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Thursday, March 17
Twenty years old next week, Braxton Cook is a cleancut, babyfaced young man. His appearance couldn’t belie his tough, flinty alto saxophone sound more completely. Cook, a Silver Spring native who’s currently a student at Georgetown, likes long-note phrases and puts a slight gravelly edge into his high tones; it gives his otherwise purebred bebop style a certain R&B volatility that pierces the gut like a switchblade. Cook is part of the ongoing wave of young D.C. talent; he’s probably got an extremely bright future ahead of him in the New York jazz world or elsewhere, but in the meantime let’s hope he sticks around just long enough to keep his musical flavor a vital part of our scene. Meantime you can catch him with a quartet, and some St. Patrick’s Day drink specials, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Friday, March 18
I thought Sunny Jain‘s 2010 album Taboo (BJU) had such a gorgeous album cover that I kept it on my iPod long after I’d stopped listening to it, just so the cover would occasionally float across the screen. Of course, it was quite a while before I stopped listening to it, since it’s an extraordinary disc. Jain is an Indian-American drummer and percussionist, part of an “Indo Jazz” movement (alongside Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa) that explores the possibilities of melding jazz with Indian and other South Asian musical traditions. For Jain, that offers a wide palette, including the classical raga tradition, his own roots in the Punjab region, Bollywood, and Banghra. He’s also interested in the West Indian tradition of soca, the sound of Trinidad and Tobago. All of that, plus heavy funk beats, go into the work of Jain’s band Red Baraat, in which Jain plays the Punjabi drum called the dhol and everyone else plays horns. East meets West, and vice versa, at 9:30 PM at the Kennedy Center’s Monsoon Club (that’s the KC Jazz Club, herein renamed for the Maximum India festival), 2700 F St. NW. $26.
Tuesday, March 22
The first homegrown European jazz giant was unquestionably the guitarist Django Reinhardt, a Romani gypsy who in the 1930s (as a founder of the legendary Quintette of the Hot Club of France) reinvented the guitar as a solo instrument in pre-war jazz. Drawing from the music he’d heard and played in the gypsy camps outside Paris, where he grew up, he gave birth to a technique and style still known as “gypsy jazz.” It has become a staple of the Romani heritage, particularly in France, and that’s the context in which it comes to D.C. Le Nouveau Trio Gitan comprises three guitarists: Christian Escoudé, Jean-Baptiste Laya, and David Reinhardt—-the latter being Django’s grandson. The group is not only a great exponent of gypsy jazz, it’s an exponent with direct links to the music’s inventor. They perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy of France, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. $20.
Wednesday, March 23
You may recall that the Jolley Brothers, drummer Nate and pianist Noble Jr., are Strathmore’s artists in residence this month. The residency requires two performances of its designees; the first was March 2 and the second one happens this week. By all accounts the first was killer, but the second is where the action really is. The Jolleys have a world premiere of their new two-movement composition (Noble wrote the first movement, Nate the second) commissioned by Strathmore as part of the residency. They’ll also be performing two sets, one each by their acoustic and electric ensembles; the former includes a very special guest. Gary Thomas, a Baltimorean saxophonist and flutist, has chops and focus for straightahead and experimental jazz and everything in between. He’s also a valuable educator, the director of the jazz program at Peabody (where the twins are both alums). That’s at least one star—-more if you consider the power and charisma of the Jolleys and their music. The concert is at 7:30 at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike in Rockville. $12.