October 30th, 2009


Jason Marsalis applies his mallets to his vibes at Tula’s at his Earshot Jazz Festival performance Thursday.

Jason Marsalis,  an immensely talented and musical percussionist, and the youngest of the Marsalis clan, Tonight, performed songs from his current recording Music Update, which represents his debut recording on vibes after nearly two decades of working and recording as a drummer. His performance was enchanting and in between songs he spoke with a lot of admiration for past greats on the vibes like John Lewis. I loved watching him play the vibraphones and seeing how his mallets seem to bend with the force of his playing. See the photo at the bottom of this post. He will be there again tonight Friday Oct 30th. There may still be tickets available. Check with Earshot Jazz Festival tickets online


Marsalis was backed by formidable trio of young musicians he met at a residency at Florida State University: Austin Johnson, piano; Will Goble, bass; and David Potter, drums. Marsalis first started performing on the vibes eight years ago, and since then he has skillfully developed a group concept. His recording, and no doubt the evening’s program, featured original compositions like “Offbeat Personality” and “Ballet Class,” which owe a distinct debt to the Modern Jazz Quartet. Marsalis also pays tribute to the original master of jazz vibes, Lionel Hampton, with covers of “Midnight Sun” and Charlie Christian’s “Seven Come Eleven.” The performances Thursday and Friday mark his Seattle debut as headliner.


October 30th, 2009


Tom Varner conducts his tentet through some of his compositions and seem to be transported to a far away place. His music is so sublime.

From Earshot Jazz Festival we continue to see and hear such wonderful groups and performances. Tom Varner presented his new tentet and new CD, Heaven and Hell.
“Varner calls the piece “my big meaty work for tentet,” something he’s incubated and worked on since September 11, 2001. He notes that the piece mixes “My … hell … being in New York City on 9/11,” with that most incongruous thing, a sort of heaven, as he and his wife adopted their son in Vietnam a short 8 days later. That contrasting mix of elements and imperatives is a Varner specialty, something he did with magnificent ease on The Window Up Above, a take on the American song-book, in 1998. The free-ranging French horn, hardly something one associates with George Jones, made fabulous, slippery improvisational material out of, well, George Jones and other American staples on Window. The point? Varner’s got no fear of steep material, of flowing free, of going “big and meaty.” Varner’s discography shows him using his horn as if it were always an improviser’s mainstay, something that shone as it seemed to smear across notes, slowed brilliantly even as it sped (it is a French horn, after all). His 2001 look at Don Cherry’s Second Communion is nothing short of a master-work, a tribute, of course, but also something that takes the trumpeter’s clipped execution and makes it pliable and all-encompassing. That’s what Heaven and Hell promises, the orchestration of Varner’s elastic harmonics, his use of the ensemble as an instrument, his Ellingtonian ability to animate against the instruments’ limitations.”
—Andrew Bartlett
from Earshot Jazz Festival Program


October 30th, 2009

Andy Clausen and Sjenka, who impressed an audience at Earshot’s Second Century series with fully evolved ambient improvisations opened with a splash for TOM VARNER TENTET.

They were very well received by the crowd at the Chapel Performance Space.  The Roosevelt High stand-out plays trombone in the school’s acclaimed jazz band. His big-band composition “Fly” was honored with the 2009 Gerald Wilson Award for Jazz Composition from the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sjenka is Clausen’s ambient electronic trio, which synthesizes diverse musical styles into dynamic layered soundscapes filled with striking juxtapositions.



October 29th, 2009


Art Brown (alto sax), Aaron Otheim (keyboards), Tim Carey (electric bass), and Tarik Abouzied (drums) of the group Hardcoretet play Weds night at Tula’s as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.


Hardcoretet infuses deep grooves with plenty of heat. They had a good thing happening at Tula’s.

Hardcoretet focuses on the groove. They play funky, driving tunes that are intensely precise and warm with electricity, both literally and figuratively (their use of effects pedals allows alto saxophonist Art Brown’s gleaming tone to morph into a wavering murmur, while Tarik Abouzied’s thriving acoustic drum beats simply buzz). There is no lead instrument; the band’s voices weave in and out of each other in a swirling mix that is balanced without sounding controlled.


The Seattle-based group’s performance is a celebration of two major milestones: the release of their first full-length album,Experiments in Vibe, and their first performance at the Earshot Jazz Festival. The former represents a recorded declaration of the band’s tight, neon playing style, while the latter is a mark of the members’ continuing maturation into their hometown’s music scene (all four of them grew up in the greater Seattle area and attended Seattle universities). It’s an exciting time to be in Hardcoretet, because on top of those pieces of good news, the group is about to embark on a West Coast tour.

Here is music that flies in many different directions, but constantly pulsates around the groove, which moves in a straight line. Tim Carey pours out strong, fluid bass lines that smoothly coast over Tarik Abouzied’s dense, ecstatic carpet of percussion. Aaron Otheim’s whirling keyboard dances its way into the rhythm sometimes as acutely placed block chords, other times in wandering single notes that fall like drops of water. Art Brown spins a smooth tone into commanding, varied phrases that gently float above his fellow band mates’ playing. The band plays as a true team; the only member who might be the leader is the fifth one, the nameless one. If there is a leader, the leader is the groove.

—Nathan Buford from Earshot Jazz Festival Program guide.


October 29th, 2009

Marco Benevento , piano, Jeremy Black, drums, and Reed Mathis, bass on stage at the Triple Door as Earshot Jazz hits midpoint in its second of the three week Jazz Festival.


Thirty-one-year-old keyboardist Marco Benevento has made his name reimagining and reshaping the music of his youth. Benevento fluidly integrates the sounds he came of age with — rock, jazz, hip-hop, and music from more distant cultures — into an organic and far-reaching sort of improvisational music. As he told David Rubien of the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s instrumental music but it has all these elements: rock, songs, jazz, free jazz. […] I feel like I’m happily in this place among other musicians I know in this thing that sounds new yet it’s totally vernacular. People understand what we’re doing.”

In addition to past projects, such as Quartet the Killer (a Neil Young tribute) and Bustle in Your Hedgerow (Led Zeppelin), this philosophy is well represented in his new album Me Not Me(recorded here at Chroma Sound in Seattle). Mixing originals with interpretations of works by such artists as My Morning Jacket, Deerhoof, Leonard Cohen, and Beck, Me Not Me presents Benevento with his trio of bassist Reed Mathis and drummers Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr. Valuing the strong melodies and harmonic structure of the borrowed source material, Benevento focused primarily on innovation in his arrangements and improvisations: “I got into sculpting the sound around the original piano parts by using some of my favorite keyboards and re-amping them in interesting ways.”

Combining Benevento’s characteristic whimsy, ear for melody, and sonic ingenuity with the frenetic energy of the trio produces unexpected and thrilling results. Benevento seems capable of exploring any musical ground that interests him; with results such as these, why not?

—Peter Walton in Earshot Jazz Festival program guide.

Bottom photo by Paul Joseph Brown


October 28th, 2009


An all-star quintet featuring renowned saxophonist Hadley Caliman, the legendary Curtis Fuller (trombone), Larry Vukovich (piano), Jeff Chambers (bass), and Eddie Marshall (drums) concluded its Pacific Northwest tour in a special tribute concert to the Seattle-based tenor master.


The concert caps a six-city run of performances coordinated by Singer and Simpson Productions, celebrating Caliman’s lifetime contributions to American jazz music by featuring an outstanding ensemble of artists to perform with Caliman, who has played, recorded and toured with a list of luminaries, including Gerald Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Elvin Jones, Bobby Hutcherson, and Freddie Hubbard, among many others.


The Washington Composers Orchestra presented an evening of music specially suited for the gorgeous acoustics of the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center as part of the continuing Earshot Jazz festival.


Robin Holcomb  conducting Wayne Horvitz’s concerto for clarinet “River of Whiskey,” featuring guest clarinetist Beth Fleenor.

Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, and Tom Varner lead this adventurous 15-piece ensemble which featured top-flight Seattle improvisers and composers including Mark Taylor, Thomas Marriott, Eric Barber, Byron Vannoy, and Phil Sparks. Approaching the traditional jazz big band as a “pocket orchestra,” the program featured four extended compositions by Holcomb, Horvitz’s concerto for clarinet “River of Whiskey,” featuring guest clarinetist Beth Fleenor, and Chris Stover’s “The Murderess.” The program will also include the Seattle premier of “Laredo,” written for saxophone quartet by Holcomb, and commissioned by the Rova Saxophone Quartet.


Wayne Horvitz at the piano.


October 27th, 2009

Meshell Ndegeocello at the Triple Door Tuesday night

Earshot Jazz Festival presented the endlessly inventive bassist, composer, singer, and bandleader Meshell Ndegeocello who incorporates elements of soul, rock, jazz, funk, and hip-hop to express “the love I’ve felt and the energy I’m surrounding myself with.” She possesses a deeply expressive musical perspective and a fierce intelligence. The Triple Door was sold out including standing room only and everyone was so into Meshell and her mesmerizing performance.


Deantoni Parks, drums, Chris Bruce, guitar, Keefus Ciancia, keyboards, Ndgeocello, and Mark Kelley bass.

Ndegoecello’s debut album Plantation Lullabies came out like a breath of musical fresh air in the early 1990s, combining the crisp danceable production of modern hip-hop with funky, old-time soul. A major talent in many areas, from her nimble finger-funk on the bass to her breathy, robust vocals and her continually developing, passionate songwriting, Ndegeocello has excelled as a bandleader, drawing on the talent of jazz musicians such as pianist Geri Allen and saxophonist Joshua Redman for guest spots. Ndegeocello frequently ends up guesting on albums by artists including The Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, and Rahzel of the Roots, but her excellent work as a musician never detracts from the direct, polished quality of her solo albums, which continue to evolve and improve. On October 6, she will release Devil’s Halo, her eighth studio album. The 10-time Grammy nominee co-produced the new album alongside guitarist Chris Bruce.



October 26th, 2009


Eldar Djangirov at Tula’s Monday night He and his Trio is appearing there again tomorrow Tuesday Oct 27th.

The Earshot Jazz Festival presented the dazzling pyrotechnics and musical maturity of the Kyrgyz post-bop piano prodigy Eldar Djangirov which have awed the jazz world. His trio with Armando Gola (bass) and Ludwig Afonso (drums) is touring in support of a new CD,Virtue.

After being discovered at the age of nine, Eldar and his family moved to the United States, and just two years later he was a featured performer on Marian McPartland’s radio program, Piano Jazz. Since then he has recorded six albums, signed with a major label, and earned a Grammy nomination for his 2007 album, Reimagination. Along the way he has worked with many of the biggest names in contemporary jazz, including John Patitucci, Michael Brecker, Roy Hargrove, and Chris Botti.

Now 22, Eldar continues to impress both audiences and critics with his mature playing and forward-looking compositions.


Thomas Marriott playing at Tula’s with Mark Taylor

The Earshot Jazz Festival presented the Seattle trumpet ace  Thomas Marriott who brought a brilliant lineup – Mark Taylor, Matt Jorgenson, Jeff Johnson and Travis Shook – to bear on some of his favorite, though seldom performed, compositions. A six-time Golden Ear award winner, Marriott is always seeking to expand the boundaries of jazz music in all its forms. He has performed with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau band, Rosemary Clooney, Joe Locke, The Tito Puente Orchestra, Eddie Palmieri, Kenny Kirkland, and many others. His diverse interests and skills are reflected in the range and success of his albums. His album Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson was released in early 2008 to wide critical acclaim. Jazz Times declared Marriott a “first-tier trumpet player” with “serious chops and a luxuriant trumpet sound. … This album is a kick in the pants.” His fourth album on Origin Records, Flexicon, was released in April of 2009 and made it to number 10 on the national jazz-radio airplay charts in its first few weeks of release.