4 Jazz Shows to See This Week: January 11-17

Your Jazz Setlist includes Stanley Jordan at Blues Alley and Dre King at Marvin.
Stanley Jordan. Photograph by Joe Mabel, via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, January 11

It’s a little bit of a drag that Stanley Jordan didn’t hit Blues Alley for a December show last year. That’s where I first saw him play live, stringing together a medley of Christmas carols with his innovative signature “touch” style on the guitar. “And now,” he said when the melody concluded, “for the greatest Christmas carol of them all.” He launched into an unaccompanied rendition of “Oh Holy Night.” But that was long ago, a different time…and a different Stanley Jordan. Different in our conception of him, anyway. Jordan embraced and was embraced by the jam-band community, which raised some eyebrows but fits perfectly with his enormous stylistic range: he loves straight up rock music, and has always been rather inclined toward fusion. (And yes, that he loves to jam is a given.) Jordan performs at 8 and 10 PM at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest. $35.

Saturday, January 13

He bills himself under the name of Dre King, but longtime scene watchers will better know him as DeAndre Shaifer, trumpet player extraordinaire. Though a metro Chicagoan by birth, Shaifer is a sort of standard bearer in DC: He is the last person to have graduated from UDC’s jazz studies program under the mentorship of its founder, the late great Calvin Jones. When he plays, it’s with a touch of serration at the edges, enough to burr the closer-in audience members but not enough to abraded his bluesy veneer. Shaifer, as a matter of fact, deeply mines the blues. He’s not always overt about it (at least in the “12 bars and Delta licks” sense), but the music can ride on his flavorful riffs, his nervy and none-too-clean harmonies, and his profound sense of rhythm and space—all products of diligent study of the roots. Dre King performs beginning at 5:30 PM at Marvin, 2007 14th Street, Northwest. Free.

Tuesday, January 16

Yes, those gentle-sounding instruments—guitar, drums, percussion, maybe a violin—with the unflappable rhythm are just what you’re looking for in a band that performs in the Brazilian bossa nova style. Similarly, you want a singer who is somehow delicate and at the same time thoroughly steady. Veronneau (named for its leader and vocalist Lynn Veronneau, whose voice resides somewhere between Jane Monheit‘s and Rickie Lee Jones‘s), however, gives you so much more than that. There are the standard bossas and some originals, but also pop and country covers (their new album, Love and Surrender, features an aching rendition of Glen Campbell’s hit “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”), Tin Pan Alley torch songs (there’s also a dramatic take on the album of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”), gypsy-jazz workouts (a particular specialty, what with guitarist Ken Avis and violinist Dave Kline playing in the band), and whatever else may tickle their fancy. They are all filtered to some degree through bossa nova, if only its fragile lyricism at times. It’s the kind thoughtful artistry one can expect from masters of the music. Veronneau performs at 8 and 10 PM at Blues Alley. $22.

Wednesday, January 17

One wouldn’t really compare pianist Joe Vetter to Thelonious Monk. (In fact it’s hard to know to whom to compare Vetter to: He has the rare ability to adapt his style with each new song he decides to play.) I feel comfortable, though, comparing the Joe Vetter Quartet (resident on Wednesdays at Twins) to the Thelonious Monk Quartet. The usual paradigm for saxophone-and-piano quartets is of course John Coltrane (and of course Coltrane is a veteran of Monk’s quartet), but that’s not the school Vetter follows. The melodies are too important to them, and it’s through that element that the front line of Vetter and tenor saxophonist David Merlin-Jones relate to each other in the theme arrangements and in the improvisational interactions. And like the Monk band, there’s a powerful percussive undercurrent as well. Vetter doesn’t drive that undercurrent the way Monk did, though: It falls to drummer Keith Butler and absolute beast of a bassist Steve Arnold. The Joe Vetter Quartet performs at 8 and 10 PM at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street NW. $10.

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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.