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Thursday, Jan. 19
Observers of the D.C. jazz scene have been known to refer to the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra as “now-defunct” or “former.” And that’s not true. While the large ensemble doesn’t appear with any regularity—-or for that matter, with a consistent lineup—-the trumpeter has continued his work as a big bandleader after the group’s Bohemian Caverns residency collapsed in late 2009. “I’ll always be doing something with big bands,” Wilson said at the time, and while he’s been increasingly busy as a faculty member at George Washington University, he has indeed kept the promise. Tonight, therefore, he takes a victory lap of sorts as the band celebrates its 15th anniversary in Washington. With him are veterans of the TWJO from its early (Allyn Johnson, Antonio Parker) and late years (Reginald Cyntje, Brian Settles), as well as fairly new-to-the-fold players like Blake Meister and Corey Wallace. And the best part? They’re performing all original music. It goes down at 8 and 10 p.m. at HR-57, 816 H Str. NE. $15.
Saturday, Jan. 21
Alas—-so far 2012 seems to be about goodbyes more than anything else. We have given fare-thee-wells to the city’s most beloved record store, and to a charter member of the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. This week it’s to the Gold Leaf Studios venue, and correspondingly to its Red Door Loft, where the gang at CapitalBop has for a year been producing monthly showcases of local jazz talent. The “DC Jazz Lofts,” as they’re known, have been a popular and creative success from the outset, mixing freeform and experimental music with hard-driving swing and capping itself with a big ol’ jam session each time: It quickly became a core element of D.C. jazz. All signs point to the lofts continuing at a new location, but in the meantime the scene is celebrating with one last big blowout at the Red Door. The roster includes Jazz Loft regulars Brian Settles, Elijah Balbed, and Tri-O, plus bassist Kris Funn, Brooklyn saxophonist Jonah Parzen-Johnson, and melodic post-bop saxman Jonathan Parker. Kill the Red Door Loft in style, starting at 7 p.m. at 443 I Street NW. $10 donation requested (all money goes to the artists).
Sunday, January 22
Most players of the pipa—a Chinese string instrument similar to the lute—would not consider theirs the ideal instrument for the music of Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis. But Min Xiao-Fen is not most pipa players. Likely the world’s foremost practitioner of the instrument, Min is schooled enough in the tradition to have been the primary soloist in the Nanjing National Music Orchestra before moving to the U.S. in 1992. She’s spent the intervening years finding new contexts for the pipa, such as contemporary classical with the likes of John Zorn and Derek Bailey, and with jazz pathfinders like pianist Randy Weston and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith—spiritual heirs to Monk and Miles, respectively. For the forward-thinking Min, then, interpreting those giants isn’t so unusual; if anything, it’s fundamental. Min Xiao-Fen performs at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $20.