Tonight, Jan. 20
The rise of young Miguel Zenon has brought renewed attention on the jazz strands of Puerto Rico, but the Island of Enchantment has a long, long lineage in the music from Juan Tizol to Tito Puente to David Sanchez. Puente remains the king; if there’s a Crown Prince of Puerto Rican jazz, however, it’s got to be Eddie Palmieri. The pianist was actually born in New York City, but to new-immigrant parents and in a Hispanic Bronx neighborhood that ensured his immersion in his musical heritage. In fact, while Palmieri began studying jazz piano as a kid, his professional career started in Latin dance music which he later injected with jazz elements, not the other way around. That was 50 years ago, and in the time since the world of Latin jazz has transformed itself around Palmieri’s innovations. He brought a new Latin rhythmic sensibility to jazz piano, and a reconfigured instrumental tableau that brought trombones, not trumpets, to the forefront. No, he may not be at Puente’s guest-star-on-The-Simpsons level (and let’s face it, “He robbed the school of Eddie!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it), but he’s an unquestionably major figure just the same. Palmieri leads a quartet with Brian Lynch at 8 and 10 p.m., part of the Heineken Latin Jazz series at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $37.75.
Photo: Tommy Rivera Jr.
Friday, Jan. 21
It was in January of 1999 that Reverend Brian Hamilton conceived the notion of transforming the sanctuary of his church, Westminster Presbyterian, into a jazz club on Friday nights “as a way to bring people together, using jazz and promoting jazz in the process.” It was a simple idea: Put some of the area’s finest hard-bop musicians on the dais, charge a pittance for admission, and throw in dinner from a neighborhood caterer. Fast forward a dozen years; Jazz Night in Southwest is not only one of the most stable and established gigs in the District, it’s one of the most beloved. Musicians adore playing there, with an unfailingly warm and appreciative (and deeply knowledgeable) audience waiting in the pews. Listeners love listening there, and frequently hear about new D.C. talent on its stage. How could that not be worthy of a big anniversary party with local all-stars? Washington’s reigning jazz granddaddy, saxophonist Buck Hill, is joined by (among others) fellow saxophonist Antonio Parker, bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Nasar Abadey. And some surprises! They hit at 6 p.m., 4th and I Streets SW. $5.
Saturday, Jan. 22
One thing we need is more vibraphone around here. We’ve got the ever-fantastic Chuck Redd here in town, but it’s not enough! More D.C. vibes now, dammit! …Still, if we’ve got to import our vibraphonists for a good performance, let’s try to make it the best—which is what the movers behind the Red Door Loft are doing with Philadelphia’s Khan Jamal. He’s not a descendant of Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, or Walt Dickerson; he’s a descendant of all of them put together. Jamal is a restless explorer on his instrument, breezing in and out of convention and even grooving on fusion some of the time (perhaps the only person outside of Frank Zappa to figure out how to make jazz-fusion on the vibes). Jamal is an extraordinarily soloist, but even better with a hot rhythm section; Tonight he’ll be doing one set of each, the latter with drummer Scott Verrastro and others TBA—though chances are it’ll include bassist Luke Stewart, one of the concert’s organizers. They play at the Red Door Loft, 443 I St.t NW. $5 (suggested donation).