3 Jazz Shows You Should See This Weekend: November 24-27

Your Jazz Setlist for Thanksgiving weekend 2017: Doug Carn, Kenny Rittenhouse, Braxton Cook.
Photograph courtesy Doug Carn.

Friday, November 24

What Doug Carn did is hard to put into a nutshell, but here’s one attempt: He married the soul-jazz with which keyboards are often associated to the wave of intense spiritualism that followed John Coltrane. An organist (and pianist), Carn played Hammond on the first two albums by Earth, Wind & Fire. (This was back when they were a rawly funky/experimental-jazz-fusion band.) But his real “star turn” was with the series of recordings he made on the Black Jazz label, mainly with his then wife singer Jean Carn. (She later added an E to her name and found success in crossover R&B.) Carn is something of a cult figure in jazz, but don’t let that diminish the aforementioned accomplishment. It also makes him a superb match for fellow jazz spiritualist Nasar Abadey, the dean of DC drummers, and veteran Sun Ra saxophonist Yahya Abdul-Mahdi. They perform as the Doug Carn Trio at 7 and 9 PM at the Earth Conservation Corps Pumphouse, 1520 First Street, Southeast. $20 advance, $25 door.

Saturday, November 25

It’s fair to say that Kenny Rittenhouse wears his influences on his sleeve. At the very least, he wears them in his composition titles: “Hubtanium” (for Freddie Hubbard), “Ballad for Blue” (for Blue Mitchell). There’s also a goodly amount of Lee Morgan in the shapes of his phrases and the internal rhythms. But the question of influences is only relevant insofar as it’s context for the bigger question: What does Rittenhouse do to distinguish himself from them? The simplest answer to that is that there’s a kind of…pungency to his trumpet tone that simply doesn’t exist in anyone else. He has an eyebrow-raising way of being both tender and slate-hard at the same time—as though he both penetrates to the music’s soft center, and immediately gives it a protective coating. One is tempted to attribute the hardness and protectiveness to Rittenhouse’s work in the U.S. Army Blues, but that’s not fair. (It might be fair to attribute his virtuosity thereto, though.) Better to just know that Rittenhouse has something special. He performs at 9 and 11 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street, Northwest. $15.

Monday, November 27

If you’ve been following D.C. jazz for a while, there’s a good chance you remember Braxton Cook as the skinny kid with the alto sax who used to hit the jam session at HR-57 and blow everyone off the stage. Even when he was in high school, everyone who saw Cook play knew without reservation that this talented young guy was going to go places. He has. Cook attended Juilliard, and from there joined the band led by trumpeter Christian (Scott) Atunde Adjuah. (Yes, the same band of which our own Kris Funn is a member.) He’s also made three recordings: 2014’s Sketch, an album of progressive straightahead jazz; Braxton Cook Meets Butcher Brown, a 2015 collaboration with the much-loved Richmond funk band. This year’s release addresses the prior two in its (apt) title: Somewhere in Between. Cook even sings on this one, and acquits himself as admirably as he does everything else. This show represents a homecoming of sorts—but also his arrival. Braxton Cook performs at 8 and 10 p.m. at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue NW. $22.

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Michael J. West is a jazz journalist and critic who lives in D.C. He began contributing to Washingtonian in 2017. He is also a contributor to the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, JazzTimes, and Downbeat. His work has appeared in Slate, the Village Voice, Bandcamp, and NPR.org.