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On Friday, February 26, at the Seattle Art Museum, Earshot jazz presented Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band.
Seventeen years into its existence, drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band possesses full assurance as it explores a quietly edgy style of jazz.
Tuneful, stylish, and imaginative, the unit takes its lead from one of the most solid percussionists in the business, and one who is keenly attentive both to what his bandmates are doing, and to what his compositions call for.
A spirit of collective undertaking establishes the “fellowship” of the band’s name. Pianist Jon Cowherd, Myron Walden on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Melvin Butler on soprano and tenor saxophones, and Chris Thomas, on bass, all respond in kind, and the result is a stylistic cohesion that makes for riveting listening.
That quality was evident on the band’s 2014, Grammy-nominated release, Landmarks, which was its fourth, and a return to the Blue Note label which had issued the Fellowship Band’s self-titled 1998 debut as well as Perceptual, in 2000.
In a review of Landmarks in JazzTimes, Geoffrey Himes suggested that Blade’s evident humility – “you don’t even hear his drums until more than two minutes into the second track, and they don’t take the foreground until the beginning of the sixth track” – is in keeping with his long tenure in the band of a similarly self-effacing leader, Wayne Shorter.
It was, Heim wrote, “a testament to Blade’s leadership that his fellow musicians rein in their considerable technical facility” to boost the emotional depth of the band’s pieces. “This is not,” Heim wrote, “an album of young musicians trying to prove how many notes and changes they can play within eight bars; this is a session devoted to milking all the emotion lurking in the hymn-like melodies and wistful tempos.”
The music of Landmarks was a special instance of the harmony of the Fellowship Band’s repertoire: as the album’s name suggested, the project took inspiration from a sense of place, Shreveport, Louisiana, where Blade grew up, and the album was recorded. Blade told DownBeat that he deployed a mix of through-composition, poetic short pieces, and long “landscapes” to create a sense of travel about a location. “I like the journey aspect of Landmarks” – the “trip” that the tunes created.
He also emphasized his pleasure in taking that trip with such able bandmates: “I try to write what I have discovered and realized with as much clarity as possible, while thinking of the band. When they play it, all this rhythm, melody, and harmony becomes alive, and other ideas reveal themselves.”
On Landmarks, the sojourning was marked by the forms of music that have resonated during the history of the region around Shreveport, where the drummer was born, in 1970 – rich vernaculars of jazz, gospel, blues, and rhythm-and-blues that have generated rich, fresh vernaculars distinctive to the region.

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Group-Farewell

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

August 7th, 2015

Tim Berne's Snakeoil

Earshot Jazz presented Tim Berne’s Snakeoil at the Royal Room in May an the were great. Tim Berne’s third ECM album, You’ve Been Watching Me, sees the saxophonist-composer again leading his dynamic New York band Snakeoil, now a quintet with the arrival of guitarist Ryan Ferreira. Just as Berne has hit a new peak with his writing on You’ve Been Watching Me, his band has reached a heightened state of collective interaction, realizing the compositions to a tee. Snakeoil – with the leader on alto sax alongside pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, percussionist Ches Smith, and Ferreira on electric and acoustic guitars – can still be bracingly kinetic. But there is new space in these compositions and more lyrical focus to the improvisations, leading to a dynamic, even cinematic experience.

Tim Berne's Snakeoil

Tim Berne's Snakeoil

Tim Berne's Snakeoil

Tim Berne's Snakeoil

 

Jazz trio  "Open Loose" played in Seattle photography by jazz photographer Daniel Sheehan

Last Friday at the Royal Room Earshot Jazz presented Mark Helias’ Open Loose. The group has five records under its belt, and a stage chemistry that has stunned the New York jazz scene. Tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey join bassist Helias in masterful explorations of “open loose” improvisation. The trio’s remarkable synergy is a combination of their individual dedication to the art of listening.

 

 

Jazz trio "Open Loose" played in Seattle photography by jazz photographer Daniel Sheehan

Jazz trio "Open Loose" played in Seattle photography by jazz photographer Daniel Sheehan

Jazz trio  "Open Loose" played in Seattle photography by jazz photographer Daniel Sheehan

Jazz trio  "Open Loose" played in Seattle photography by jazz photographer Daniel Sheehan

 

 

Frank Catalano Quartet

December 15th, 2014

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On Friday October 31 at Tula’s I photographed the Frank Catalano Quartet as part of the 2014 Earshot Jazz Festival. The brawny Chicago saxophonist ranges from tempered swing to the rapid-fire energy that has won him gigs with both Santana and Ministry. On the heels of two new recordings, the rock-solid quartet lit up two evenings at Seattle’s classic jazz club.

Frank Catalano’s new Ropeadope recording debuted at #1 on the iTunes jazz sales chart. Love Supreme Collective is an homage to John Coltrane and features Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins), Percy Jones (Brand X), Chris Poland (Megadeath), and Adam Benjamin (Kneebody).

Now 37, Catalano is the only known saxman to have performed with Miles Davis, Randy Brecker, Charles Earland, Elvin Jones, Stan Getz, Betty Carter, Von Freeman, Tito Puente, Tony Bennett, Les Claypool and Louis Bellson while still in high school. This led to his signing to Delmark Records at age 18 and a string of critically acclaimed recordings. Catalano has been heard by millions of people all over the world, thanks in part to 3 Grammy-winning and 11 Grammy-nominated recordings with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, and John Legend, and has performed live on Oprah with singer/composer Seal.

No stranger to adversity, Catalano cut off his right middle finger in an automobile accident. After several surgeries and much effort, Catalano relearned his signature technique, making him one of the most in-demand musicians today. He regularly donates his musical services to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

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Eric Revis Quartet

December 8th, 2014

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Also playing at EMP on October 29th for the 2014 Earshot Jazz Festival was the Eric Revis Quartet in a beautiful set of music.

Often called New York’s first-call bassist, Eric Revis has built a distinguished career as a session player and bandleader. He is known most for his work with the Branford Marsalis Quartet and the trio Tarbaby, which he “tri-leads” with Orrin Evans and Nasheet Waits.

For the Eric Revis Quartet, he has assembled an impressive lineup, featuring saxophonists Darius Jones and Bill McHenry, and drummer extraordinaire Ted Poor. Among the words used to describe their recent release, In Memory of Things Yet Seen, in All About Jazz, were “formidable,” “ballsy,” and “hard-hitting,” as well as “swarming, episodic freestyle dialogues, perky bop fabrications and exploratory ruminations.”

Born in Los Angeles, Revis began playing bass at age 13. When he later moved with his family to San Antonio, he played in an alternative rock band, but soon discovered a connection to jazz. “Jazz just kind of stuck,” he told Jazz Times in a recent interview. A bandmate from the alternative rock band he played in had a large record collection and would frequently loan Revis recordings. “He wasn’t separating the music by style; Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham came along with Ornette Coleman and the AACM. I really identified with everything,” he recalled.

Graduating from the University of New Orleans (in Ellis Marsalis’ program), Revis moved to New York in 1993 and soon began playing with the legendary jazz vocalist Betty Carter. In 1997, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet, of which he is still a member, and quickly gained a reputation for his powerful approach to playing the bass. “He plays with a certain kind of physical authority you don’t find very often,” Branford Marsalis told Jazz Times.

Jazz photography of Eric Revis

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Daniel Barry’s Celestial Rhythm Orchestra was another 2014 Earshot Jazz presentation on SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, at the  SEATTLE ART MUSEUM.

Renowned for distinctive compositions and arrangements, this fine trumpeter has used much-sought regional grants to create music for a large ensemble of Seattle’s best players that is “fresh and imaginative, and has a hip, tongue-in-cheek sort of style” (Audiophile Audition).

Daniel Barry’s music falls primarily into the jazz category but assembles ideas from Afro-Cuban, Afro-Peruvian, Brazilian and Romanian musical traditions. During the last five years, Barry has conducted performances of his large ensemble compositions in Reykjavik, Iceland; Oslo, Norway; Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Diadema, Sao Paulo, Campinas, and Tatui, Brazil; Lima, Peru; and Denver, Colorado.

With his Celestial Rhythm Orchestra, Daniel presents Ancestors, adapted from the original Of Ancestors, Children & Spirits, performed as part of the 1994 Golden Ear Award-winning Best Concert, the Jim Pepper Tribute Concert. The original concert featured Cecile Maxwell, great-great-grand niece of Chief Sealth, narrating a speech attributed to the chief himself: “In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.”

Tonight’s version of Ancestors will be purely instrumental, without narration, and will feature Paul Gillespie on tenor saxophone. The piece will be performed alongside the world premiere of the newly commissioned “Lovely Silver Goddess,” featuring Ben Thomas on glockenspiel, and original compositions “The Mighty Urubamba,” “Spirit World,” “Cry Out Loud,” “St. Cecilia’s Day,” “La Folia Lando,” and “The Happy Cemetery.”

The 20-piece orchestra is Daniel Barry (composer/conductor); Steve Treseler, Gordon Brown, Mark Taylor, Paul Gillespie, James DeJoie (saxophones); Steve Mostovoy, Mike Mines, Al Keith, Thomas Marriott (trumpets); Scott Brown, Naomi Siegel, Nathan Vetter, Dave Bentley (trombones); Dennis Rea (guitar); Jovino Santos Neto (piano); Chris Symer (bass); Greg Campbell (drums); Ben Thomas and Chris Monroe (percussion).

“I’m so pleased to offer this concert with such an incredible cast of outstanding Seattle area musicians,” Barry says. “We will present orchestral jazz music composed over a span of twenty years.”

 

 

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Downbeat Cover – Brian Blade

September 12th, 2014

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I photographed Brain Blade for my second cover for Downbeat this year. They were in town for an Earshot jazz concert at the Seattle Art Museum and I got them in the studio the day before.

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