Thursday, July 22
“Jazz with a side of hip-hop” is actually not a bad way to describe the vibe at Busboys and Poets, the combination restaurant/ bookstore/ performance space/ hipster hangout off U Street. Which means that the musical lineup of the Beast and the Brad Linde Ensemble is apropos, indeed. The Beast, formed at the University of North Carolina, combines a jazz-pedigreed piano trio (Eric Hirsh on keys, Peter Kimosh on bass, Stephen Coffman on drums) with lyrical wondermind Pierce Freelon (son of Nnenna). The BLE also has UNC roots (Linde, the leader and baritone saxophonist, went to grad school there) but is located right here in D.C.—-it’s an 11-piece ensemble that’s done acclaimed bebop work in the area with the repertories of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, among others. They open for the Beast in an impressive show at 9 p.m. at Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th St. NW. $10.
Friday, July 23
For several years, the now-defunct D..C. Free Jazz Festival presented the finest in experimental sounds, from Julius Hemphill to Dave Douglas, but the stage has long been dark in terms of large-scale avant-garde programming. No more! This weekend begins the New Atlantis Festival, co-sponsored by D.C.’s New Atlantis Collective and Baltimore’s Creative Differences, two prolific presenters of experimental music. For the first night of music, the headliner and highlight is saxophonist and English hornist Sonny Simmons. An early ’60s pioneer of the New Thing, Simmons shies away from association with the “lawless” avant-garde movement. Nonetheless, his music like nothing else: He plays with the loose sound of a snake charmer, albeit heavy on the percussion, a music that’s melodic and much more carefully plotted than you’ll expect. Simmons closes the evening at 11:00 PM, following four other acts, at rhe Fridge, 516 8th St. SE in the rear alley. $20.
Saturday, July 24
Fifteen acts take the stage on Day Two of the New Atlantis Festival, including two open improv sessions in the afternoon. Once again, however, it’s the headliner who takes the cake. Alto saxophonist Charles Gayle has an amazing story: he was a homeless street musician in New York for two decades, until making a breakthrough in the late ’80s at the Knitting Factory and on records published by Sweden’s Silkheart label. In the 20+ years since he’s become an imposing figure, with a deep knowledge of jazz history and tradition that he subverts seemingly as an afterthought. He’s easily as accomplished and inventive on piano as on his main axe and startlingly erudite for a man who slept on Manhattan streets for most of the ’70s and ’80s. Gayle performs as a soloist, trio leader, and with a big band at 11:30 p.m. at the Fridge. $20.
Sunday, July 25
As jazz edges ever further from the mainstream, D.C.-born keyboardist Erik Deutsch continues to assimilate sounds from the pop charts—of the 1970s, that is. His music draws from the prog-rock and singer-songwriter movements, edgy funk, Afro-soul, and especially album-oriented jazz-fusion like Steely Dan. (It might be the only record in that style to ever include bass clarinet and bassoon.) This direction isn’t surprising; Deutsch used to play in the jam band Fat Mama, which specialized in the harder-core fusion of the same era. But Deutsch’s current musical trajectory is more audacious than it sounds: He marries jazz improvisation to introspective, folkish melodies and sonic textures (spun with Moog synthesizers and other instruments) that seem as experimental today as in 1972. It’s music that demands attention from the postrock universe—and promises even bolder surprises to come. Deutsch performs at 8:00 PM at Bossa, 2463 18th Street NW. Cover TBA.