Thursday, January 12
Setlist has not said enough—-not nearly enough—-about tenor saxophonist Bruce Swaim. A D.C. jazz musician for 30 years, Swaim has a deep, vinegary sound on his instrument and an enormous swagger that’s matched by the enormity of his swing. He’s worked all around town (he’s a frequent player at the National Gallery’s weekly Jazz in the Garden, as well as at Wesminster Presbyterian’s Jazz Night) with all stripes of musicians, who rallied around him last year to raise money for medical expenses when Swaim had a heart attack. It takes a hard-working, inspiring figure to cultivate that kind of devotion, and Swaim accomplishes it with the love he evinces of classic mainstream jazz, standards as well as his own originals—-as well as those of his quartet, featuring pianist Jay Cooley, bassist Paul Langosch, and drummer Dominic Smith. They perform as the 2012 premiere act for Strathmore’s Music in the Mansion series. It begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike in Bethesda. $30.
Saturday, January 14
Jazz is often a family affair. We’ve got Heath Brothers, Jones Brothers, and Roney Brothers; three Cohens; the Marsalis family; D.C.’s own drumming dynasty, the Abadeys; and, at least partially in D.C., the Browns. Omrao Brown is the man at the helm of Bohemian Caverns, the city’s best jazz venue. His father, Leonard Brown, is a saxophonist and professor of music at Northeastern University in Boston. The elder Brown is a frequent visitor to his son’s club, luckily for us (particularly on Martin Luther King Weekend, when he plays an annual tribute); he’s an impassioned, energetic player in the Coltrane tradition, but with his own slightly gruff sound, particularly when he gets to wailing on his soprano sax. (He also plays tenor.) Better yet, his quartet Joyful Noise features some of D.C.’s finest—-pianist Bob Butta Johnson, bassist James King, and the head of the aformentioned Abadey dynasty, Nasar, on drums. They perform at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18 in advance, $22 at the door.
Monday, January 16
It’s a new year, which combines celebration with a fresh start, and you haven’t gone out to see the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra yet? Shame on you. Shame! Actually, there’s a good chance you have seen the BCJO in 2012, if you’re a fan; they tend to pack the house every Monday night of their ongoing residency at the titular club. But whether you’ve been to see them or not, you must go this week. It’s vital. Why? Because it’s the final appearance with the big band of one of its original tenor saxophonists. Charles Phaneuf, the gentleman you see in the photograph here, has been on the front line since the orchestra’s first gig; now, however, he’s headed back to his native Raleigh, North Carolina. The BCJO will continue on, naturally; the guys in charge, Brad Linde and Joe Herrera, will surely find someone to succeed him (if they haven’t already). Nobody, however, can replace him. They perform at 8 and 10 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $7.
Wednesday, January 18
One of Blues Alley’s valuable contributions to jazz in this town is its collaborations with the Embassies to bring jazz from all over the world into our fair city. One of the best examples of this is the Indian Jazz Series, a regular occurrence that starts next week at the fabled Georgetown nightclub. As always, the lineup is an excellent one; for this writer, though, who just saw him perform last weekend in New York, the standout has got to be guitarist Rez Abbasi. Of Pakistani descent, Abbasi is a composer and improviser who pursues a fusion of Indian traditions with jazz ones. This is actually part of a larger trend in the music these days: Abbasi is a member of a collective called the Indo-Pak Coalition that exists for the same purpose. But he’s able to articulate it with a unique voice of his own, a musical style that uses jazz harmony at its core, but also the rhythmic cycles of eastern music—-not to mention an idiosyncratic texture that draws from both of those traditions, as well as an edge of rock rawness. He’s an extraordinary musician, and praise Blues Alley for bringing them here. Of course, rather than praising them, you could also thank them by buying a ticket to the gig. Abbasi performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.