November's Best Jazz Concerts

By Mike Joyce Staff Writer
Friday, November 3, 2006; 5:51 PM

Looking for a way to fight off the November chill? The Washington Performing Arts Society has the solution -- a night of fiery Latin jazz, courtesy of the Eddie Palmieri Band, at the Lincoln Theatre on Nov. 17. But most of the jazz performances this month, hot or cool, will be presented at cozier venues around town.

Nov. 3-4, Kurt Elling at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club. The enterprising jazz vocalist often devotes his set to a specific program when he comes to town, but not this time. Look for Elling to reprise at least a few familiar album tracks and some new tunes in the company of a tight-knit trio led by his longtime collaborator, pianist Laurence Hobgood.

Nov. 9-12, Karrin Allyson at Blues Alley. Is it the singer or the songs that makes this cozy engagement so easy to recommend? Both, actually. Allyson is blessed with a lovely and harmonically surefooted voice, and as anyone who knows of her affinity for the music of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter can tell you, her repertoire is first-rate. As it happens, the same can be said for her longtime accompanists, too.

Nov. 10, MB3 at the National History Museum's Smithsonian Jazz Café. If the name doesn't ring a bell, how about these: Jimmy Bruno, Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen. Turns out the jazz guitar virtuosi will be in town long enough to perform at two Smithsonian concerts. At the Café on Friday night, where shows always run from 6-10 p.m., and the previous evening at the American Art Museum.

Nov. 10, Keter Betts Tribute at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club. The great and genial bassist has been the subject of numerous salutes since his passing in 2005, but this concert, which benefits the Kennedy Center's jazz programs and will feature a guest appearance by pianist Billy Taylor, is indeed something special. Among the performers: singer Vanessa Rubin, who no doubt will evoke Betts' memorable collaborations with Ella Fitzgerald, and pianist Junior Mance. Several Washington-based (or bred) musicians will also featured, including saxophonist Davey Yarborough, pianist Robert Redd, bassists Michael Bowie and James King, and drummer Lenny Robinson.

Nov. 10-11, James Westfall Quintet at Twins Jazz. Vibist Westfall recently toured with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and other renowned jazz artists, courtesy of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute. He'll be in fine company here, thanks to a lineup that includes the exceptionally gifted saxophonist Tim Warfield.

Nov. 10, Martin, Medeski, Scofield and Wood at 9:30 Club. Guitarist John Scofield has managed to expand his audience without compromising his music by teaming up with MM&W, those jam-band road warriors and jazz devotees. With a new CD out that embraces fusion jazz, the Beatles and Brazilian beats, the quartet should have no problem keeping things interesting.

Nov. 13, The Brandon Wright/Christian Tamburr Quartet at Millennium Stage. Here's a chance to check out some very promising jazz artists for free. Featuring graduates of Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program, the band includes saxophonist-flutist Brandon Wright, vibist Christian Tamburr, drummer Carmen Intorre and Hammond B-3 orgnanist Radam Schwartz. The emphasis will be on original compositions.

Nov. 16-18, David Sanborn at Blues Alley. To hear the veteran R&B alto saxophonist and multiple Grammy winner in this intimate setting is a rare treat. While Sanborn is most often heard on smooth jazz radio these days, he's recently been working with a lot of musicians well versed in mainstream jazz. Given the change of venue, don't be surprised if he emphasizes his R&B and jazz roots more than usual.

Nov. 17, Eddie Palmieriat the Lincoln Theatre. Be it with salsa, mambos or Cu-bop, the legendary pianist, bandleader and eight-time Grammy Award winner is bound to bring the audience to its feet more than a few times during this concert, aided by his terrifically spirited and soulful band.

Nov. 17, The Flying Pisanos at the Natural History Museum's Smithsonian Jazz Café. If you think this gig must have something to do with the renowned jazz guitarist John Pisano, you're right. He's making a welcome visit to Washington with his wife Jeanne, a jazz vocalist, and both will get an assist from a local favorite -- seven-string guitar master Steve Herberman.

Nov. 21, Dick Morgan at Blues Alley. The engaging Washington-based pianist has developed a style that robustly spans generations without sounding the least bit dated. Putting a new coat of paint on pop ballads and jazz standards is one of his specialties.

Nov. 25, John Eaton at the Barns of Wolf Trap. Pianist and raconteur John Eaton opens another amusing and insightful series of concerts that will appeal to fans of classic jazz and pop alike. A national treasure, Eaton will kick things off with "The Roaring Twenties," a program devoted to the works of the Gershwins, Hoagy Carmichael and Fats Waller, among others.

Nov. 27, Spyro Gyra at the Birchmere. The smooth jazz kingpins are still big concert crowdpleasers after all these years. The group has strong ties to the Washington area, so you might want to get tickets early to this show or the group's stop at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis the following evening.

Nov. 30, Michael Henderson at Blues Alley. The former Miles Davis sideman and highly influential bassist will play and sing during this rare one-nighter in Georgetown. Fusion, funk, Motown, smooth jazz -- he'll likely cover a lot of ground.

Next month: The Washington premiere of "Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday" at the Kennedy Center, plus a New Year's Eve bash or two.

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