March 11 It says something that in 2003, Regina Carter became the first jazz musician ever allowed to play “Il Cannone,” the zealously guarded violin owned by the legendary Niccolò Paganini. Namely, it says that the MacArthur Genius Grant winner stands toe to toe with any of the great classical violinists in terms of accomplishment. But she surely tops them all in her imagination as an improviser, and perhaps more so with her quest for new ideas. Or old ideas: Carter’s new project, Reverse Thread, is actually a contemporary jazz take on African folk songs, with an accordion and kora added to her usual guitar-bass-drums accompaniment. Even here, though, Carter defies easy definition; the music she performs includes the music of the Ugandan Jewish community, as well as a tune that fuses West African music with that of India and Puerto Rico. The album drops May 18, but Carter offers a preview performance at Black Rock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive in Germantown. $44-$54. March 13 Let’s not mince words: Robert Glasper is likely the best piano player of his generation. He grapples with chord changes the way a rodeo cowboy handles a bucking bronco, firmly riding them all the way to hell if that’s what it takes. He’s also among the hippest—-Glasper is a hip-hop dynamo, playing keyboards behind Bilal, Mos Def, ?uestlove, and Q-Tip among others. In addition, he heads the electronic Robert Glasper Experiment (a separate ensemble from his acoustic trio) that merges his hip-hop and jazz chops into a, well, experimental format that goes astonishingly far toward the long-elusive fusion of the two genres. Glasper, unsurprisingly, is as adept on a Fender Rhodes as he is on a Steinway Grand, and his saxophonist Casey Benjamin introduces the vocoder as a viable jazz instrument. Intriguing, to say the least, and exciting stuff too. The Robert Glasper Experiment performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $25.
March 15 Most of the restaurants that feature live jazz at dinner—-and there are many—-prefer the aural-wallpaper variety, music to eat tapas by. Not Vicino’s in Silver Spring, though. Their Monday Night Jazz program (sponsored by the advocates Jazzknights) features the most impassioned and uncompromising of D.C.’s straightahead jazz artists to mix with their zesty Italian cuisine, even those with a cool musical temperament. Case in point: This week the bistro plays host to the Chuck Redd Quartet, led by the vibraphonist with a fearsome national reputation who chooses to live and work in our fair city (including with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra). This is cool jazz, stuff that will relax you, but by no means will it be confined to the background. Redd—-who works with his piano-playing brother, Robert—-is a devoted and unusually intense musician with music that demands your attention. The quartet plays at Vicino’s Restaurant, 959 Sligo Ave. in Silver Spring. Free.
March 17 Has anybody not figured out what a formidable talent Bobby McFerrin is? More than just a singer, McFerrin can turn his vocal chords into a full-blown orchestra, and without as many overdubs as you probably think. Yes, OK, he’s still best known for the obnoxious 1988 pop hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but ignore that. He’s got a brilliant capacity for sounds and harmonies, and an even greater (if stealthier) gift for rhythm that allows him to perform (mostly) a cappella. But not necessarily solo a cappella: If you’re in the audience, you will surely find yourself part of the choral ensemble, as McFerrin sets up on-the-spot arrangements for the audience to sing or chant along as he rips forth a scat improvisation. He’s even composed an entire opera out of his ability with vocalizations. Not for nothing is McFerrin known in Germany as the “wonder voice” (Stimmwunder). He performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria. $65.