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The week’s best concerts: Ginger Baker, Primus, Seldom Scene

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Ginger Baker

Classic rock fans know Ginger Baker as the drummer for 1960s bands Cream and Blind Faith, but his subsequent work has been more jazz than rock. Baker’s solo recordings stretch back to the ’70s, and he has also performed with Fela Kuti and his own jazz fusion group, Ginger Baker’s Air Force.

For his latest album, “Why?” (his first studio album in 16 years), Baker assembled a group of veteran jazz musicians: saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, bassist Alec Dankworth and Ghanaian percussionist Abass Dodoo, who are all touring with him and will play at the Howard Theatre.

Many of the songs on “Why?” are new versions of songs from earlier Baker albums, but the quartet plays them masterfully. Ron Miles’s “Ginger Spice” highlights Ellis’s sax, the traditional Nigerian song “Aiko Biaye” shows off the interplay between Baker and Dodoo, and Baker’s composition “Ain Temouchant” meshes an understated drumming with Dankworth’s bass.
The title track is a stunning culmination of all four instruments, as a saucy saxophone melody of the spiritual “Wade in the Water” dances around the three rhythm instruments.

Baker is known for his eccentricities and difficult personality; the title of the 2012 documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” came from a sign outside the drummer’s South Africa home. But all that seems like a distant memory on this engaging recording. — Catherine P. Lewis

Friday at the Howard Theatre. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-803-2899. $42.50-$80.


In the 1990s, Primus was the reigning king of underground weirdness, fusing bluegrass, punk, metal and a healthy sense of humor to create a sound of pure adrenaline.

Fueled by Les Claypool’s virtuosic bass slapping, such albums as “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” “Pork Soda” and “The Brown Album” featured story-driven songs about race car drivers, junkies and other people who live a little too close to the edge. On “Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers,” Claypool playfully sings, “I knew a man who hung drywall/ He hung it mighty quick/ A trip or two to the blue room/ Would help him do the trick.”

The simplicity and economy of the lyrics often contrasts with Claypool’s whirling bass lines, which descend like a heavy storm. Filling the spaces in between are guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Tim Alexander, who left the band in 1995 but will be playing on this tour.

At the Fillmore, expect epic, mind-bending solos and a stage full of equally psychedelic props. The tour for the band’s 2011 album, “Green Naugahyde,” featured two giant inflatable robot astronauts on either side of the stage and “Popeye” cartoons between sets. — Christopher Kompanek

Sunday at the Fillmore. Show starts at 8 p.m. 301-960-9999. $45.

Listen: Primus' "Hoinfodamans"

The Seldom Scene

The Seldom Scene debuted in 1971, and seldom have the stars in the bluegrass firmament aligned so perfectly. Yet co-founder John Duffey was hedging his bets. Early on, the late mandolinist, singer and notorious cutup advised his bandmates not to quit their day jobs . . . ever.

Washington was a hotbed of string band music back then, nurturing home-grown talent and drawing musicians from across the country. At the time, no one could have predicted the Seldom Scene’s effect on bluegrass, country and folk. Just ask Emmylou Harris — or, better yet, consider the ever-growing legion of progressive bluegrass bands that view the Seldom Scene as essential listening.

Despite notable personnel shifts, the band has never tarnished the stellar reputation and genre-stretching sound created by Duffey and his colleagues: vocalist-guitarist John Starling, the late dobroist Mike Auldridge, banjoist Ben Eldridge and bassist Tom Gray. The new retrospective CD, “Long Time . . . ,” celebrates the group’s strong ties, both when the spotlight is on Eldridge, who’s still in the band, and during welcome appearances by Starling and Gray. A cameo by Harris helps underscore the sustained artistry, and many of the tunesmiths represented here, from Bill Monroe to John Prine, are touchstones.

Yet as “Long Time . . . ” also illustrates, the Seldom Scene continues to evolve and delight. Besides Eldridge, the current quintet boasts guitarist Dudley Connell, mandolinist Lou Reid, dobroist Fred Travers and bassist Ronnie Simpkins, plus an abundance of soulful vocal talent. — Mike Joyce

Saturday at the Birchmere. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. $29.50.

Listen: Seldom Scene's "Old Train"