From Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Arga Bileg performed last night at the Seattle Asian Art Museum as the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues. In a packed sold out concert, Arga Bileg presented an uncanny blend of jazz and Mongolian folk music created with traditional and western musical instruments in a transporting evening complete with piano and horse-head fiddles and zithers and throat singing – Arga Bileg blended old and new on both Mongolian and Western instruments. It makes me want to hop on an airplane and fly off to Mongolia.

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

Founded in 2009 by percussionist Gantulga Ganbat, this eleven-piece ensemble – dancers Enkhgerel Dash-Yachil, Odbayar Batsuuri, Bayart Dash-Yachil, Norovbanzad Byambasuren and musicians Davaazorig Altangerel (fiddle), Batzaya Khadhuu (fiddle), Munkhtogtokh Ochirkhuyag (zither), Purevsukh Tyeliman (pianist), Jigjiddorj Nanzaddorj (fiddle), Bayasgalan Terbish (percussion) –combines several years of talent from the group’s award-winning musicians, composers, dancers and choreographers.

Arga Bileg members sit on the National Morin Khuur Ensemble of Mongolia, the country’s prestigious national orchestra, and have performed in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Beijing’s National Grand Theater and the Vienna Philharmonic. In June 2010, the band released soundtrack to horror film Dev and ethno jazz record Deelt – albums with electronic elements and modern interpretations of folk songs.

Traversing layers of geographic, historic and musical complexity, Arga Bileg brings Mongolia’s contemporary music and choreographed dance all the way from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
– Sarah Thomas

Buster Williams Quartet

October 21st, 2012

The big guns rolled out for this 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival concert on Saturday night at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium. Bassist Buster Williams locked and loaded the jazz love cannon with pianist Patrice Rushin, saxophonist Mark Gross and drummer Ndugu Chancler.

Seattle photographer Michael Craft filled in for me at this concert and I am sorry I could not have been there to hear  and see it. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

As a boy, Williams heard bassist Oscar Pettiford solo on a record and the rest is history. His bass-playing father, “Cholly,” was a fan of Slam Stewart and, like Stewart, strung his two basses at a higher pitch so that he didn’t have to reach as far to play high notes. Buster recalls that his father said, “If I restring my bass for you [to the normal tuning], you better be serious!”

Williams was serious. He began working with saxophonist Jimmy Heath in 1959. One month after graduating from high school, the 17-year-old hit the road with saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. Then came gigs with singers Dakota Staton, Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. He joined pianist Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi sextet and later the Timeless All Stars and Sphere.

Williams’ strong left hand slides up the bass neck during solo passages, creating his characteristic smooth slurs, glissandos and vibrato. His compositional maturity is on display in “Christina,” with pedal points, contrary motion between bass note and melody, developing melodic motif and emotional relief. No wonder this tune has become a standard among performers.

All this talent and humility too? “You see, I always enjoy playing other people’s music,” Williams says in a 1987 interview. “I don’t enjoy as much playing my music. I hope that someday I will enjoy playing my music as much as I enjoy playing other people’s music.”

Ernie Watts w/ Marc Seales Trio

October 21st, 2012

California saxophonist Ernie Watts backed by Seattle’s Marc Seales Trio opened the program at Saturday night’s Earshot Jazz Festival presentation at the Seattle Art Museum Plestcheeff Auditorium.  Watts and Seales have collaborated for 15 years, playing at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant twice a year and recording two CDs together. Watts was saddened to hear of Gaye Anderson’s recent passing and hopes that the New Orleans will continue its tradition of live music.

Seattle photographer Michael Craft filled in for me at this concert and I am sorry I could not have been there to hear  and see it. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

Like Williams, Watts’ devotion to jazz began at an early age. He started playing saxophone at age 13 in Delaware. The next year, his mother bought him a small record player and joined the Columbia Record Club. The first free record was a new release by Miles Davis – Kind of Blue. The intensity of sound from saxophonist John Coltrane became a central focus for the rest of Watts’ life.

A DownBeat scholarship took him to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He replaced saxophonist Gene Quill in the Buddy Rich Big Band and toured the world for two years. In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles and worked with Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson. Decades of work in recording studios followed and Watts toured with Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden. Watts became a charter member of Haden’s Quartet West, which is still working and recording after more than 25 years.

Watts and his wife Patricia formed Flying Dolphin Records in 2004, and tonight’s performance features music from his latest release Oasis. Watts says that he will be performing originals and tunes that he loves – Coltrane’s “Crescent,” Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Shaw Nuff.” The “music velocity and energy should be very enjoyable and invigorating,” Watts says.

– SG

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues.

Phil Dadson Ensemble

October 19th, 2012

At the Chapel Performance Space on Friday night, Earshot Jazzz Festival presented the Phil Dadson Ensemble. New Zealand home-made-instrument innovator Phil Dadson, above right, performed with three Seattle soundscapers: Bill Horist, Paul Kikuchi and Steve Barsotti.

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

Dadson is a sound installation artist, solo performer, experimental instrument maker and composer. He is the founder of the sound-performance group From Scratch (1974-2002), which developed an international reputation for an innovative sound and performance style that included sculptural, ritual and theatrical elements with large, custom-built plastic instruments and industrial and natural materials used in a variety of non-electronic sounds and energetic rhythms.

Born in Napier, New Zealand, 1946, Dadson studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, where he later lectured in intermedia art from 1977-2001. He is co-author of the From Scratch Rhythm Workbook and Slap Tubes and Other Plosive Instruments, a DIY guide to building a variety of slap tube instruments.

Since 1990 he has received many major awards and commissions, including a Fulbright travel award to the U.S., and research, exhibition and performance grants to Canada, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hungary, Austria, UK, India and Argentina. A New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2001 led Dadson to further expand – in festival appearances, various new commissions; an Artist-to-Antarctica fellowship; and recently, a 2011 expedition of nine artists into the South Pacific, called the Kermadec Ocean Project, to produce works in support of a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Phil Dadson writes: In terms of pure sound, I am attracted to intricate texture; the microscopic, the unexpected, the naturally rhythmic and the adventurous; to sound atmospheres and layered perspectives, to sounds that conjure mood and imagination, that convey ideas and express the human heart and soul.

– SH

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

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

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).

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

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

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

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

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

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.

2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.

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.


2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.

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.

2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.

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

2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.

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.

2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.

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

2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues. Click on the schedule.