At the Kirkland Performance Center, one of America’s greatest living composers, trailblazer Philip Glass performed last night, with African kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso, and percussionist Adam Rudolph in an evening

of  wonderful and masterful music.

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Born in 1937, raised in Baltimore, Glass went on to study at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar.

He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer. Glass’ new music, eventually dubbed minimalism, worked with extended reiterations of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry.

n the last 25 years, through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble and his collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.

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Anat Cohen Ensemble

October 25th, 2012

At Cornish College’s Poncho Concert Hall the Anat Cohen Ensemble put on a wonderful performance as Earshot Jazz Festival rolls on.

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Conversant with modern and traditional jazz, classical music, Brazilian choro and Argentine tango, Israeli clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen has established herself as a fresh voice in jazz. British bassist Orlando le Fleming and Texas drummer Rudy Royston joined Cohen at the PONCHO Concert Hall.

Cohen won both DownBeat magazine’s critics poll and Reader’s Poll in the clarinet category in 2011, and the Jazz Journalists Association named Cohen Clarinetist of the Year for five consecutive years, 2007-2011.

Her facility in that regard is on pristine display on Claroscuro (2012), her newest release, and sixth on Anzic Records. Pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Daniel Freedman join her on the record, with special guests.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Cohen grew up with musical siblings – brothers saxophonist Yuval Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen. She began clarinet studies at age 12 and played that and tenor saxophone for years before moving on to studies at Berklee College, where she met teachers Ed Tomassi and George Garzone and was further encouraged on clarinet by Phil Wilson. Cohen moved again, to New York, and quickly found work in Brazilian ensembles, like Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet, and started performing the music of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet and their pan-American contemporaries with David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band.
Cohen is familiar with the Northwest from her performances at the Django festivals on Whidbey Island, Earshot festivals in Seattle and her friendship with Seattle pianist Dawn Clement. “Come and groove with us,” Cohen writes. “It’s going to be fun.”
– SG

Jake Shimabukuro

October 25th, 2012

Amazing.BENAROYA HALL S. MARK TAPER FOUNDATION AUDITORIUM last might was the venue for Earshot Jazz Festival presentation of Jake Shimabukuro.

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There was something indescribable  in the sight of this young man all alone on the huge stage holding a diminutive instrument and projecting out towards  a full house of  Benaroya Hall’s large auditorium.

Perhaps Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder said it best: “Jake is taking [the ukulele] to a place that I can’t see anyone else catching up with him.” It’s rare for a young musician to earn comparisons to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. It’s even harder to find an artist who has entirely redefined an instrument by his early thirties. But Jake Shimabukuro (she-ma-boo-koo-row) has already accomplished these feats, and more, in a little over a decade of playing and recording music on the ukulele.

In the hands of Shimabukuro, this traditional Hawaiian instrument of four strings and two octaves is stretched and molded into a complex and bold new musical force. Jake and his “uke” effortlessly mix jazz, rock, classical, traditional Hawaiian music and folk, creating a sound that is technically masterful, emotionally powerful and utterly unique in the music world.


October 24th, 2012

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Wow. Last night at The Royal Room was a blast. B’shnorkestra is trumpeter Samantha Boshnack’s 14-piece ensemble of strings, horns and drums. Now a one-year-old amalgam of regional performers, the group is Joshua Kohl conducting Boshnack and violinists Alex Guy and Alina To, violist Brianna Atwell, cellists Daniel Mullikin and Maria Scherer Wilson, bassists Tim Carey and Isaac Castillo, woodwind players Chris Credit and Tobi Stone, French horn player Greg Campbell and percussionists Lalo Bello and Adam Kozie.

Boshnack attended Bard College, where she studied jazz performance and composition. A move from New York to Seattle in 2003 prompted lasting music collaborations. Of this project, the composer writes, “New musical connections and friendships have been forged. It felt wonderful to be the catalyst of that and have such accomplished musicians playing my music, really getting into it, and working together so well.”

Boshnack garnered financial support for this large project from multiple granting organizations and raised funds through Kickstarter to record eight compositions at Bear Creek Studio. That recording will be released in 2013, and this festival performance includes music from the recording, plus the premier of a new work.

Elina Duni Quartet

October 24th, 2012


Tuesday night was a treat to hear Elina Duni and her quartet at Cornish College’s PONCHO CONCERT HALL as the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival proceeds. Albanian vocalist Elina Duni appeared with fellow ECM recording artists pianist Colin Vallon, bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Norbert Pfammatter on her first U.S. tour this fall.

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Her new album Matanë Malit (Beyond the Mountain) is an homage to Albania and a look at Balkan folk music through a jazz lens. Duni explores the region’s troubled history through songs of lovers, heroes, workers, shepherds, exiles and songs of resistance.


As a child growing up in Albania, Duni had little exposure to folk music. Folklore had socialist connotations and Duni’s family, like many others, distanced themselves from it to avoid conflict. “I fell in love with the old songs and discovered that not only could I sing them and feel them but that this was really my voice, emerging in a very natural way. It was as if it had been waiting to be activated,” Duni explains.

She left Albania at 10 years old, when the Communist regime fell, and moved to Switzerland with her mother to seek refuge. “This album is the echo of my childhood, my exile and my reconciliation with the two worlds that have shaped me; the Albania of my roots and the Switzerland of my life today,” Duni says.

Duni studied singing and composition at the Hochschule der Künste Bern between 2004 and 2008, where she met Colin Vallon. Together, they discovered the rich history of Balkan folk songs and connected with the music immediately. Shortly thereafter, they formed the Elina Duni Quartet with Vallon on piano, Moret on bass and Pfammatter on drums.

They released their first album Baresha in 2008 on Meta Records, followed by Lume Lume in 2010. Both albums received praise from the Swiss, German, Austrian and French press and spurred a string of European tours and festivals.

Duni gives a captivating performance with a voice that is both tender and euphoric. She often sings barefoot and embraces the spontaneity of jazz. “To me, all improvised music is a jazz state of mind. We feel no obligation to play a song the same way twice,” she says. Tonight, the Elina Duni Quartet merges with this snap of kinetic energy.

– ST

Bobby Previte leads his Voodoo Orchestra West Monday night at The Triple Door as R=Earshot Jazz Festival rolls on.

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New York-based drummer Bobby Previte first brought his transcriptions of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew-era psychedelia to NYC’s Knitting Factory with the weekly Voodoo Orchestra 15 years ago. Now Davis’ seductively brooding electric music is resurrected with a cast of seasoned Seattle pros:
Saxophones Neil Welch, Kate Olson, bass clarinet Beth Fleenor, French horn Tom Varner, electric bass Keith Lowe, string bass Geoff Harper, Fender Rhodes Ryan Burns, keys Wayne Horvitz, B-3 organ Joe Doria, electric guitar Tim Young and percussion Jeff Busch.

Under Previte’s direction from the drums, the pieces often progress at differently than what Davis devotees are accustomed to. His Voodoo Orchestra West conjures the source material’s spirit and atmosphere; they play as themselves in Davis’ court, rather than simply emulating the sidemen on the original records. That allows a freedom to uncover their own starts, stops and melodies.

Monday night at the Triple Door as the 2012 Earshot Jazz festival enters another week of wonderful performances, The  Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble put on a great set.  The Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble is a  conduction group led by Wayne Horvitz, featuring many of the same musicians as the Voodoo Orchestra who they were opening for: drums Bobby Previte, saxophones Greg Sinibaldi, Neil Welch, Kate Olson, bass clarinet Beth Fleenor, trumpets Al Keith, Samantha Boshnack, Steve O’Brien, trombones Naomi Siege, Jacob Herring, French horn Tom Varner, string bass Geoff Harper and piano Ryan Burns.

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The Royal Room Collective operates around a unique system of instant arranging fueled by musical symbols that Horvitz newly created specifically for this music.

– NB

Gregoire Maret

October 23rd, 2012

Gregoire Maret performed on Sunday and Monday at Tula’s as part of the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival. I did’ny know what to expect and was happy to linger and listen to his set after I finished shooting. The group was veyr tight and Tula’s was warmed up on a cold wet evening on Monday. Maret performed with an electrifying quartet behind him, featuring pianist Federico Gonzalez Peña, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn.

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Gregoire Maret was born in 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland, and began playing the harmonica at age 17. His childhood was filled with a diverse array of musical influences from his Harlem-born, African American mother and Swiss father, a local jazz musician.

Upon graduating from the prestigious Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique de Genève, Maret moved to New York City to pursue jazz studies at the New School University.

Over time, Maret honed his craft, becoming one of the most sought after harmonica players in the world. Often compared to legends Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder, Maret has played with an incredible number of famous musicians, including Youssn’Dour, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Pete Seeger, David Sanborn, George Benson and Cassandra Wilson.

In 2005, Maret won the Jazz Journalists Association Player of the Year of Instruments Rare in Jazz Award, toured with the Pat Metheny Group, then embarked on a two-year tour with the world-class bassist Marcus Miller and subsequently joined Herbie Hancock’s band. He has developed his own unique sound, and his versatile style enables him to play effortlessly across different genres.

Most recently, in May 2010, Maret played at the Concert for the Rainforest with Elton John and Sting. Prior to that, he recorded a duo album with Andy Milne entitled Scenarios (ObliqSound).

His recent debut as a bandleader on Koch is an ambitious self-titled release, Grégoire Maret, that features high-profile guests, including harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, bassist Miller, vocalists Cassandra Wilson and Gretchen Parlato.

Maret assisted his sponsor, Suzuki Harmonica, in creating his own Gregoire Maret G-48 and G-48W Signature Chromatic Harmonica Series and continues to record and tour with incredible collaborators. – DB


Lionel Loueke Trio

October 22nd, 2012

Lionel Loueke Trio was the headline act last night at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium as the Earshot Jazz Festival rolls on. Beautiful sounds from this trio especially the unique Lionel Loueke on vocals and guitar.

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Hailed as a “gentle virtuoso” by the New York Times, guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke followed up his acclaimed Blue Note releases Karibu (2008) and Mwaliko (2010) with the extraordinary Heritage, released in August of this year. Co-produced by pianist and label mate Robert Glasper, Heritage finds Loueke in top form.

A veteran of bands led by Terence Blanchard and Herbie Hancock, Loueke brings jazz into vibrant contact with the sounds of West Africa, in particular, his native Benin. Starting out on vocals and percussion, Loueke picked up the guitar at age 17. After his initial exposure to jazz in Benin, he left to attend the National Institute of Art in nearby Ivory Coast. In 1994, he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Berklee. From there, Loueke gained acceptance to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, where he encountered his Gilfema (ObliqSound, 2005) release bandmates – bassist Massimo Biolcati, drummer Ferenc Nemeth, vocalist feature Gretchen Parlato – and musicians with whom he would form creative relationships.

The title of his latest recording, Heritage, is a direct reference to his personal odyssey. “I have two heritages,” Loueke says. “One is from my ancestors from Africa, and that goes through my music, my body, my soul, every aspect of what I do. But also I have the heritage from the Occident, from the West, from Europe and the U.S. I speak English, I speak French, and I have that heritage too.”

While Heritage finds Loueke performing with a larger ensemble at times, he remains explosive in the trio context with bassist Biolcati and drummer Nemeth.

Dos y Mas

October 22nd, 2012

Earshot Jazz presented Dos y Mas at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium last night, Wow. What a great show. Elio Villafranca and Arturo Stable, two Cuban-born maestros of jazz and world music, unveiled Dos y Mas, their debut recording of their exquisite new piano and percussion collaboration, on Motéma Music, January 2012.
Villafranca and Stable have developed loyal followings both as leaders and for their work with many of the world’s top musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Johnny Pacheco, John Faddis, Billy Harper, Esperanza Spalding, Lionel Loueke and Paquito d’Rivera.

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Both artists are avid and creative educators who are as in demand as lecturers at universities as they are as performers at festivals, clubs and cultural centers. Villafranca is a resident professor at Temple University, while Stable teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he designed their unique hand percussion major of study.

Stable says, “Working with Elio is a very rewarding experience. He is always open to new ideas and to taking risks, musically speaking. I love that, because it means the music can always take a new direction. We share similar backgrounds culturally and musically, so the connection between us was there since the beginning. I always feel I learn something new when we perform together.”

Villafranca agrees, “Arturo’s musicality and ability to play many different hand drum instruments with facility, elevated my playing and my interpretation of his playing. Together we have arrived a new musical dimension.”

– DB

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