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Yeah, the snowfall wasn’t exactly a catastrophe ’round these parts, though the New Yorkers are certainly having a time of it. Still, it’s enough to have closed D.C. public schools—-which means enough to close daycares, which means your humble jazz correspondent has had to stay home and wait for naptime today before getting to this week’s Setlist.
Thursday, Jan. 27 Elijah Balbed was named Best New D.C. Jazz Musician last spring because of his brawny but sleek tenor sax tone and fountain of creativity, but also because of his tirelessly hard work. Ever since then, he’s doubled down on his efforts, piling gig on top of gig as both leader and sideman and managing to sit in with seemingly every big-name musician who’s come through town. The result is a tremendous reputation, one that now stretches all over the country and is still growing. Well, as it happens, one of the rising stars of jazz in D.C. and everywhere else turned 21 years old yesterday; his birthday party is taking the form of a concert—-and the whole town is invited. Holding down the fort at Bohemian Caverns, his first time performing at the club as a bandleader, and he’s lined up a splendid ensemble to back him: Dr. Alex Norris on trumpet; Harry Appelman on piano; Michael Bowie on bass; and C.V. Dashiell III on drums. They’ll be performing a tribute to the late Freddie Hubbard, as well as other recently departed greats. The Elijah Balbed Quintet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at 2001 11th St NW. $15.
Saturday, Jan. 29 As luck would have it, there is another tremendously talented young musician playing at the Caverns this weekend—-and also performing with Michael Bowie on bass! Matvei Sigalov is a D.C. rarity, a jazz violinist; he also happens to be a spectacular one. The native of Samara, Russia, has been playing classical violin since he was 6, and doubles on guitar, both rock and jazz. He’s also got a deep interest in fusion, symptoms of which include playing his violin solos through a wah-wah pedal with Wurlitzer electric piano and drums thumping behind him. It’s a deeply unconventional approach on a deeply unconventional jazz instrument. Sigalov’s band includes saxophonist Marshall Keys and drummer Nate Jolley along with Bowie…however, it also features yet another musician of steadily rising acclaim, this one from the Ukraine. Vadim Neselovskyi is a composer and pianist, a member of Gary Burton‘s working band who works on his own in the third-stream milieu. The group performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns. $22.
Sunday, Jan. 30 Although he has no small amount of jazz experience, Noah Getz is a classical saxophonist first and foremost. His website bills him as a concert saxophonist; his bio begins with his classical credentials; his CD Crosscurrents explores both genres, but “from the classical perspective”; and even when he plays jazz, his alto and soprano sounds have the precise articulation and agile-but-even pacing of the European repertoire. But does that in any subtract from his abilities in jazz? To the contrary—-he’s a highly skillful and even more highly adventurous player, bringing with him some of the difficult complexities of the post-Stravinsky composers. Getz (no relation to Stan, by the way) leads the Levine School Jazz Quintet (where he is artist-in-residence) as well as the small trio he’s heading up with pianist Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis another classical pedigree with strong jazz leanings, and bassist Luke Stewart. That trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Also Jan. 30 Everything you’ve heard about Wynton Marsalis is wrong—-or at least incomplete. His place in the jazz world is much more complicated than the stories about him let on. For example, he’s far and away the most controversial jazz musician of our time; he’s also far and away the most famous and successful. He’s criticized for not being a musical innovator, but he has innovated the way jazz is presented and taught. (You’ll occasionally hear musicians/critics/et al. complain that with his talent, Wynton “could have” re-shaped the whole jazz universe in his own image; the fact is, for better of worse, he did.) He’s neither the devil that edgier musicians and fans denigrate him as, nor the majestic god that Stanley Crouch insists him to be. He’s just a world-class trumpet player with preservation-minded (if quirkily so) ideas about where jazz stands and how it should be maintained, and his vehicle for those ideas is the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra that he leads. And in that unique position, he’s very good at what he does: Last fall’s Vitoria Suite CD is a masterfully crafted, genuinely intriguing affair between classic jazz and the traditional music of Spain. You might hear some of it mixed in with the JLCO’s classic jazz repertoire at the 7 p.m. at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Which brings me to why I’ve listed it as a second pick for Sunday: Marsalis is always worth checking out (and you must see him at least once), but the show is sold out. Don’t let that stop you; that’s why God made cancellation lines.