The temptation to compare Hiromi Uehara, aka Hiromi, to Lady Gaga is awfully strong. Not because of the music, but because they share a unique and ostentatious fashion sense that does much to define both their images. Unlike Gaga, though, Hiromi ultimately defines herself with her music. Jazz is unlikely to find a better solo piano record in 2010 than her phenomenal Place To Be, with its quirky chops and distinctive approaches to established technique. That, assuredly, is what lands her on the cover of the current issue of JazzTimes magazine, with the caption, “Portrait of a Virtuoso.” Hiromi performs at 8 pm at Wolf Trap, 1645 Trap Road in Vienna. $25.
Washington’s cultural institutions love Mary Lou Williams. The composer, arranger, and pianist is the namesake of the Kennedy Center’s Women in Jazz Festival, finds her work performed all over town —- particularly at churches that host a “Mary Lou’s Mass” —- and is honored this week by the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. The District’s chief jazz repertory ensemble, featuring local institutions such as reedist Charlie Young, percussionist Chuck Redd, and director David Baker, plans a spectacular panorama of Williams’ nearly 60-year career from traditional jazz (she began working professionally in 1924, at the age of 14) all the way through the avant-garde (among her final performance was a 1977 duet with Cecil Taylor). Her own compositions (and there are hundreds) will be the highlight, of course, but word is that the concert will also feature her arrangements, including those she completed for bandleaders Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, and Andy Kirk. SJMO performs at 7:00 PM at the Natural History Museum’s Baird Auditorium, 10th and Constitution Avenue NW. $25 general admission; $20 Smithsonian Resident Associates members; $18 for senior members.
Johnny Butler essentially practices Frippertronics. But where Robert Fripp used guitar to create his own collage of tape-looped soundscapes and improvisations, Butler —- a protegé of Gary Bartz and Vijay Iyer uses tenor saxophone. Add an Echoplex looper, effects pedals, and a laptop, and Butler is a one-man saxophone orchestra with a cavernous, haunting sound. Also a member of the electric jazz ensemble Scurvy, Butler next month releases a solo album (aptly titled Solo) showcasing his horn experiments; fortunately, we don’t have to wait that long to hear him. Butler performs at 8 PM at Bossa, 2463 18th Street NW. $5.
Five albums in, The Bad Plus can no longer be considered gimmicky for their rock and pop covers. The quality of their interpretations, from Heart and Blondie to Aphex Twin and Nirvana, has remained too consistently high for that (and too seriously probative). Moreover, some of their finest and most memorable work has been on the original compositions with which the midwestern trio has stacked those same albums. So even if you do come for “Heart of Glass,” stay for “1979 Semifinalist.” Not to mention the penetrating improvisations of its three ace members, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King. It’ll all be on display at 8 PM at The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1645 Trap Road in Vienna. $25.