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Friday, May 14 Terell Stafford is a sharp dude: suave, snazzily dressed, and with trumpet skills to spare. Stafford has strong D.C. roots, as well: He spent his formative years in Silver Spring and attended the University of Maryland, where he learned his craft before moving on to the New York scene. Stafford’s no radical: He plays and swings straight—-and hard. Harder than holy hell, in fact. He’s also got a clear and snappy articulation, taking up the mantle left by Freddie Hubbard with solos that will leave you breathless and googly-eyed. His current quintet includes Tim Warfield, his partner in crime and another D.C. regular, as well as go-to bassist Peter Washington, piano maven Bruce Barth, and manic drummer Dana Hall; they perform 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. sets at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25. Saturday, May 15 Ramsey Lewis, the piano player best known for creating some of jazz’s last true jukebox hits in the ’60s (“The In Crowd”), is enjoying a new go-round as a serious jazz composer. In 2007 he premiered his first commissioned concert work, music written for the Joffrey Ballet, followed a year later by a full-length suite; parts of both works appear on his most recent album, Songs From the Heart: Ramsey Plays Ramsey (Concord), this writer’s choice for the best album of 2009. D.C. will get a chance to hear some of it live, when Lewis performs a tandem concert with singer Ann Hampton Callaway. The show will feature Lewis’ trio performing with and without Callaway, as well as Callaway with her own accompanists. (Arts Desk will post an interview with Lewis tomorrow, as well.) The concert takes place at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre, 13th and E Streets NW. $28-$58.
Sunday, May 16 What can compete with a great composer on Saturday night? How about six great composers on Sunday? Strictly speaking, the gig is under the auspices of the Bobby Muncy Sextet, but the inventive D.C. saxophonist takes equal onstage status with trumpeter Joe Herrera, guitarist Anthony Pirog, and bassist Kevin Pace. Each of these musicians is a musical adventurer—-and a writer as well. At this show, everyone brings their own compositions to the stage, and the ensemble rotates through composers so that everyone gets equal time. (They are joined by drummer Larry Ferguson, and vocalist Lena Seikaly will stop by late in the set with her own compositions, too.) Their writing—-some of which was also on display last night at U-Topia—-is tuneful, sumptuous, and bends convention in its own unique ways. It’s important stuff. The group performs at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
Wednesday, May 19 Pat Metheny‘s Orchestrion project has to be seen to be believed:
Put simply, Metheny has adapted a 19th-century device that plays several instruments mechanically (think player piano, but on a larger scale) to include keyboards, mallets, bass, drums, and more, all of which he controls through his own guitar. “Solo ensemble,” he rightly calls it. Wow. Just watch the video; it’s so much more amazing in images and sound than it is in words. Then, go see it in all its glory at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane in Bethesda. $35-$75.