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Thursday, March 3 Of all John Coltrane’s protegees—which to some extent includes every tenor saxophonist who came after him— Pharoah Sanders is the strongest and most important. A member of Trane’s last band, the wild and free one, Sanders elaborated on his mentor’s unspoken spiritual commitment and sometimes made it spoken, as in his best-known composition “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” Sanders, though, developed away from the difficult atonality of the era, into a steady modal sound that incorporated Eastern ideas and instrumentation. You might call it “psychedelic,” if not for the fact that it led him into a much straighter sound of R&B and bop, then into African traditional music. Sanders is a virtuoso, and an insatiable adventurer…the perfect foil for the eager young musicians of the Howard University Jazz Ensemble. They’re working out with Sanders this afternoon—and right soon, so drop whatever you’re doing now and go! Sanders and the HUJE perform at 12:40 p.m. at Howard’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, 6th St. NW at Howard Place. Free.
Saturday, March 5 Seen Clint Eastwood’s biopic Bird? The one starring Forrest Whittaker as Charlie Parker? You may have been impressed by the saxophone playing in it; but it wasn’t Whittaker, or Parker. It was Charles McPherson, who shares Parker’s hard-edged alto sound but has a bite that Bird never developed in his playing. McPherson was no obscurity even then; raised in the then-potent Detroit jazz scene, he worked throughout the post-bop era with greats like pianist Barry Harris and Charles Mingus (in particular, he can be heard on Mingus’ large-ensemble, large-scale works of the ’60s and early ’70s, like Town Hall Concert and Let My Children Hear Music). Today he is an esteemed elder statesman of jazz, and his sharp sax tone remains as compelling and unique as ever. That proud place in the canon now puts him onstage at D.C.’s finest jazz venue, with one of its most invigorating piano trios. Charles McPherson performs with the Larry Willis Trio at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11 St. NW. $25.
Sunday, March 6 There’s been a lot of talk ’round here lately of the Sunday Jazz Lounge, Twins Jazz’s weekly program during the month of March. To quickly recap: Sunday nights, for two sets at 8 and 10 p.m., trumpeter Joe Herrera and guitarist Rodney Richardson, already two of the District’s most accomplished and busy players, lead a quartet (joined by bassist Eric Harper and drummer Dave McDonald). They’ll be working an unusual repertoire, a blend of Herrera and Richardson’s originals and less-heard pieces from the jazz archives. On top of that, however, they’ve invited a list of solo openers to play their own music, unaccompanied. For their opening night, pianist Harry Appelman had been scheduled, though he has been replaced with the great violinist Matvei Sigalov who is also a formidable composer. It’ll be fantastic to hear him doing solo renditions. The Sunday Jazz Lounge kicks off this week at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $5.
Wednesday, March 9 Speaking of Twins Jazz, this week it saw the opening of the inaugural Washington Women in Jazz Festival. It started off with a bang, stellar sets by the swooping trombonist Melissa Gardner (whose vibrato technique is a thing to behold) and the terrific vocalist Lena Seikaly (who’ll floor you with her killer version of Beck’s “Tropicalia”). This week, the ante is upped. First on the bill is Amy K. Bormet, the pianist and vocalist who organized the festival. Bormet, in addition to being one of the funniest people you’ll ever see on a bandstand, is a brilliant piano player, with an uncanny melodic sense that she augments by audibly singing along with her solos; a profound composer, where she applies that melodic sense to lush compositions and arrangements; and a gifted but idiosyncratic singer whose high voice has a curiously 1930s-throwback feel. Joining Bormet is Karine Chapdelaine a bass player and alum of both McGill and Howard University’s music programs. Now based in D.C., Chapdelaine has a sound that is confident and strident without quite being “aggressive”; she simply knows what she’s doing and sees no need to push it in your face, since she’ll impress the hell out of you anyway. Bormet and Chapdelaine will appear in each other’s sets at 8 and 10 p.m., respectively, at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.
Twins Jazz photo: soulofamerica.com