Things to Do

4 Jazz Shows to See Around DC This Week: January 26-29

Your Jazz Setlist for the week includes Aaron Myers, Benito Gonzalez, and more.
Photograph of Aaron Myers courtesy Aaron Myers.

Friday, January 26

Not every vocalist has the surplus of personality that Aaron Myers evinces. It’s not an essential ingredient of a jazz singer’s toolkit, mind you, but it is an enormous asset. In Myers’s case, for one, it supplements his tremendous, slightly gravelly voice and expert soulful delivery—not to mention his glorious swing—to make him an inimitable, unmistakable presense on the bandstand. He likes to set his performances into the groove, giving a kick even to the ballads he works with. That is another way of saying that Myers gives a lively concert, of course—one might even say “rollicking.” He’s taken a reprieve for two months from his spot in the regular rotation of Friday night jazz gigs at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill, but this week finds him back in that groove, too. Aaron Myers performs at 8 PM at Mr. Henry’s, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast. Free.

Saturday, January 27

Perhaps you remember when Benito Gonzalez was living in DC and not only regularly headlining at Twins, but playing a sideman to Rene McLean and before long to just about everyone else who passed through Twins. Almost from the moment he first hit the bandstand, people had marked him as a splendid talent, a piano player who crossed McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, and the flavors of the Venezuelan folk music he grew up immersed in. We all knew that someone with Gonzalez’s trajectory simply couldn’t stay in DC forever, and for a decade now he’s been in New York, working with musicians like Azar Lawrence and Kenny Garrett and finding that great artists such as Christian McBride and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts are playing sideman roles on his records. And by the way: this cat can jam. Benito Gonzalez performs at 9 and 11 PM at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street, Northwest. $15.

Sunday, January 28

Tenor saxophonist Ron Sutton Jr. has the kind of frenzied spiritual ecstasy that we immediately associate with John Coltrane. It’s the same gospel-charged approach, the same winding, run-on, aggressively overdriven runs of notes over minimal chord patterns. But Sutton has his own twist, like any musician worth their salt would: a peppery staccato, a growl, a tendency to bend the notes into “out” territory rather than simply run them out. Trombonist Reginald Cyntje embodies a different kind of spirituality, one that he communicates through his subject matters and compositions thereof, while centering his playing style around the intersections of lyricism, J.J. Johnson trombone techniques, and the rhythmic lilt of his Caribbean heritage. What do these two players have in common, then, besides spirituaity? Two primary things: their longevity as Washington-based jazz musicians, and their late January birthdays, which they are celebrating together. Ron Sutton Jr. and Reginald Cyntje perform at 6 PM at the freshly reopened Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 12th Street, Northeast. $10.

Monday, January 29

This spring, it will be eight years since the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra played their first Monday night gig at the late, much-mourned titular U Street club. But except for their 2012 Christmas CD, which obviously isn’t a disc you just pull out and listen to any old time, it’s taken them all this time to release a proper album from their very large book. Of course it also took them a little while to find their way to pianist Dan Roberts, the US Army Blues’s eighty eight man and house arranger. It’s that last Roberts skill that’s given the BCJO a major creative boost and given them arrangements with enough polish and imagination—and an original, newly composed suite—to demand the recording of Bohemiana, Vol. 1. Its release is at this very performance, so you can hear the band, all seventeen of ‘em, play it live, then take it home with you. The Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra performs at 8 and 10 PM at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Avenue, Northwest. $20.

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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.