What do you think of when you hear the word “jazz?” Maybe it’s the image enshrined in popular consciousness by Ken Burns documentaries and Blue Note album covers of men in suits flashing trumpets and saxophones, playing 10-minute solos over a strolling beat and swinging rhythms. These elements are a major part of jazz history, but these days — especially in more liberal, progressive musical circles — tends toward a big-tent congregation, blurring the lines between traditional jazz and woozy hip-hop beats, chill-wave R&B and music that borders on noise. You don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t, dive into that weird deep end right away, but with this regular column recommending jazz shows in D.C., hopefully you can dip your toes in the water and take a chance on some vital live music.
Mark G. Meadows
Pianist and vocalist Mark G. Meadows made his name in D.C. playing with his band The Movement, a group of fellow younger musicians in the D.C. jazz scene that also did not hold on to strict interpretations of jazz. His work can cover everything from swinging originals and covers of The Beatles and Michael Jackson to righteous, original protest anthems in the vein of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. Lately, he’s been channeling 1980s Stevie Wonder in both the covers he plays and the songs he writes, but his music hits the warm, sweet spot for feel-good shows. Free. 5 p.m. The Parks at Walter Reed: 1010 Butternut St. NW, DC; theparksdc.com // @theparksdc
Slum Village started as an underground hip-hop trio in Detroit with emcees Baatin and T3 and a young producer and DJ named J. Dilla. Dilla influenced jazz in the late 1990s and early 2000s, possibly more than any other musician, sculpting beats from samples of 1970s and ’80s jazz tunes. His music was so compelling that pianists, drummers and more began to imitate his style in mainstream jazz. T3 is the only original member left and the village is now a duo, but the group still takes you on a sonic adventure. $20. 7 p.m. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; unionstage.com // @unionstage
AYO and the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra: A Tribute to Jazz in D.C.
Vocalist AYO is a rising star on the DC jazz scene who recently starred as young Ella Fitzgerald in the HBO documentary “The Apollo.” The Bohemian Caverns Orchestra was the house big band for the now-shuttered Bohemian Caverns, wowing crowds with dynamite performances of classic tunes by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. The group also played contemporary jazz orchestral pieces by the likes of Maria Schneider. Now the two unite to present a program honoring significant figures in the history of jazz in our nation’s capital, as well as the timeline of jazz history. Free. Registration Required. 6 p.m. All Souls Church Unitarian: 1500 Harvard St. NW, DC; all-souls.org // @allsoulsuudc
Reginald Cyntje Quartet
Trombonist Reginald Cyntje was born in the Virgin Islands and incorporates a folk music tradition with emphasis on storytelling — called quelbe — that gives his tunes a strong sense of personal touch. Although he can play ballads tenderly as well as some hot, swinging songs, his real focus is his original music, which often focuses on themes of justice, protest, spirituality and the beauty of life. You’ll leave the venue buzzing off his magnanimous spirit and energy, head still swimming in the charged tunes he played. $15+. 7 p.m. Takoma Station Tavern: 6914 4th St. NW, DC; takomastation.com // @takomastationtavern
Bassist Ben Williams is a proud son of D.C. and an exemplary product of the D.C. jazz scene. He came up through the Duke Ellington School of the Arts program — an incubator for many of the best musicians in our city — and won the 2009 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition, the most prestigious and competitive competition in jazz music. Today, his music is much more open and blurs the genre barriers with hip-hop, modern R&B and soul. As such, he recently formed an R&B duo out in Los Angeles where he lives now with vocalist Syndee Winters (“Butterfly Black”). Winters is seen as an inheritor to duos like Ike & Tina Turner or Yarbrough and Peoples, creating funky tunes with heavenly vocals. $15+. 7 p.m. Songbyrd Music House: 540 Penn St. NE, DC; songbyrddc.com // @songbyrddc