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Thursday, Dec. 9 It stands to reason that the son of John Clayton (of the legendary Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra) would be one of the slickest, most accomplished musicians on the scene. But pianist Gerald Clayton is a lot more than that. The 26-year-old has all the requisite training and finesse in classical and jazz, but tops it off with a preternaturally sharp soloist’s sense and a flair for genre adventures. There’s rock, funk, and a generous helping of hip-hop in his playing, and he puts it all on the line with the impeccably articulated swing that is a family tradition. Above all, though, Clayton is an architect: He builds a foundation for his improvisations, then builds carefully up with logic and pizzazz that makes it dazzling to hear and contemplate. Clayton performs with his trio (Joe Sanders on bass, Justin Brown on drums) at 7:30 p.m. at the Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda. $28.
Friday, Dec. 10 Benny Golson is the kind of statured musician that gets his 80th birthday celebrated at the Kennedy Center—as he did last year. Look at this list of the Howard University alum’s celebrated compositions: “Whisper Not,” “Stable Mates,” “Killer Joe,” “I Remember Clifford,” “Along Came Betty,” and the mighty “Blues March.” He’s got no competition from any other living composer. But as it turns out, he’s also an extremely shrewd and skilled tenor saxophonist whose presence has graced bands such as Tadd Dameron‘s, Dizzy Gillespie‘s, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and his own Jazztet. That’s what earns you Kennedy Center birthday parties… makes Golson an enormous coup for Bohemian Caverns. If you miss this, folks, you’re doing it wrong and that’s that. Golson performs at 8:30 and 10:30 at the Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $45.
Saturday, Dec. 11 Four months ago, I wrote on this blog, “At this point it’s probably quicker to stop counting how many pies Brad Linde has his fingers in, and instead start counting how many hands he must have to keep up with those pies.” As if to prove it, Linde will be brandishing three different saxophones in three different bands in four days. Friday night it’s “Alto Madness” at Twins, with Linde on alto sax and leading three other altoists; Saturday it’s “Four Tenors,” which is what it says it is; and Monday he’s back in front of the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, playing baritone in the first of their Christmas concerts. Stuck in the middle of those, however, is a fourth gig: a sneak preview of the 2011 INTERSECTIONS Art Festival. It’s unclear which sax Linde will be on when he performs with his quartet (alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes, bassist James King, drummer Tony Martucci), but all three would be a pretty good guess. Linde performs at 7 PM at Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Free.
Wednesday, December 15 Listening to Herb Robertson, the avant-garde trumpet player, you’ll be confused as to how anyone could describe him as “lyrical.” Listen to him a second time and you’ll be confused as to how anyone could describe him as anything else. He’s a deliberate, quiet, exploratory player. At the same time, though, he is uncompromisingly avant-garde and idiosyncratic. You may be dazed and blindsided by the sound of it, but you won’t quite be able to put your finger on why; it’s not your conventional idea of music, but it’s not “just noise” either. Naturally, the exact aesthetic varies with the size and scope of the band he leads—there are big bands, small bands, solo projects, sideman gigs. In this case, he’s leading a five-piece ensemble, the Augmented Fourthtet, featuring DC’s own avant-garde workhorse Ed Ricart on guitar, among others. It’ll be different, if nothing else, but rich with jazz knowledge and imagination. Robertson’s Augmented Fourthtet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.