Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and soul/gospel legend, Mavis Staples performed at Town Hall Sunday as the Earshot Jazz Festival moves into the third week. Mavis Staples at 71 years old, shows no signs of slowing and first came to prominence as a member of the Staple Singers. The group led by her father, Pops Staples, first hit the charts in 1956 with the gospel track “Uncloudy Day.” Nearly two decades later in the 1970s, the Staple Singers came to even greater prominence after hitting the charts with soulful pop songs like “Respect Yourself,” “I’ll Take You There,” and “Let’s Do It Again”.
She stands within a category of musician that has become increasingly scarce, the type whose musical magnificence and beauty resonates across generations and time. She does not so much sing to her audiences as she sings for them. Such is the responsibility of an artist who belongs to the people.

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Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.

The amazing music of Ryuichi Sakamoto was wonderful in concert Saturday night at the Moore Theatre as the Earshot Jazz Festival presented along with the Seattle Theatre Group the Japanese musician celebrating his recent double-CD release on Decca label.  Seattle is one of only ten cities Sakamoto has selected for his rare North American tour.

“The two-volume release, Out of Noise and Playing the Piano, presents a unique insight into Ryuichi Sakamoto’s music. While it is nearly impossible to categorize Sakamoto’s work into one ganger, two threads have been ever-present in his music since his days as composition student at Tokyo University of the Arts in the early 1970’s: classical piano and experimentation.

Among Sakamoto’s early influences were turn of the 20th century French composer Claude Debussy and German electronica pioneers Kraftwerk. As a young composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was already fascinated with blending classical melodic touch with technology and electronic beats.

In late 1970’s Sakamoto himself became a force in early electronica as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra (one of the first Japanese acts to break into European and American scenes).

Beyond Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto added another dimension to his music. Composing a score to 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Sakamoto found one more way to explore music. Subsequently, he composed music for a number of films, winning a Grammy and an Oscar in 1987 for the best original score for The Last Emperor (Sakamoto co-wrote the score with David Byrne and Cong Su).

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Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.

Charlie Musselwhite performed at the Triple Door on thursday as the Earshot Jazz Festival continues on for it third week.

A groundbreaking recording artist since the 1960s, harmonica master Charlie Musselwhite continues to create trailblazing music while remaining firmly rooted in the blues. Born in Mississippi, raised in Memphis and schooled on the South Side of Chicago, his wise vocals, melodic harmonica playing and deep country blues guitar work accompany his often autobiographical and original songs. Living Blues says, “Musselwhite’s rock-solid vocals creep up and overwhelm you before you know it. He plays magnificent harp with superb dexterity and phrasing. The results are amazing.”

Over the last 43 years Musselwhite has released over 30 albums. And tonight, he took the stage in Seattle to celebrate the release of The Well on Alligator Records. Musselwhite wrote or co-wrote every track on the album, and as a result, these revealing, autobiographical songs recall specific events and places in Musselwhite’s amazingly colorful life. Each track on The Well is also a chapter from his life, and in the liner notes to the CD he offers some very personal insights into the meaning behind the songs. Musselwhite describes his music and the blues in general this way: “It’s about the feeling, and about connecting with people. And blues, if it’s real blues, is loaded with feeling. And it ain’t about technique, either. It’s about truth, connecting to the truth and communicating with the people.”

Born into a blue collar family in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 31, 1944 and raised by a single mother, Musselwhite grew up surrounded by blues, hillbilly, and gospel music on the radio and outside his front door. His family moved to Memphis, where, as a teenager, he worked as a ditch digger, concrete layer and moonshine runner. Fascinated by the blues, Musselwhite began playing guitar and harmonica. As a teen, Musselwhite attended parties hosted by Elvis Presley and hobnobbed with many of the local musicians, including Johnny Cash and Johnny Burnette, but the celebrities a young Charlie sought out were Memphis’ veteran bluesmen like Furry Lewis, Will Shade and Gus Cannon.

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Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.

Saxophonist Matana Roberts brought her solo works and a series of ensemble pieces called “COIN COIN” to Seattle last Thursday night at the Chapel Performance Space. “COIN COIN” is inspired by her own research and examination of her family’s African American history over ten generations. At the same time “COIN COIN” has also become a catalyst for collaboration with musicians in cities across the country. Tonight, she tries it out with a select group of Seattle soloists.


Roberts is herself a much-desired collaborator and has worked with artists and ensembles like Greg Tate and his Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Savion Glover’s homage project to John Coltrane, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Julius Hemphill Sextet and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. She has also appeared on recordings with genre-bending bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor and TV on the Radio. In 2008, she released a critically-acclaimed recording entitled The Chicago Project, produced by pianist Vijay Iyer, and featuring Chicago collaborators like the late Fred Anderson, a founding Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) member. (Roberts is a current AACM member.)

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Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.

At Tula’s on Thursday, Earshot Jazz Festival presented the long-time top-draw keyboardist, accordionist, and educator Murl Allen Sanders a master of many forms of music, including jazz. He made his debut performance as a bandleader at Tula’s with the saxophonist Warren Rand.
anders the accordionist is likely better known to fans than Sanders the keyboardist. No doubt his style on accordion is unique and readily indentifiable, fusing together pop, zydeco, rock, country and blues influences. However, Sanders is quick to point out that as a both a keyboardist and accordionist, he has been greatly impacted by jazz music, and that is the aspect of his diverse repertoire that will be on display tonight.

Over the years, he has studied the performances jazz accordionists Art Van Damme, Leon Sash and Tommy Gumina. However, he cites pianists Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson as well as organists Billy Preston, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Mcgriff, Richard “Groove” Holmes and Jack McDuff as having left an indelible mark on how he approaches music. Sanders has collaborated with such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, Etta James, Merrilee Rush, Theodore Bikel, Peter Duchin and David Matthews.

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Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.

Son Jack Jr., a fantastic traditional blues guitarist opened for Charlie Musselwhite at the Triple Door on Thursday night along with Michael Wilde and the Delta Hothouse rhythm section brought the sounds of the Mississippi Delta to Seattle. Here is part of what was said about his recent CD in Bluesnotes in September. “After multiple listens to Walk The Talk by Son Jack Jr. & Michael Wilde, I keep finding myself asking, “Just where in Mississippi is Seattle located?” It’s not? Then why do these guys sound like first cousins to folk like Kenny Brown or Lightnin’ Malcolm or Mississippi Morris? I swear you could picture yourself sitting on the front porch of a shotgun shack outside Senatobia cooling the heat and humidity with a nice cool glass of sweet tea while listening to this album. It just sounds that down-home authentic.
Outstanding readings of selections from the songbooks of R.L. Burnside, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker drive the mix with believability that there has to be a mistake on where they actually live. Further driven home when you hear their original material. Ain’t no way that was written by anybody that hasn’t been brought up around cotton fields or strolling down Highways 49 and 61. These songs are modern blues classics. Great themes. Feeling down so low that you’d have to get up just to die? Their baby howls for them in the middle of the night. And you’d better listen to these guys, because they mean everything they say. They walk the talk! And it’s a serious conversation!
Instrumentation is A-1 throughout, start to finish. Michael Wilde’s chromatic workout on “Crying Time” is powerful and grasps at your heart with its intense somberness. On “Maximum Security” he can whoop things up just like Sonny Terry. Son Jack offers multiple blues guitar approaches from Delta fingerpickers, to sizzling slides, to Hill Country trance. But he can also surprise you with a track like “Requiem” on which he comes across more like Leo Kottke or John Fahey with his solo string beauty that tells you there is more behind this man than just the blues. The pair are joined nicely throughout the disc by drummer Billy Barner and bassist Mark Davies, with keyboardist Eric Roberts joining in on a pair of tunes. It adds the proper flavoring. Just the right piquant to get you snapping your fingers. This music is so tasty you might be smacking your lips trying to savor that deliciousness.
Walk The Talk is more than just a good CD. It’s exceptional. Kick back and throw the disc on your player. More than likely you won’t be sitting long. The groove here will make you move whether you plan on it or not. Son Jack Jr & Michael Wilde will make you believe that Seattle really is in Mississippi. The far Northwest corner that is. A run-out-and-buy-it record for anybody who loves Southern blues music. Top shelf material! Need I say more?”

Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

Dave Peck playing solo at the Chapel Performance Space Friday night as the Earshot Jazz Festival continues.The sound was luscious and sweet. “Dave Peck’s rich, melancholic music is one of the great pleasures of Seattle jazz, and how welcome the pianist’s intensified recording and performing schedule is. Still in the afterglow of the June release of Peck’s lovely Modern Romance, Peck here performed in the intimate Chapel Performance Space in celebration of his new solo album, Songbook Volume 1. “

“Though his primary interest may be in the continued development of the piano trio – and his trio with Joe LaBarbera and Jeff Johnson is wonderful indeed – Peck at times sounds most like a solo performer at heart. In his trio recordings Peck’s deeply personal language comes to the forefront in the long, dramatic solo improvisations that introduce many of the group performances. Performing solo, Peck unfolds emotion at a perfect pace, developing sparkling, bittersweet ideas with the utmost care.”

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The Earshot Jazz Festival and Town Hall’s Global Rhythm series last night presented Ordo Sakhna, a folklore group at Town Hall, and offered a rare glimpse of Kyrgyzstan, their native land.
The best way to appreciate the art of Ordo Sakhna is to take a closer look at where they come from and under what circumstances they work. Kyrgyzstan is a small, mostly Muslim country of about five million in Central Asia. For most of the 20th century it was within the borders and influence of Soviet Union. With the disintegration of the USSR came Kyrgyz independence and natural post-Soviet challenges.

In American media Kyrgyzstan is an occasional minor news story about what actually is a major U.S. military support operation. Kyrgyzstan is U.S. military’s last major transportation hub before Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan is leasing out a former Soviet air base to the U.S., bringing a steady cash flow into struggling Kyrgyz economy. Recent events did not shine a kind light on Kyrgyzstan. There were violent clashes between various groups, vying for limited economic opportunities. But beneath the complicated layers of local and usually corrupt politics, lies an amazingly rich cultural tradition that has been nurtured since the 5th century.

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Scott Amendola eyes guitarist Jeff Parker during their performance at Poncho Hall Tuesday night as Amendola played Seattle in support of his self-released album Lift, his first album in five years. Lift marks the debut of the Scott Amendola Trio, which features longtime collaborators Jeff Parker and bassist John Shifflett. “They’re such great musicians that you can literally put anything in front of them and they’re going to make great music from it,” Amendola spoke of his bandmates on his website. “And it’s going to be them, their interpretation, which is exciting to me as a bandleader.”
Perhaps best known as the percussionist for the Nels Cline Singers, the San Francisco-based Scott Amendola has forged bonds to the worlds of jazz, blues, groove, rock, and new music. Writer Derk Richardson’s observation that “If Scott Amendola didn’t exist the San Francisco music scene would have to invent him” certainly says something of Amendola’s place in that community, and Amendola has now become a major presence on projects rooted in LA, the Bay Area, Seattle, Chicago, and New York.
In San Francisco Amendola leads a diverse collection of ensembles, from the modern jazz interpretations of Plays Monk, with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and bassist Devin Hoff, to the improvisational acoustic-electronic group Crater with laptop artist JNHO, to the Groove Trio with Hammond B3 player Wil Blades and guitarist Will Bernard. His work with Nels Cline and Devin Hoff in the raucous Nels Cline Singers has won him huge acclaim, and for Cline, Amendola’s wild and creative spirit is an essential voice on the scene today: “The first time I heard Scott I was really blown away. There aren’t too many drummers on the West Coast who had his wide ranging ability. Scott’s got some funk in him, a looser, sexy thing going on, and the flexibility to play free and different styles. He plays behind singer/ songwriters and he rocks too.”

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Photograph by  Seattle photojournalist Paul Joseph Brown. He is also a Seattle wedding photographer photographing weddings with A Beautiful Day Photography Seattle wedding photographers.

Drummer Matt Jorgensen presented “Tatooed by Passion” with strings in a special world premiere performance Tuesday Oct 26th at the Triple Door.

This original work was inspired by the paintings of his late father-in-law, the prominent abstract-impressionist artist Dale Chisman. A moving and deeply personal musical journey, “Tatooed by Passion” draws influence directly from Chisman’s paintings, his home city of Denver, his life-long friends, and his constant reinvention of himself as an artist. Jorgensen explains that with “Tatooed for Passion” he wanted to expand his “own palette from previous recordings, exploring broad new textures and musical landscapes.” Jorgensen was joined by longtime collaborators—trumpeter Thomas Marriott and saxophonist Mark Taylor, Corey Christiansen, guitar and Dave Captein on bass.

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Photograph by  Seattle photojournalist Paul Joseph Brown. He is also a Seattle wedding photographer photographing weddings with A Beautiful Day Photography Seattle wedding photographers.

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