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This is one of those weeks when I wish I could be in several places at once. Alas, dear reader, I cannot, and therefore can’t recommend more than one at a time for you.
Friday, Dec. 9 Tim Warfield is one of the best Christmas gifts D.C. gives its jazz fans every year. He does an annual performance at Bohemian Caverns of the Christmas songs he loves, imbuing them with his tenor saxophone’s sharp edges and dark undertones without sacrificing the straight-ahead bop sound he loves. It’s a hell of a concert, and tends to feature special guests. This year, he’s joined by vocalist Joanna Pascale, and by a true star in whiz pianist Cyrus Chestnut, in addition to his favorite frontline partner, trumpeter Terell Stafford (recently the subject of an excellent JazzTimes story by my local colleague, Giovanni Russonello). 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25.
Saturday, Dec. 10 There are a lot of great drummers in Washington, but rare is the one with the imagination and virtuosity of Nasar Abadey. The Buffalo, N.Y., native is a musician of profound spirituality—-John Coltrane changed his life—-and profound skill. But he’s not a weekly gig type of player: Abadey and his band, Supernova (which comes in various configurations), don’t want to overexpose themselves on the scene. It’s an interesting side effect, though, that the infrequency give his gigs both a mystique and the feel of an event, which amplifies the glory of his spiritual postbop jazz. So does the presence of saxophonist Azar Lawrence, another of the great jazz mystics, who joins Abadey, pianist Allyn Johnson and bassist James King in the Saturday night show. They hit at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Sunday, Dec. 11 Then there’s the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, the District’s one and only resident big band that holds down Monday nights at the titular U Street Northwest club. In its almost two years, the BCJO has built and maintained a sizable audience with its book of classic arrangements by jazz’s most important big-band writers (and some of the BCJO’s own members) and has become a major gathering point for some of the city’s best players—-especially younger ones who are trying to make their names known in D.C. Make no mistake, though; these are top-flight musicians, all of them, and they know their material forward and backward. Hence it’s pretty special when they put on a holiday show like this one. The centerpiece is Ellington’s famous arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite (a Christmas favorite around these parts); however, there’ll also be lots of seasonal delights. And, when they’re finished the later set, follow the saxophone section—-Brad Linde, Sarah Hughes, Charles Phaneuf, Elijah Balbed, and Brent Birckhead—-down to the December edition of the CapitalBop Jazz Loft, where they’ll put on a special display of their own. The BCJO plays at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $15.
Wednesday, Dec. 14 Controversy continues to rage over Stan Kenton, the jazz big-band leader who would have been 100 years old this week. The uproar stems not only from his daughter’s allegations that Kenton, who died of alcoholism-related causes in 1979, sexually assaulted her as a child. The pianist and composer remains artistically controversial, too. Was his “neophonic” concept that of a visionary artist, or an eccentric kitschmeister? There was consensus on at least one point: Kenton was unique. He had an ambitious ear for brass orchestrations, a flair for the “exotic” (especially Latin rhythms), and a weakness for compositions and arrangements that flouted convention. For jazz educators, these have become irresistible, challenging puzzles for students, and that’s part of why Kenton’s cult includes generations of formally trained musicians. It also explains how the Atlas jazz series ended up with a 19-piece orchestra, paying tribute to him one day before his actual centennial. Controversial or not, neophonics lives on. The Stan Kenton centennial celebration begins at 8 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $20.