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Friday, Sep. 30
With certain musical innovations, we can look back and can see it was just a matter of time before someone thought of that; others are so outside-the-box that they still startle us and make us say, “Wow. Where the hell did that come from?” Gary Burton‘s decision to beef up his vibraphone playing from the standard two mallets to four ranks in the latter camp. It’s completely counterintuitive, not just to the vibes but to the basics of human motor skill. Nevertheless, Burton developed the technique, and revolutionized the way his instrument is played. Meanwhile, Burton has been consistently progressive as a quartet leader; the early configurations cut important inroads into what became fusion, including elements of country music from Burton’s tenure as a Nashville session man. The current version of the Gary Burton Quartet is almost ludicrously hip: guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Antonio Sanchez. They’ve got edgy rhythm as well as layers of lyricism, shrouded in a delicacy that tempts you to underestimate them. Do not. The Gary Burton Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $35.
Photo: Tom Beetz
Sunday, October 2
Sunday is a pretty big day for D.C. jazz, with two of its most skillful and consistent artists holding release parties for their new recordings. The best part? The scheduling for these two concerts, by accident or by design, is staggered such that you can see them both without too much trouble.
Reginald Cyntje is, despite formidable competition, the District’s most prominent jazz trombonist. A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cyntje is deeply immersed in the Caribbean rhythms he grew up with, as well as an abiding love and dexterity for the school of bebop. There are natural affinities between those musical traditions, of course, but Cyntje adds another layer of bond between them, via his own artistic maturity. He’s a wise player, in his mid-thirties already a seen-it-all/done-it-all veteran of Washington jazz and one who loves to play, but subserviates his own agenda to that of the full ensemble and to what the songs themselves have to offer. That includes standards as well as Cyntje originals, which you’ll find on his CD, Freedom’s Children: The Celebration. Cyntje celebrates its release with 7 and 9 p.m. sets at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW.
Across town you’ll find the woman who, as I’ve argued before, might be the city’s finest jazz singer. Lena Seikaly is a surprise every time she opens her mouth; her demeanor, onstage and off-, is girlish and polite, and it leaves one unprepared for the powerful belting-out of her rich contralto voice. Siekaly’s vocal articulation is impeccable; her delivery sultry; her rhythm, deceptively sharp; her taste, delectable. Her CD The Lovely Changes features well-selected tunes by Aimee Mann, Brian Wilson, and Elliott Smith, in addition to pieces from the jazz songbook and likable pieces by Seikaly herself—-a highly respected composer in D.C. circles. She performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley. $20.
Tuesday, October 4
It’s hard to know where to start with Pat Metheny. He’s one of the most accomplished guitarists on planet Earth. He’s a musical adventurer, exploring a range of sounds from fusion to new age to postbop to Ornette Coleman‘s harmolodics. He’s a great conceptualist, as anyone who heard or saw his Orchestrion project from last year needs no reminder. Less remarked upon, however, is Metheny’s prowess as a composer. Strathmore seeks to rectify this unnoticed contribution by including Metheny in its “Celebrating American Composers” concert series, which brings Metheny to the Music Center in a sparse, intimate affair that nods to his new solo-guitar release What’s It All About (Nonesuch). However, the concert is not a solo performance; it pairs him with bassist Larry Grenadier, a frequent collaborator and favorite of many jazz players. They perform together at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda. $38-68.
Wednesday, Oct. 5
Teddy Charles was the perfect vibraphonist for the era in which he became prominent. He hit the jazz scene in the early ’50s just as two major movements were getting started: the “Cool” school, which brought him bicoastal demand and acclaim at a time when Los Angeles was competing with New York as a jazz mecca; and third-stream music, the weaving together of jazz and classical elements that was intriguing musicians like John Lewis and Charles Mingus. Charles worked with them all, playing his instrument with a percussive tack, but also a spacious, quiet one that might even be described as “dark.” It would serve him well as he established his own 10-piece “tentets,” which was populated with East and West Coasters as well as more classically oriented timbres (french horn was a favorite) and playing classically inflected compositions. He’s long been retired (or semi-retired, depending on when and whom you ask) from the music world, but Charles’ latest of his always-welcome comebacks includes a stop this week in our town, with a tentet comprising local favorites that include saxophonists Sarah Hughes and Brad Linde, guitarist Rodney Richardson, and drummer Tony Martucci, among others. The Teddy Charles Tentet performs at 8 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $35