Forget Blues Alley—Twins Jazz is the best place in Washington for live jazz. Granted, it doesn’t book the big names that Blues Alley charges an arm and a leg for; instead, the U Street spot brings in the experimenters, the journeymen, and the obscure-but-great players who get the jazz snobs all excited—in other words, the ones that really make the music go, and the kind of musicians who are only too happy to shake your hand and chat or join you for a shot of gin.

Moreover, Twins has the atmosphere that jazz clubs are supposed to have. It’s warm and intimate, big enough for plenty of tables and a good-sized bar, small enough that there are no bad seats, and just right for the energy of both the band and the audience to run through you like an electric current. And on top of all that, they serve a killer cheesecake.

So just about any headliner at Twins is a good excuse to go there. This weekend, however, offers a particularly good excuse: Larry Willis. One of the aforementioned obscure-but-greats, Willis is a piano player who’s dabbled (at least) in every style that’s come down the path since he was born in 1940…from bop to New Thing to fusion and back again. He’s also played with everyone: Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, the list goes on and on. And he does it all with meticulous, labyrinthine improvisations and a deceptively light touch.

Knock him your lobes on Friday or Saturday night—two sets (9:00 and 11:00) for $15 each night—at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW, (202) 234-0072.