Things to Do

4 Jazz Shows to See This Week: January 4-10

Your first Jazz Setlist of 2018 includes the Latvian Radio Big Band at the Kennedy Center.
The Latvian Radio Big Band plays Kennedy Center on January 10.

Thursday, January 4

Drummer Nik Francis is often a clatter behind the kit, an unrelenting attack whose kick drum is particularly heavy artillery fire. It may take you a few minutes to absorb just how shrewdly musical a drummer he really is. Layne Garrett’s most frequent recurring ax is the guitar—perhaps “prepared guitar” is more accurate. His primary instrument, however, is really sound, in all its emanations from electronic noise to found objects. Sarah Hughes is an alto saxophonist who’s based in the jazz tradition. (In fact, some guy recently named her D.C. jazz’s best alto saxophonist of 2017.) She starts there, then pulls the music into unbounded abstraction. The three of them have never performed together (though Garrett and Francis have), but seeing the names together, it seems like a combination that’s just been waiting to happen. It also appears on a remarkably sprawling bill that also features improvised performances by musician Mike Andre and performance artist Rex Delafkaran. Proceedings begin at 8 PM at Rhizome, 6950 Maple Street, Northwest. $10 (suggested donation).

Friday, January 5

You may know Deandrey Howard as the big dude who growls “JAZZ, JAZZ, JAZZ!” into the microphone between songs and sets at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society in Brookland. You may have also seen him sit in on trumpet, organ, or drums with the bands that take the bandstand there. Well, before that became Howard’s number one gig, he was leading a hard bop quintet known as Collector’s Edition at a weekly gig at U Street’s U-Topia restaurant. The was of that sentence is because U-Topia is now defunct; Collector’s Edition is not. Howard still fronts it on trumpet, brandishing it with a punchy phrasing and an almost vibratoless sound, save for the trail-out of his phrases’s final notes. (see YOUNG, LESTER.) It’s always good to see him back together with some of the most reliable and longstanding jazz musicians in town: Tracey Cutler on tenor sax, Bob Butta on piano, Amy Shook on bass, and Lenny Robinson on drums. And in this case, they’re also joined with the low, soulful vocals of Kristine Key. Deandrey Howard and Collector’s Edition perform at 6 PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street, Northwest. $5.

Sunday, January 7

Two volumes into her Post-Cool series of recordings, and the lack of piano in her band may be the only thing trumpeter Carol Morgan really does have in common with the “cool school” (at least, as represented by the pianoless Gerry Mulligan Quartet of the early ’50s). You would certainly never mistake her for Chet Baker, with her forceful, harmony-bending lines and a low register that positively purrs. Nor is there anything cool about the rhythm sections she uses; driven by Morgan, the bass and drums eat into the swing like a table saw into steel. Imagine, then, what it sounds like when there is also an impossibly good saxophonist on hand (like our own Leigh Pilzer) along with an absurdly good drummer (our own Chuck Redd) and a remarkably good bassist (frequent Morgan collaborator Jon Roche). The Carol Morgan Quartet performs at 8 and 10 PM at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street, Northwest. $10.

Wednesday, January 10

Yes, living in Washington means that most of the big names in jazz eventually make their way here for concerts. Yes, it means that some of the world’s greatest musicians live and work hear year-round anyway. But we shouldn’t overlook the fact that living in Washington means we have international gateways to music of the world, jazz included. This is especially true by virtue of the embassies, which regularly sponsor cultural showcases and exchanges to highlight the art and heritage of their home countries, which is how the Latvian Radio Big Band ends up onstage at the Kennedy Center. As the name implies, the big band is associated with the state radio broadcasters of Latvia, and given that you might expect them to play it safe in their similarly state-sponsored performances. They don’t. This is hip, smart music, quite contemporary. It makes sense that it should be an incubator for most of Latvia’s most celebrated jazz talents. The Latvian Radio Big Band performs at 6 PM at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, 2700 F Street, Northwest. Free.

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Michael J. West is a jazz journalist and critic who lives in DC. 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.