfully recorded two tributes to guitar god Wes Montgomery. His usual musical journey is in jazz-funk, perhaps fairly described as “crossover”; don’t let that fool you. Like David Sanborn before him, Ritenour is a player whose pop-jazz reputation has overshadowed his startlingly high degree of ability and taste. He’s the real deal. Lee Ritenour performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $43.
Saturday, March 31 Now, here’s a double bill that’ll put the spike in your punch. Andrew D’Angelo is one of the most expressive and distinctive alto saxophonists and bass clarinetists in the world. He’s got bona fides in avant-garde circles and a way with impassioned lyricism. So expressive and distinctive is he, in fact, that when he stands up to solo, he stops the show; the other musicians on stage shut up and let him take command. That’s even true when D’Angelo is leading a 16-piece big band, as he is in this case—-the DNA Big Band. The other half of the bill is also terrifically distinctive…by its very nature. That would be Victor Provost, the ingenious steelpan player whom you can read about in this week’s Washington City Paper Best Of D.C. issue. The unique and tremendous talent, who on his recent CD Her Favorite Shade of Yellow plays one of the most beautiful versions of “Dolphin Dance” this writer has ever heard, leads his quartet in tandem with D’Angelo’s big band (in a coproduction by D.C.’s CapitalBop and New York’s Search and Restore) at 8:30 p.m. at the Dunes, 1402 Meridian Place NW. $15.
Sunday, April 1 Never was there a better, more apt name for a band than Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble. In this case “Untempered” has a strong double meaning: Cole and company’s music is not diluted or fettered in any way, as free and fresh as if music was just invented by these same cats; it’s also not beholden to the tempered (western) scale. How could it be when the leader’s instruments—-the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo, the Chinese suona, the Indian nadhaswaram and shenai—-came from civilizations thousands of years older and leagues away from the tight strictures of European music? It’s a small handful of musicians who focus on fusing jazz and modern creative music with Eastern traditions; it’s much more rare that that musician would focus on Eastern traditions of the ancient kind. But that’s what Cole seeks in his work, and the Untempered Ensemble amplifies it with a glorious contrapuntal approach by a remarkable septet: tubaist Joe Daley, saxophonist Ras Moshe, bassist Shayna Dulberger, percussionists Warren Smith and Atticus Cole, and vocalist Althea Sully Cole. They perform at 7 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $15.
Monday, April 2 It was probably inevitable that Elijah Jamal Balbed, a favorite of Setlist and City Paper‘s Best New Jazz Musician in 2010, would eventually move on to greener pastures. Yes, Balbed, like so many gifted musicians before him, has made the pilgrimage to New York. Frankly we’re lucky to have had him around here for as long as we did. But on the other hand, Balbed has established such a sterling reputation and demand around these parts that he says he’s probably playing more gigs in D.C. right now than in his new home; certainly he can be seen at least once a week on the bandstand with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. Add to that leadership of his own hefty, straightahead quintet, packed full of DC greats: Donvonte McCoy on trumpet, Andrew Adair on piano, Eliot Seppa on bass, and CV Dashiell III on drums. If this is the kind of combo Balbed brings together when he comes back to town, there’s no reason to despair his leaving. The EJB Quintet performs at 6 p.m. on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free.