One of the most ecstatic recordings of last year was Shine!, by the young tenor saxophonist JD Allen and his trio. In the lineage of sax trios, Allen and his men (bassist Gregg August, drummer Rudy Royston) have more in common with Ornette Coleman than Sonny Rollins: Allen is rich in melody, but unafraid to venture into the noisy wilderness at a moment’s notice. Royston and August go wherever Allen leads them, but their muses aren’t restrained by the saxophonist; indeed, their chemistry is so taut and creative that it often seems that Allen, for all his power and melody, is following them. Either way, the dominant sound of the group is the joy of expressing themselves, and it’s a delirious, infectious kind of joy that deserves to be experienced in person. The JD Allen Trio performs at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St. NW. $18 advance, $22 at the door.
Undoubtedly Marshall Allen was the right choice to inherit the mantle of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Since Ra passed away in 1993, Allen, his alto saxophonist and flutist for 35 years, has lived in Ra’s Philadelphia home and continued extending his musical ideas in new and innovative directions for the 21st century. In particular, this includes an eagerness for electronic sounds, and the odd tension between maintaining the tradition of the jazz big band and tearing down its walls to allow other genres and disciplines to flow in. All of these notions converge in the Arkestra, in Allen’s own music, and in his performances with other ensembles…such as the one billed as the Vertical Dogs. The lineup places Allen at the head of a band that features some of D.C.’s finest, from multiple genres: Matta Gawa guitarist Ed Ricart, Thievery Corporation bassist Ashish Vyas, percussionist and Fugazi collaborator Jerry Busher, and New Loft members Sam Byrd (drums), Tim Harding, and Jimmy Ghaphery (both on reeds). The performance is at 9 PM at the Fridge, in the rear alley at 516 8th St. SE. $15.
On the other hand…
Setlist is not going to make a habit of these “alternates,” but Marshall Allen is far from mainstream jazz and the evening does offer a more accessible option…and another Allen.
Carl Allen is one of the great go-to jazz drummers. The in-demand freelancer is, among others, the percussion chair for Benny Golson‘s current Jazztet iteration, saxophonist Donald Harrison, and singer Eliane Elias—-not to mention the house drummer for the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and the director of the Jazz Studies program at Julliard. One of his most frequent collaborators, though, is the bassist Rodney Whittaker, with whom Allen co-leads a hot hard-bop unit with a special predilection for the classic soul repertoire—-Motown and the Philadelphia sound in particular. The band (which varies in size and instrumentation) has two excellent albums under its belt, giving them plenty of work to draw from when they perform at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club, 2700 F St. NW. $25.
The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is so closely identified with Wynton Marsalis that it’s nearly inconceivable that they’d be working with anyone else’s musical vision (outside the standard book). Right now, however, the orchestra—-still under Marsalis’ baton—-is navigating the very different music of their own saxophonist Ted Nash. Nash’s concert-length suite Portrait in Seven Shades is dense, ambitious, symphonic; even Beethovenian. It’s also got very dark edges that separate it a great deal from Marsalis’ occasionally moody but often gleeful all-jazz-fusion. This is a serious and extraordinary new trajectory for JALC, and one designed specifically for the concert hall. Indeed, it is in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall; 2700 F St. NW. $35-$85. A worthy venture even without an Allen.