Friday, Oct. 15 In the already-tough climate of avant-garde jazz, the piano is perhaps the most fearsome instrument. It’s one of the noisiest, for one thing, and for another it’s only on the keyboard that you can hear, a la Cecil Taylor, up to 10 dissonant notes played at the same time. Dave Burrell has a foothold in that tradition, and one can be forgiven for being scared off by his banging clusters. It’s still a shame, though, because that’s the point where he will surprise you with a sudden turn into lovely, often boisterous melodies with infectious rhythms straight out of the Harlem Rennaissance. Consider that one of his best known records is called Dave Burrell Plays Ellington & Monk—-a tribute to two pianist/composers who always had their heads in the future, but their hearts in impossibly rich melody that strove to entertain. Brave the storm along with Burrell at Joe’s Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Road in Mt. Rainier. $15.
Saturday, Oct. 16 He’s gotten no short shrift of attention ’round here, and Elijah Jamal Balbed earns every bit of it. His tenor saxophone sound has a tone of rock-hard muscle, slowly flexing into bluesy, riffy phrases in a conversational gait—-it feels like he’s telling you no-bullshit stories through his horn. And brother, does he work hard. His mom, local jazz advocate Maryam, recalls that in high school, “He would take buses through rain, snow, any weather, carrying all his shit, for any stupid school function they asked him to play at. And there were many.” It’s paying off in spades, not least in the form of a weekend stand leading a sharp quartet: pianist Hope Udobi, bassist Eric Harper, and drummer Allen Jones. There is also a report that rockjazz pianist Eric Lewis (of whom it’s fashionable to be skeptical, but screw it, this writer thinks he’s great), in town for a couple of private events, will stop by and sit in —- even better. It all goes down at 9: p.m. at HR-57, 1610 14 Street NW. $15. Sunday, Oct. 17 This summer, as I was writing the liner notes for Jonathan Lorentz‘s sax-trio CD Borderlands (Metier Jazz), we talked about his musical inspirations for the project. Among others, Lorentz (a Ph.D. in jazz studies) stressed that “I listened to a lot of Joshua Redman.” I bring it up because a strong endorsement—-but it’s not an uncommon one. At 41, Redman is on the fast track to being the most admired saxophonist of the present era. He’s a stubbornly, irresistably melodic player who nonetheless presents complex, challenging stuff and refuses to do the same project twice. He also bears a great deal of credit for the recent surge in sax-bass-drum trios, his 2007 album Back East being a major touchstone. This man, in short, is a mover and a shaker. The Joshua Redman Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $40.
Tuesday, Oct. 19 Mike Reed could rest comfortably on his hipster laurels as the curator of the Pitchfork Music Festival. But then he tops himself. Reed is also a scholar, composer, bandleader, and active member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—the AACM, America’s foremost avant-garde jazz fraternity. What’s more, his quintet People, Places & Things interprets the music of his city’s rough-and-ready hard bop scene of the mid-‘50s to early ‘60s, an era that included greats like Clifford Jordan, John Gilmore, and the legendary Sun Ra. All of them are represented in PP&T’s repertoire, with the breakneck swing that came in the original packaging—but also controlled but feverish cacophony that give the music a futuristic spin. It’s a treasure trove for your ears—provided you’re not already up to them in hipness. Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things performs at 9:00 PM at the Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th Street NW. $10.