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Thursday, May 27 Baltimore native Lenny Robinson has been in D.C. for nearly 25 years, and he’s one of the city’s most reliable and popular drummers. A veteran of the U.S. Army Band, Robinson’s pedigree includes a number of jazz styles: He was a member of hard bop icon Stanley Turrentine‘s last band, logged time with “out” players Dewey Redman and Gary Bartz, and did early duty with fusioneers Mike Stern and Jaco Pastorius. On Thursday nights in Washington, however, Robinson concentrates on hard and post-bop (with some exploration around the edges) as the leader of a hefty pianoless trio. Actually, “power trio” is probably apropos here, since Robinson works with two of the strongest musicians in town: Brian Settles on tenor sax and Tarus Mateen on bass. Folks, we’re talking a sound that will curl your underwear. The Lenny Robinson Trio performs from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at JoJo’s Restaurant and Bar, 1518 U St. NW. Free. Saturday, May 28 Friday, May 27 Equally powerful on the drums, but less accessible than Robinson, G. Calvin Weston paid his dues with one of the most challenging and influential figures of the 20th century, Ornette Coleman. Weston was one of the drummers for Coleman’s legendary “free-funk” band, Prime Time, joining when he was 17 and experimenting since adolescence with unusual polyrhythms, fusions, avant-garde textures, and Coleman’s legendary Harmolodics theory. It was a training ground that placedd Weston in good stead over the next three decades; he would later work with fellow Prime Time alum James Blood Ulmer and the seminal noise-jazz outfit the Lounge Lizards, to name just two. Now, however, Weston is executing a project that pays tribute to his mentor, Coleman, with the backing of several local and regional experimenters including guitarist Ed Ricart and bassist and Hotel X co-founder Tim Harding. Cocktail jazz it ain’t—-it’ll blow your mind and eardrums, instead. Weston performs at 8 p.m. at The Fridge, in the alley at 516 8th St. SE. $10.
Tuesday, June 1 Tuesday is the official kickoff date for this year’s D.C. Jazz Fest. It’s a low-key opening, however, with most of the schedule consisting of the usual Tuesday night lineup on the club circuit (Victor Provost at JoJo’s, Lyle Link at Utopia). One opening-night performer who’s off the beaten path, however, is the Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles. Charles, who won the 2006 National Trumpet Competition, locates his muse where so many others do—-in the folk traditions of his homeland. Charles digs a bit deeper, though: Not only does his style of jazz use the rhythms, melodic devices, and vocal stylings of Trinidad, but his latest album—-2009’s Folklore—-is a panorama of island’s oral and written mythology, exploring the stories and characters he grew up with against a backdrop of calypsos and other Caribbean spices. And he’s got a gorgeous sound to boot. Charles performs at 5 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F St. NW. Free.
Wednesday, June 2 Saxophonist Ernest “Khabeer” Dawkins is a prominent member of the AACM, the mighty Chicago avant-garde collective; in fact, he began his career taking lessons from AACM members and later became a president of the group and a teacher himself. He’s spent most his time playing in avant-garde ensembles, often playing two saxophones simultaneously and writing dense and idiosyncratic music that’s rich with the history of jazz and pan-African music. He gets to exhibit his own work in AACM’s Great Black Music Ensemble, but Dawkins also leads his own bands large and small. Tonight he’s performing with one of the small ones, his New Horizons Trio with bassist Jenuis Paul and drummer Isaiah Spencer. New Horizons has deep bebop roots, yet never stays in one place for long—-think of it as coloring outside the lines. Dawkins and the trio perform at 8 p.m. at Joe’s Movement Emporium’s Meyer Performance Theater, 3309 Bunker Hill Rd. in Mt. Ranier. $15.