Paul de Barros

October 19th, 2012

At a packed reading at Elliot Bay Books on Friday night, acclaimed Seattle journalist Paul de Barros presented his just-published book Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland. In a world dominated by men, Marian McPartland distinguished herself as one of the greatest jazz pianists of her age. Creating more than a biography in Shall We Play That One Together?, de Barros chronicles a vital age in jazz, drawing on innumerable interviews and unrestricted access to McPartland’s personal archives.

Born in the UK as Margaret Marian Turner, Marian McPartland learned to play classical piano but was passionately attracted to the rhythms of American jazz. Entertaining troops in WWII Europe, she met her future husband, Jimmy McPartland, a cocky young trumpet player who was the protege of the great Bix Beiderbecke. They were married and, together, they made jazz history.

At first, Marian played second fiddle to Jimmy in Chicago, but when they moved to New York, Marian and her trio took up residence at the famous Hickory House, where she thrilled the crowds from her perch on a stage in the middle of large oval bar. From there she went on to triumphs at places like the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Possibly, her greatest accomplishment was the creation of NPR’s long-running show Piano Jazz.

De Barros is a music critic for the Seattle Times, a current adjunct professor at Seattle University, a regular contributor to DownBeat magazine and a co-founder of Earshot Jazz. He has written for Musician, Modern Drummer, Antioch Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. He has also contributed liner notes for Columbia, Fantasy and Verve records. His comprehensive Jackson Street After Hours (Sasquatch, 1993) stands as the definitive history of the early Seattle jazz scene and won the Washington State Book Award (formerly, the Governor’s Writers Award) in 1994.

– DB

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Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

October 19th, 2012

Friday night at Poncho Concert Hall, Cornish College, Earshot Jazz Festival 2012 presented the Swiss ECM pianist Nik Bärtsch, who  lead his polished ensemble in complex explorations of tone and rhythm: progressive jazz at its most engaging, with Kaspar Rast (drums), Thomy Jordi (bass) and Sha (bass clarinet, alto saxophone).

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Three of Ronin’s ECM albums – Stoa (2005), Holon (2007) and Llyrìa (2010) – have been recorded in the studio. Now, following extensive touring, Nik Bärtsch and ECM producer Manfred Eicher took live recordings of the band for a new double CD, Live. The release perfectly showcases the band’s hypnotic and dynamic performances from three years of touring European festivals and clubs.

With Ronin, each gig is a unique event with its own intentionality and sustained, insistent power. Composer-pianist Bärtsch likens the linked-mind interplay inside his unique group to a school of fish moving across a coral reef with lightning speed. From one acoustic space to another, this disciplined ECM quartet brings a focused playing, with hypnotically layered rhythms and certain parameters open to interpretation and improvisation.

“As the band’s composer, I precisely set down most of the pieces in notation, but in performance it becomes at some point impossible to tell what is composed, interpreted or improvised. The band has to discover the right tension and the suitable dramatic structure for a piece on the spur of the moment. The band-organism thus outwits not only the composition, but itself.”

Bärtsch acknowledges that the group fits no preconceived format: “Our music is somewhere between jazz and modern composition, progressive pop, ritual music, groove music in general.”

It somewhat takes its form from a minimalist aesthetic and gradual process.

– SH; courtesy ECM

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Evan Flory-Barnes 2+2

October 19th, 2012

Last night’s concert at the Chapel Performance Space, was a special treat starting with an unusual double bass duo performance.
Bassist and composer Evan Flory-Barnes explored new musical possibilities, first with stellar Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame bassist Jeff Johnson and then with expressive pianist Dawn Clement one of Seattle’s greatest acoustic spaces.
The featured artist of this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival is one of Puget Sound’s most expansive creators.
– Peter Monaghan

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Vijay Iyer Trio

October 18th, 2012

So after a break at ILLSLEY BALL NORDSTROM RECITAL HALL AT BENAROYA HALL, Vijay Iyer came on with his trio and i was transported away on a journey I know not where but it was another Earshot Jazz monent.

Earshot Jazz Festival continues and tonight completes the first week. It goes on until Nov 4th.
Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer’s recent accolades include the Jazz Journalists Association 2012 Pianist of the Year award and a sweep of the DownBeat International Critics Poll – Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (Accelerando), Jazz Group of the Year (Vijay Iyer Trio) and Rising Star (Composer categories). No other artist in the sixty-year history of DownBeat’s poll has ever taken five titles simultaneously. Earlier in 2012, Iyer also received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the Greenfield Prize. The year has been remarkable for Iyer.

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Jazz Album of the Year Accelerando (ACT, 2012) is an intense, visceral and widely acclaimed follow-up to the multiple award-winning Historicity (ACT, 2009), both featuring Iyer on piano with Marcus Gilmore on drums and Stephan Crump on bass – the group featured in tonight’s performance.

The latest tide of honors is a result of Iyer’s remarkable seventeen-year track record as an artist. His sixteen albums as a leader have covered so much ground, at such a high level of acclaim, that it is easy to forget that they all belong to the same person. His work ranges from well-known collaborations with poet-performer Mike Ladd, innovations of experimental collective Fieldwork and the duo with Rudresh Mahanthappa to original compositions for the American Composers Orchestra, Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Brentano String Quartet, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Brooklyn Rider and International Contemporary Ensemble.

Across this diverse output, Iyer’s artistic vision remains unmistakable. His powerful, cutting-edge music is rhythmically intricate and highly interactive, fluidly improvisational yet uncannily orchestrated. Its many points of reference include jazz piano titans such as Monk, Ellington and Tyner; the classical sonorities of composers such as Reich, Ligeti, Messiaen and Bartok; low-end sonics from hip-hop to electronica; and the vital, hypnotic music of Iyer’s Indian heritage.


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Cuong Vu’s Triggerfish

October 18th, 2012

Last night at ILLSLEY BALL NORDSTROM RECITAL HALL AT BENAROYA HALL was a special treat. Comfortable seats, a great view and a wonderful sound of two great trios starting with Cuong Vu’s Triggerfish. The 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues and tonight completes the first week. It goes on until Nov 4th.
Cuong Vu is a leader of a generation of innovative musicians. As a youngster himself, Vu’s intense dedication and love for music led him to a full scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music, then to New York in 1994 to begin an early career alongside other West Coast transplants Chris Speed, Jim Black, Andrew D’Angelo. Vu led various groups while touring extensively and performing with Pat Metheny, Myra Melford, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie.

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As a leader, Vu has carved out a distinct sonic territory on the trumpet, blurring stylistic borders while developing his own compositional aesthetic. Now an assistant professor in jazz studies at the University of Washington, he was recently awarded the UW’s prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award and is a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellow. For this performance, he is joined by Ted Poor on drums and Eric Revis on bass.

– DB

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Human Spirit

October 17th, 2012

Trumpeter Thomas Marriott, saxophonist Mark Taylor and drummer Matt Jorgensen joined pianist Orrin Evans (Bobby Watson’s former pianist) and bassist Essiet Essiet (Art Blakey’s last bassist) under the Human Spirit banner for two nights of  performances at Tulas in the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival.

The East Coast artists vivified the harmonies while the Emerald City performers moistened the melodies and rhythms. Selections from the live performance were released as Dialogue (Origin, 2012). The program for this year’s festival performance includes original compositions by Marriott, Taylor and Jorgensen from Dialogue, plus new material.

Tula’s last night was the venue for a return of Human Spirit. If you missed them on Tuesday be sure to catch them on Weds. I was there last year when they recorded their album there at Tula’s and the music continues to feel great and more comfortable after repeated listenings over the past year.

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Saxophonist Taylor looks forward to the group because of the unknown elements and fresh surprises that can come from performing with two frequent collaborators and two new collaborators. He says, “Their interpretation and stylistic contributions to our tunes, and how that invariably steers us in different directions than we might otherwise go, is always intriguing to me.”

That sweet spot of social intimacy within artistic teams for maximum creativity also intrigues Brian Uzzi, a sociologist at Northwestern. In a study of Broadway musicals, Uzzi’s data revealed that the most successful work came from teams that “had some old friends, but they also had newbies. This mixture meant that the artists could interact efficiently – they had a familiar structure to fall back on – but they also managed to incorporate some new ideas. They were comfortable with each other, but they weren’t too comfortable.”

Check them out tonight.

– Steve Griggs

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Bettye LaVette

October 17th, 2012

Another evening of wonderful performances. Bettye LaVette at the Triple Door put on a very amazing show. Her voice has to be experienced.

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Bettye LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that at one moment exudes formidable strength and intensity and at the next appears vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. LaVette has been recording for over four decades.

Born in Muskegon, Michigan, in 1946, LaVette grew up in Detroit. LaVette is one of few soul singers who didn’t start in church. At the age of 16, with legendary Motor City music raconteur Johnnie Mae Matthews, LaVette’s first single was the insouciantly swinging “My Man – He’s a Loving Man.” LaVette next hit the charts with the Dee Dee Ford penned “Let Me Down Easy” in springtime 1965. Over the next three-plus decades LaVette cut a string of consistently strong singles for Big Wheel, Silver Fox, SSS, TCA, Atco, Epic, West End, Motown and Bar/None. To this day, “Let Me Down Easy” remains the singer’s theme song.

A buzz in the early 2000s that surrounded LaVette in soul circles caught the attention of Anti- Records president Andy Kaulkin, who signed her to a three-record deal. The resulting records – A Change is Gonna Come Sessions (2009), Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (2010) and Thankful N’ Thoughtful (2012) – reflect the wisdom of age.

The result is a blessing to us all.

– DB;

What an amazing treat this evenings performance was. 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival presented  Tatsuya Nakatani at the  CHAPEL PERFORMANCE SPACE. Tatsuya Nakatani is a creative percussionist originally from Osaka, Japan. The intuitive, versatile percussionist uses drums, gongs, cymbals, singing bowls and much else to create organic, intense music. Nakatani approaches improvisation from the visceral, non-linear and intuitively primitive, creating via extended percussion techniques. A free improviser, experimenter, rocker and noisemaker, Nakatani is, essentially, a folk musician, performing countless solo percussion concerts and surprise collaborations during his travels.
Consult the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule and prepare for your next Earshot performance.

Nakatani plays solo and in a first-time duo improvisation with special guest violist Eyvind Kang at tonight’s performance.

Currently based in Easton, PA, Nakatani tours extensively – Japan, China, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Argentina, Chile, Israel, the U.S. – fostering a raw and fresh quality in his music, which can only survive through an open willingness to share energy, culture, music and self on a global human scale, he says.

Nakatani has released over sixty recordings and has worked with Ken Vandermark, Assif Tsahar, Peter Brotzmann, Frank Gratkowski, Billy Bang, Reuben Radding, Joe Morris, Joe McPhee, Jack Wright. While touring, he also conducts master classes and workshops at schools and universities, emphasizing his unique musical approach and philosophy.

– Schraepfer Harvey

Check out the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule

So for my final set of the evening on Sunday I ended up at Tula’s and got to enjoy the Jon Hamar Quintet.the top-flight Seattle bassist Jon Hamar explored new music with tenor-sax titan Rich Perry, virtuoso multi-reedist Todd DelGiudice , pianist John Hansen and drummer Julian MacDonough,

Here is the  2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule

Hamar released his third CD, Hymn (Origin), in September to stellar reviews. DelGiudice features on the release, which eschews the traditional trio format to explore the melodic possibilities sans drums. Bolstered by the lithe alto sax of DelGiudice and Grammy-nominated Geoffrey Keezer on piano, Hamar presents a diverse collection of originals and arrangements that highlights the spirited interplay of these three voices.

Kennewick-born Hamar began playing string bass at age 11. He earned a bachelor’s degree in classical bass performance from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree in jazz from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He teaches at Central Washington University, Northwest University (Kirkland), Edmonds Community College.

Hamar welcomes Rich Perry, a colossal jazz talent appearing on over 70 CDs. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Perry became interested in jazz in high school, then studied briefly at Bowling Green State University before moving to New York City. In 1977, he joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and spent two years touring the U.S. and Europe, and then continued with Mel Lewis. The band is now known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and has three Grammy-nominated CDs. Perry is on the jazz faculty of William Paterson University in New Jersey.

Also making up the group tonight: the fluid clarinet and sax tones of Florida-native Todd DelGiudice, assistant professor of clarinet and saxophone at Eastern Washington University and member of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra; gem of the Northwest jazz scene, pianist John Hansen, an ensemble player with an attentive ear; drummer Julian MacDonough, the energetic timekeeper behind an eclectic mix of bands and instructor in Western Washington University’s jazz department.

– GB

Here is the  2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule

Trio X

October 15th, 2012

Also at the Seattle Art Museum after Mathew Shipp was Trio X,  Joe McPhee on brass and reeds, Dominic Duval on bass and Jay Rosen on drums

Here is the  2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule

Throughout his career, McPhee has forged unlikely but rewarding partnerships around the globe, working with everyone from composer Pauline Oliveros to saxophonist Evan Parker and bassist William Parker. In the 90s, McPhee discovered two like-minded improvisers in Duval and Rosen.

Duval has been the bassist of choice for pianist Cecil Taylor for much of the last decade, while frequent cohort Rosen has stoked the fires of veterans such as Sonny Simmons and Charles Gayle.

The trio last night went with title Trio X after they premiered at New York’s Vision Festival in 1998 unnoticed by the press. The Vision Festival debut notwithstanding, the band now receives favorable notice for their recordings on the CIMP and Cadence Jazz labels, and especially for their live appearances, informed by a kind of tao of the avant-garde.

Trio X’s newest CD First Date (CjR, 2012), a recording of that 1998 Vision Festival performance, will be released at tonight’s performance.

– DB

Here is the  2012 Earshot Jazz Festival schedule