Thursday, April 22
We’ve talked before about Rhythm Road, the joint project of the State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center that sends practitioners of American music around the world to promote cross-cultural understanding. Well, suppose for some reason you can’t make it to the 97 countries the tours are covering this year? Why, in that case you can drop in and see one of Rhythm Road’s best jazz ensembles right here in D.C. The Mark Sherman-Tim Horner Quartet is a lithe, quick-moving chamber group with a confident take on straightahead music, drawing on an extraordinarily deep knowledge of the craft. This is especially true of Sherman, a vibraphonist whose remarkable facility and amazing ear for complex melody will knock your socks. off. The Sherman-Horner quartet performs at 6 p.m. at the National Geographic Society’s Grosvenor Auditorium, 1600 M St. NW. Free.
Friday, April 23
Critic Gary Giddins has noted that jazz, more than any other music, spends as much acclaim and promotion on its students and rookies as it does on its seasoned veterans. It’s true: Jazz is (benignly) obsessed with its own future. It’s to that end that the Blues Alley Jazz Society—-yes, the same folks who run the legendary Georgetown club—-every year sponsor their BIG BAND JAM!—-which they proudly tout as “the only jazz festival in America specifically created by kids to kids for kids and from kids.” This translates to workshops, master classes, and concerts aimed at high school big band musicians from all over the U.S., and, more fun, full days of performances by those big bands on the National Mall. Friday lines up sets by students from Sandy Spring, Md.; Mechanicsville, Va.; Pittsburgh; and here in D.C. That’s 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the National Mall’s Sylvan Amphitheatre, 15th Street & Jefferson Drive SW. Free.
Monday, April 26
Then, of course, there’s the annual showcase for D.C.’s own student musicians. I speak of the Calvin Jones Big Band Jazz Festival, in which the jazz ensembles from UDC, Howard, and the University of Maryland come together for a gala celebration of big band music. In particular, the Howard ensemble has an uncanny record of supplying players to D.C.’s scene (Brian Settles, John Kocur, Eric Wheeler, and Reginald Cyntje have all ascended through its ranks). Not your usual jaunt to the liquor-jockeying jazz clubs, but the festival is nonetheless one of D.C.’s major jazz workouts. It takes place at UDC’s University Auditorium, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW. $20.
Tuesday, April 27
Francois Moutin is one of the giants of jazz, European Division. Though he now lives and works in the United States, he was perhaps the bassist in his native Paris, and it’s obvious in the tremendous skill and unique sound (with a special love for its highest notes) that he displays on his ax. He is also, along with his drum-playing twin Louis, an accomplished composer, and the brothers Moutin have for a decade led the Moutin Reunion Quartet as a vehicle for their wonderful original material, as impressive on its own as their playing—-contemporary, catchy, and deceptively complex in scope. Indeed, some of the tunes on their latest disc Soul Dancers (Plus Loin) could, in another context, have indie-rock potential, but even in this context they’re intriguing and just plain fun to listen to. The Moutin Reunion Quartet performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $15.