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Friday, January 27 Longtime D.C. alto saxophonist Antonio Parker is one of the city’s busiest, most reliable musicians, a first-call player and a regular leader in his own right (especially at HR-57, where he plays weekly) with perhaps the firmest grasp of the blues of any jazz sax around. He’s kept so busy, in fact, that he’s only just now releasing his second recording, nine years after his first. Steppin’ Out: Live @ HR-57 is a celebratory collection of straightahead jazz, featuring as Parker’s frontline partner the ace trumpeter Kenny Rittenhouse and a crackerjack rhythm section (pianist Benito Gonzalez, bassist Zack Pride, drummer John Lamkin). It’s a different, though equally crackerjack, rhythm section (pianist Darius Scott, bassist Cheyney Thomas, drummer Keith Killgo) that joins Parker and Rittenhouse for a CD release party at that most Washingtonian of Washington jazz gigs, Jazz Night in Southwest. That’s at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, Jan. 28
It’s a favorite critical pasttime to debate who is the most influential jazz player of recent years, on any given instrument. Saxophone gets a lot of play (Mark Turner? Joshua Redman? Chris Potter?), as does trumpet (Wynton? Dave Douglas? Roy Hargrove?) When it comes to piano, however, there is simply no debate. Every year university jazz departments and clubs all over the country are flooded with pianists who want—-who demand—-to learn how to sound just like Brad Mehldau. It’s not hard to hear why. Mehldau is a stately, melodious player whose sound has a natural gravity and splendid atmosphere in which his love of the romantic-era classical composers is apparent, as is his debt to jazz stylists like Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. His performances are wondrous, and this one promises to be no different—-promising enough that Setlist recommends this show despite its being sold out. Go to the Will-Call line anyway. Mehldau performs at 8 p.m. at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, Sixth and I Streets (duh) NW. $30.
Wednesday, Feb. 1 Ever heard of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra? It’s an underrated, New York-based big band featuring all women players. And it’s got a stellar track record of spinning off excellent musicians like Anat Cohen, Allison Miller, and Ingrid Jensen. It’s a hell of a pedigree to have, and it’s one that is currently held by two extraordinary D.C. musicians. I speak, of course, of saxophonist Leigh Pilzer and trombonist Jen Krupa, wonderful players who co-lead the quintet JLQ. (You can figure out what the initials stand for, I’m sure.) They weave a rich straightahead sound, spinning golden renditions of the great jazz standards as well as their own work. The best part of their performance, however, comes at the magical moments when Krupa and Pilzer go into fiery duels on their horns, one-upping each other and egging each other to ever more magnificent heights. That alone is a reason to buy a ticket. The JLQ performs at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $25.