Things to Do

4 Jazz Shows to See This Week: February 2-6

Your Jazz Setlist this week includes Etienne Charles and a jazz-stuffed anti-Super Bowl party.
Etienne Charles. Photograph by Laura Ferreira.

Friday, February 2

Between trombonist Reginald Cyntje, drummer Amin Gumbs, and steelpannist Victor Provost, all natives of the US Virgin Islands, DC needs no introduction to the confluence of jazz and the music of the islands. Or maybe we do. Etienne Charles, a trumpeter from Trinidad, takes a decidedly different approach to that fusion, likely because he’s from a different place. Trinidad—whose culture is so unique that it’s even distinct from Tobago, its partner island in forming a nation—is the birthplace of calypso music (and its offshoot soca), and there lay Charles’s building blocks. He takes those staccato folk rhythms fast and (seemingly) devil-may-care, but in fact has remarkable control that he demonstrates with the singsong melodies—written and improvised—that he places over top. Charles calls his approach “Creole soul,” which is actually a nod to the creole culture of Trinidad…but the connections to New Orleans is unmistakable, too. Etienne Charles and his sextet perform at 7 and 9 PM at Milkboy ArtHouse, 7416 Baltimore Avenue in College Park. $10-$30.

Saturday, February 3

The beautifully named ArcoIris Sandoval, a piano player, bandleader, and composer, can do it all. Her award-winning writing has a melodic sensibility that’s all her own, often challenging and using rhythms that don’t interlock so much as overlap. (At the same time, there’s a certain clockwork precision to them that is very postmodern.) Her solos share those same melodic and rhythmic conceptions, adding in a way with harmonic coloration that’s full of surprises. At the same time, she can launch into free improvisation without a second’s notice, and carry it through beautifully. She does all this from the helm of a quintet she calls Sonic Asylum. It has a frequently shifting lineup (though Mimi Jones is most often the bassist) that puts Sandoval’s accomplishment in that much greater relief: This intricate, difficult music is not done with a group of musicians that have been working solidly together on the material for months at a time. How does she do it? There’s only one way to find out. ArcoIris Sandoval and Sonic Asylum perform at 7 and 9 PM at the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club, 2700 F Street, Northwest. $20.

Sunday, February 4

Do you really want to waste your Sunday night on the question of Philadelphia versus New England? Don’t you know that you could be spending it on the question of Chicago versus Trondheim versus New York versus Washington? With Baltimore/Washington, in this case, as the halftime show. Rhizome is offering up an anti-Super Bowl whose kickoff features the brilliant alto saxophonist Sarah Hughes, in collaboration with the fascinating trombonist Corey Thuro, and whose game-ending touchdown is the latest project by Chicago avant-whiz Ken Vandermark, with the eccentric quintet Marker augmenting his many reeds. In between are sets by Norwegian trombonist HMN, a duet by saxophonist Brian Settles and drummer Jeremy Carlstedt, and the aforementioned halftime spectacular with Heart of the Ghost, the hypnotic trio featuring the always intriguing Luke Stewart on bass. Better than sportsball. The Anti-Super Bowl begins at 6 PM at Rhizome, 6950 Maple Street, Northwest. $15-$25.

Tuesday, February 6

Well, kids, seems we have a new residency in town. If you’ve spent a Wednesday evening at JoJo on U Street, or a monthly Thursday evening down the road at Twins, you have already heard Elijah Easton, the young tenor player who is a member of both the Joe Brotherton Quintet and the Twins Jazz Orchestra. (He also, in what seems like a lifetime ago, performed at the White House with Wynton Marsalis). He bears a passing physical resemblance to Sonny Rollins and a passing musical resemblance to him as well: the gruff tone that reaches way down deep into the belly; the cascade of one melodic idea after another; the love of percussive riffs. But of course there’s other stuff happening in Easton’s playing, including a growling gutbucket that is all his own and a deep, deep pocket (deep). It was always just a matter of time before he ended up fronting a band of his own, and the good people at Service Bar have stepped up to the plate with the opportunity. The Elijah Easton Trio, featuring Tarus Mateen on bass and Dana Hawkins on drums, performs at 9 PM at Service Bar, 928 U 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.