Things to Do

4 Jazz Shows to See This Week: February 8-11

Your Jazz Setlist this week includes Randy Weston at the Kennedy Center and the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra at Bethesda Blues and Jazz.
Randy Weston. Photograph by Carol Friedman.

Thursday, February 8

Nasar Abadey. Joe Brotherton. Reginald Cyntje. Elijah Easton. Keith Killgo. Robert Landham. Antonio Parker. Brian Settles. These are just a few of the District-based jazz musicians who have passed through the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra in its two decades of music. It is a version of this band that performs once a month as the Twins Jazz Orchestra, just one of the many venues (One Step Down, Bohemian Caverns, HR-57, the Kennedy Center, Columbia Station) that the orchestra has played around the city and surrounding area since 1998. A band that’s left that kind of indelible stamp upon Washington deserves to have its anniversary commemorated, and that’s precisely what they intend to do this night in Bethesda. Along with the band members mentioned above, there’ll be a special guest that you may have heard of: a guitarist by the name of Russell Malone, one of the most celebrated in the business. They perform at 8 PM at Bethesda Blues and Jazz, 7719 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. $25.

Friday, February 9

He’s now mostly based in New York, but J.S. Williams returns regularly to the DC area, and that’s extraordinarily good news for all of us. Williams is a gifted, highly skilled trumpeter whose bright, clean tone speaks volumes. Of course it also speaks volumes because of the gymnastic phrases he plays, with long, impeccable phrases and imaginative use of space. Williams loves his high register, and he loves to approach it with a version of the staccato rhythms favored by his hero, Clifford Brown, and has a seemingly endless string of melodic variations coursing through him. Seeing him on the bandstand is a treat, and all the more so when he’s working with the best of local jazz musicians. That would include Herb Scott on alto saxophone, John Lee on guitar, Steve Arnold on bass, and John Lamkin III on drums. They begin at 8 PM at Sotto, 1610 14th Street, Northwest. $20.

Saturday, February 10

James Reese Europe will have been dead for 99 years in May. The year before that, however, Europe (who grew up in DC) became an international sensation when the regimental army band he led traveled across World War I-ravaged France introducing them to the American musical craze called ragtime—into which Europe was also beginning to incorporate the new music called jazz. He essentially introduced jazz to the rest of the world. One hundred years later, pianist and bandleader Randy Weston has earned an NEA Jazz Masters fellowship by introducing a substantial part of the rest of the world to jazz. Though born and raised in Brooklyn, Weston is very much Africa’s musical ambassador to the United States, exploring its musical and cultural traditions and melding them seamlessly into the music he’s performed for over 60 years. Who better to pay tribute to Europe’s accomplishment than someone with a mirror-image accomplishment of his own? Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Octet perform at 7 PM at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, 2700 F Street, Northwest. $30.

Sunday, February 11

There’s really very little that Baltimore bassist Jeron White can’t do. Like any bassist worth his salt, White can provide the bare harmonic outline of a ballad, engage in serious walk-it-home swing, or hold down complex melodies himself, whether in composition or improvisation. (He does tend, though, toward more percussive soloing than melodic—stuff that emphasizes and embellishes the walk rather than putting it aside.) But White is cunning. His thoughtful, groove-intensive lines are speckled with notes that challenge or extend a tune’s established harmonic territory. Not that he takes it outside, mind you; he just finds ways to suggest that what’s “inside” the tune is more expansive than previously imagined. That said White is not at all averse to playing outside, or even totally free. A booking at AJACS on a Sunday evening, though, suggests it’s an unlikely excursion for him this time out. Jeron White begins at 6 PM at Alice’s Jazz and Cultural Society, 2813 Franklin Street, Northeast. $10.

Get Our Things to Do Newsletter

Questions or comments? You can reach us on Twitter, via e-mail, or by contacting the author directly:

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.