Still groggy from last night’s monumental Cecil Taylor concert, I arrive to find a smothering stack of notices for jazz gigs all on Sunday, the 14th. A bad day for people who want an easy choice, but a good day for jazz in the District —- enough so that four different shows, each of a different style and audience, merit mention. In no particular order:
- For your avant-garde pleasure, there’s the Tracie Morris Band at 8:00 PM at Joe’s Movement Emporium (3309 Bunker Hill Road in Mt. Rainier). Morris, a New York poet and performance artist, works with omnivorous guitarist Marvin Sewell and “Afro-Electronica” turntablist Val Jeanty. $15.
- For the fusion fans, a doozy: John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension at 7:30 at the Birchmere (3701 Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria). A major figure in the jazz-rock dimension, who also fuses in some electronica and Indian music, McLaughlin is an electric guitarist — quite literally jazz’s answer to Jimi Hendrix. That should tell you all you need to know. $65.
- The mainstream jazz folk have another big one. The Kennedy Center presents Ramsey Lewis, a favorite of both KenCen and Setlist, at 7:00 PM (2700 F Street NW). Pianist Lewis, one of the music’s last true hitmakers, has reinvented himself as an acclaimed composer and is performing a large-ensemble piece written for Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial, “Proclamation of Hope.” $20-$65.
- If you’re tuned in to local DC jazz, you may know Bruce Swaim, a longtime area saxophonist and a regular at the National Gallery’s weekly Jazz in the Garden series. Swaim had a heart attack last month; he is making a full recovery, but medical expenses are predictably staggering, and his friends in local music have staged an all-day benefit on his behalf, starting at 3:00 PM at Bangkok Blues (926 West Broad Street in Falls Church). Among the musicians appearing will be Jon Ozment, Paul Carr, and Swaim’s own quartet. $15 (suggested donation).
Other highlights from the week after the break.
Photo: Brian Callahan
Friday, November 12
If there’s a single all-star bassist of the past two decades, it’s Christian McBride. His virtuosity on the instrument is awesome, made more so by his gregarious personality and fearsome physical presence: the double bass is a gigantic instrument, and he looks like he could crush the thing in his hands. And if “virtuosity” means “ability to play anything,” McBride seems determined to prove it. He plays funk, fusion, and even hip-hop rhythms and harmony on electric bass, and just as easily slips into mainstream, post-bop, and even free jazz on his acoustic. Slightly funky acoustic jazz is the order of the day in McBride’s current band project, Inside Straight, which currently includes an impressive lineup of saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin, and drummer Carl Allen (in the running for Busiest Drummer on the Planet). All are excellent, but none more so than McBride himself. Inside Straight performs at 8 PM at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, on the UMUC campus in College Park. $42.
Monday, November 15
Jazz is so much more than its music —- jazz is also visual spectacle. Why do you think it’s so important to see it live? That’s also why jazz photography has developed into an important field of its own, and one of the field’s greatest practitioners was William Gottlieb. It’s Gottlieb’s arresting black-and-white photographs that captured the “Golden Age of Jazz,” the pre-WW2 peak of popularity, and in many, many cases became the icons of the era and of the people and places they represented. (When you think of New York’s 52nd Street of the period, for example, you’re thinking of Gottlieb’s pictures.) You’ll never find a person with deeper insights on Gottlieb and his jazz imagery than Larry Applebaum, the Library of Congress’s jazz specialist and a walking encyclopedia on the music and everything in its orbit. Applebaum will be conducting a lecture on Gottlieb’s photography as part of LOC’s Monday Noontime Lecture Series; it takes place at noon (duh) at Whittall Pavilion in the library’s Jefferson Building, First Street and Independence Avenue SE. Free.