Friday, Jan. 7 It’s perhaps the most casual gig in town, but something interesting is always happening at Westminster Presbyterian’s Jazz Night. Under the buzz of people chatting quietly to each other, or the scraping of plates of food sold by the SW Catering Company downstairs, can be heard the most swinging and warm jazz music the city has to offer. That “warmth” part is especially important. The building itself isn’t quite so warm: It’s cavernous, truth be told (especially considering how small it seems from outside), and has the endlessly reverberating acoustics that, well, that you’d expect to find in a church. But the atmosphere makes up for that, a convivial gathering of folks from the neighborhood and all over D.C. who enjoy the music and each other. Of course it helps when you have an all-star band on the stage, like the quartet that spectacular pianist Allyn Johnson is leading under the name of “Allyn’s Odyssey”: Johnson on keys, Howard University music maestro Charlie Young on sax, James King on bass, and Nasar Abadey on drums. It goes down at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4th and I streets SW. $5.
Saturday, Jan. 8 There are two Roy Hargroves, and they often command the same bandstand together. One of them is the aloof, distant trumpet master who plays the finest bebop horn of his generation, then stalks around the stage moodily while the next solo gets going. The other is the one who basks in his rapport with the crowd, does a little step when his solo hits its rhythmic peak, and pulls the mouthpiece away to spontaneously throw in a funny dash of scat. But which side will take the stage, and when will the other take over? Does it matter? Hargrove is a master of his craft, and one to throw in the fervor of gospel and the grooves of funk and hip-hop just to throw off your expectations…and then surpass them. He’s also got a fabulous working quintet that currently includes Washingtonian native Ameen Saleem (another in the seemingly endless line of great D.C. bass players). The Roy Hargrove Quintet performs at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $35.
Photo: Bob Travis.
Sunday, Jan. 9 There’s no shortage of piano players in this town—-though even in that crop Will Rast stands out as something special with his taste for lyrical beauty and freakishly in-the-pocket rhythms. He’s also an organ player, and in that regard he is surely the king in this town. He cover the gamut from soul to funk to fusion jazz on that device, and lays down thick textures that can’t be imitated by anyone else. He’s also got a jones for electronic music that he does extremely unusual and interesting things with. Why mention all of this? Well, Rast performs Sunday night at Bossa in Adams Morgan…and the website lists him as simply “Will Rast.” No mention of his trio, quartet, or his Funk Ark project; even the space on their schedule that lists the genre of the musicians is mysteriously blank. Rast does tend to fall back on a jazzy framework, though, even in his external exercises, so go see him. The gig happens at 9 p.m. at Bossa, 2463 18th St.t NW. Free.
Monday, Jan. 11 These days, John Kocur’s steadiest gig is not in the clubs but in the classroom, teaching music at Northern Virginia Community College and directing the school’s repertory jazz ensemble. But when he does find time to pick up his alto saxophone and hit the bandstand, Kocur remains one of the D.C. scene’s best musicians. He’s got a big, slippery sound and a love of melody that makes his solos joyous and his compositions smart and exciting. Though Kocur’s educational endeavors occupy most of his time these days, he hasn’t abandoned his writing: He’s got a brand new crop of compositions, and he’s been woodshedding them with his quartet to prep them for performance in the new year. Who says teaching is for those who can’t do? The John Kocur Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $20.
Photo: Darrell Jennings.