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As mentioned before, most of this first week’s local-artist showcase for the DC Jazz Festival is par for the course in terms of the regular Washington club rotation. There are, however, some exceptions, and the Thad Wilson Quartet is one of them.
Wilson, a trumpeter with a busy schedule of teaching at GWU and raising a family in PG County, is medium-to-light on the gigging these days; he leads a combo roughly once a month at HR-57, pops up sporadically on the Westminster Presbyterian calendar, and has been spotted as both leader and sideman in and around Silver Spring. But he is a good draw for DCJF, and this year is leading a solid foursome on jazz standards at the Madison Hotel’s bar in a set entitled “Miles, Monk & More at the Madison.”
Actually, “solid” isn’t a fair description. This iteration of the Thad Wilson Quartet swings so ferociously that “wild” is nearly the word for them. In addition to Wilson, whose shadowy, lyrical horn has never sounded better, the band includes Michael Bowie, arguably the District’s most dexterous bassist (quite a mouthful in this bass-heavy town); Keith Kilgo, who may have the swingingest snare drum in the business; and Johnny O’Neal, a legendary Alabama-based piano virtuoso who played Art Tatum in the film Ray, and to whom Wilson refers as “My friend, my hero, and my mentor.”
They work their way through the standard book in the ground-floor bar of the Madison Hotel, a swanky atmosphere with pretty good drink prices and fantastic acoustics. Sets are at 8 and 10 pm at the Madison, 1177 15th Street NW. Free (but buy something at the bar).