SaltmanKnowles has a single ambition: Melody. Bassist Mark Saltman and pianist William Knowles, both Howard music graduates and veterans of the D.C. scene, started the quintet specifically to combat the riffs and noodling they kept hearing; they want music that’s about lyrical tunes and memorable hooks. Their lush compositions make great ammunition for that cause, but the weapon that fires them is vocalist Lori Williams-Chisholm, distinguished by her clear voice, precise articulation, and the joy that’s evident in every note she sings. SaltmanKnowles plays Friday and Saturday nights at HR-57, 1610 14th St NW, $12.
Forward-thinking bassist Dave Holland leads arguably the hippest quintet in progressive jazz, with unconventional approaches to form, harmony, and interplay between the musicians. Chalk it up to Holland’s uncanny ability to spot and coordinate talents—certainly it lends promise to any other combo he happens to be a part of. Take the Overtone Quartet: It includes Holland and saxophonist Chris Potter, two fifths of the Holland Quintet, but places them onstage with two jazz adventurers, pianist Jason Moran and drummer Eric Harland. The quartet played their first-ever gig in September, meaning their work here is sure to be fresh and exciting. The Overtone Quartet plays Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, $35.
The Thelonious Monk International Competition, one of the most prestigious jazz contests in the world, has an uncanny track record of picking future stars as its winners (Marcus Roberts, Joshua Redman, Gretchen Parlato) and finalists (Joey DeFrancesco, Jane Monheit, Marcus Strickland). This year’s event has two separate competitions: One for bassists and one for composers. The bass competition will have two public events, the semifinal (at the Museum of Natural History) and final (at the Kennedy Center). Seeing either portion gives local jazz fans great odds for walking away with a story that begins, “I was there when he/she got started.”
The jazz economy is struggling as hard as everybody else, and thus making the same cutbacks. Thad Wilson’s Jazz Orchestra, the big band that largely forms the heart of the D.C. scene (since so many of the local players have passed through it), has winnowed their formerly weekly gig at Bohemian Cavernsdown to the second Monday of every month. Unfortunate, but there’s a silver lining: It means that seeing TWJO play has become a special treat, and that much more worth leaving the house on a Monday night to hear them work through their book of novel arrangements and array of great soloists and ensemble players. Cover is $5, the music goes until midnight, and a better cross-section of DC jazz musicians you’re not likely to find anywhere else.