Murl Allen Sanders w/ Warren Rand

November 16th, 2012

Murl Allen Sanders performed at Tula’s as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on Saturday November 3rd along with  Seattle bassist Clipper Anderson, Tacoma drummer Mark Ivester and Portland saxophonist Warren Rand. “This is a high-energy ensemble combining modern and traditional aesthetics,” Sanders writes. Murl Allen Sanders describes his music as zyfusico – a fusion of jazz, pop and zydeco. He sings and performs on accordion, piano and harmonica.

Sanders’ accordion repertoire stretches across many musical genres – Latin, swing, funk, even orchestral. His Accordion Concerto No. 1 premiered in 2003 at University of Washington’s Meany Hall. A grant from Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs supported his Accordion Concerto No. 2 that premiered in 2007. The program for this festival performance doesn’t include an orchestra but does include original material, straight-ahead jazz and some blues.

As a student, Sanders played jazz piano at Nathan Hale High School and Seattle Community College. He earned a bachelor of arts in music education at the University of Washington. Now he teaches privately, performs, records movie soundtracks and has won awards for his compositions.

Sanders writes, “If you haven’t heard jazz accordion, come to this show!”

– SG

On the last weekend of the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival at the  LLSLEY BALL NORDSTROM RECITAL HALL AT BENAROYA NEA Jazz Master and three-Grammy winner Branford Marsalis joined the all-star big band Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra  on a tour of the music of his hometown –New Orleans – from early brass bands to Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and King Oliver to modern interpretations of jazz classics such as “Basin Street Blues” and “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.”

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra is co-directed by saxophonist and arranger Michael Brockman, long-time member of the UW School of Music and an authority on the music of Duke Ellington, and drummer Clarence Acox, award-winning conductor of the Garfield High School jazz bands. SRJO includes many of the region’s best-loved jazz soloists and bandleaders.

Staff Benda Bilili

November 6th, 2012

On Saturday Oct 27th at Town Hall, Earshot Jazz Festival presented a special concert of the group Staff Benda Bilili
Led by vocalist Ricky Likabu, Staff Benda Bilili is a band whose mesmerizing music and extraordinary story have been making an impression worldwide. Four in the group are elderly paraplegics, polio survivors, who play from customized tricycles. This group of street musicians from Kinshasa, DR Congo, is Coco Ngambali, composer, vocals, guitar; Theo Nsituvuidi, vocals, guitar; Djunana Tanga-Suele, vocals; Zadis Mbulu Nzungu, vocals; Kabamba Kabose Kasungo, vocals; Paulin ‘Cavalier’ Kiara-Maigi, bass; Cubain Kabeya, drums, vocals; Randy Buda, percussion; and Roger Landu, vocals and principal soloist, on an electrified satonge, a one-stringed lute he built out of a tin can.

Staff Benda Bilili makes music that mixes the pulse of Congolese rumba with voices that conjure the crooners of Havana, the toasters of Kingston and American bluesmen. This extraordinary band of astonishing power and beauty has been dazzling audiences and media the world over, on record, on stage and on the big screen. – SH

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. The Festival ended on Nov 4th 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

Roosevelt High School Jazz Band

November 3rd, 2012

Last night at Town Hall, Earshot Jazz presented the Ballard and Roosevelt High School Jazz Bands as part of the 2012 Earshot Jazz festival. I missed the Ballard Band but made some pictures of the Roosevelt HS Jazz Band. Under Scott Brown, Roosevelt has been a perennial powerhouse at the national Essentially Ellington festival. It shared the stately Town Hall stage with its ever-strengthening Ballard HS counterpart, directed by Michael James.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues in it’s  last week ending on Sunday with Robert Glasper. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

Roosevelt returned from a two-week summer European festival tour and second place finish at New York’s Ellington contest last May. “With loads of new talent and a strong core of veteran leadership,” Brown writes, “this year’s band is sure to be swinging!”
Brown, a trombonist, loves his job. “As a director, I am blessed to have so many wonderful musicians attending Roosevelt High School. When everyone in the band is ‘on the same page’ musically and spiritually, there is nothing better than to hear them swinging their tails off!”

These band directors draw on the pool of professional freelance regional artists to mentor their students. Brown hired saxophonist Stuart MacDonald as assistant director. MacDonald graduated from Roosevelt in 1991. James enlisted saxophonist Gary Hammon to help develop his band. Hammon emerged from the Seattle funk and free jazz scene, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, toured with organist Big John Patton, returned to Seattle and recorded Fangs in 2005 with saxophonist Hadley Caliman.

Evan Flory-Barnes: Folks

November 2nd, 2012

Evan Flory-Barnes led his group Folks a new project with drummer D’vonne Lewis, pianist Darrius Willrich and multi-instrumentalist Bernie Jacobs last night at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center as Earshot Jazz Festival continues.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues in it’s  last week ending on Sunday with Robert Glasper. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

A Seattle original, the young Lewis is a multi-award winning drummer yet soft spoken about his accomplishments. He has worked steadily since before even graduating high school – with saxophonist Hadley Caliman’s band, for a short time with Willrich and Flory-Barnes; with Joe Doria’s McTuff; with Ethiopian singer Meklit Hadero; in Bandalabra; and in the house band at Teatro Zinzanni.

Pianist Willrich is the co-founder of Critical Sun Recordings, where he’s released urban soul albums Darrius, Love Will Visit and Can’t Get Enough. He’s a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts and is a private piano teacher and at Seattle Central Community College.

n his near-forty-year career, saxophonist, flautist, vocalist Bernie Jacobs is a personality completely at-ease in his craft. He’s worked with drummer Billy Drummond and saxophonists Steve Wilson and Sam Newsome, and the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. He regularly performs with Andre Thomas’ Quiet Fire and as a guest at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant and in drummer Greg Williamson’s groups.

This amazing band, assembled by festival bassist Flory-Barnes, performs at the freshly retrofit-renovated Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, which celebrates African American performing arts and cultural legacies for all of Seattle. Langston Hughes PAC holds an African American Film Festival each spring and many other events during the year. – SH

Mundell Lowe and Mike Magnelli performing at Tulas as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on Thursday night.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues in it’s  last week ending on Sunday with Robert Glasper. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

Mundell Lowe is perhaps one of the most seasoned artists performing at this year’s festival. Born in 1922, Lowe worked as a young musician on Basin Street in New Orleans. Upon moving to New York he performed, recorded and toured with saxophonists Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Ben Webster, singers Billy Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett, pianist Mary Lou Williams and bassist Charles Mingus. He picked up a gig on the Today Show band with bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ed Shaughnessy and worked with pianist Hank Jones in the NBC and CBS orchestras. Eventually he composed for News and Special Events at NBC.

After a move to California in 1965, Lowe wrote music for movies and television. He developed projects with singers Sarah Vaughn and Carmen McRae. Recently he toured with pianist Andre Previn and collaborated with several notable guitarists – Charlie Byrd, Herb Ellis and Tal Farlow. The Monterey Jazz Festival hired him as music director in 1983. Like his first influences – Charlie Christian and Jimmy Raney – his sound blends with the sound of a tenor saxophone.

For the festival, Lowe is joined by Boston guitarist Mike Magnelli – a 1970 graduate of the Boston Conservatory. Magnelli studied with Joe Pass and eventually became his agent and manager. Magnelli also recorded on Burt Bacharach’s “Promises, Promises” and was assistant conductor for the Broadway musical Grease, starring John Travolta.

Accompanying this highly credentialed duo are two accomplished Seattle guitarists: Milo Petersen – guitarist on recordings with drummers Billy Hart, Victor Lewis and Elvin Jones – picks up the sticks for these performances. On drums, Petersen has recorded five CDs and accompanied Eartha Kitt, Mose Allison and traveling Broadway shows at Seattle’s Jazz Alley.

Chuck Kistler began by playing guitar as an avid Frank Zappa disciple and switched to bass in 1998. He’s performed with Kurt Elling, Kevin Mahogany and Peter Bernstein. His strong sense of pitch and facile left hand produce solo lines as light and lithe as a bebop saxophonist.

This combo is sure to produce a guitar feast for every ear.

– SG


October 31st, 2012

The Royal Room was packed last night and the music was hot. Bandalabra was presented by the Earshot Jazz Festival to the Columbia City venue and they rocked the house. Every one of these guys played great.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues in it’s  last week ending on Sunday with Robert Glasper. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 
Part Afro-beat rhythm, part psychedelic punk, Seattle’s Bandalabra evokes the sounds of “Fela Kuti meeting Steve Reich in rock’s backyard,” group founder, punk-jazz saxophonist Skerik says. The lively quartet includes well-loved locals D’vonne Lewis on drums, Evan Flory-Barnes on bass, and Andy Coe on guitar.

kerik elaborates on Bandalabra’s style: “It’s not about soloing so much as creating a polyrhythmic weave with the four instruments. Music that is danceable but also interesting to listen to.”
Relatively new to the scene, Bandalabra released their debut album Live at the Royal Room this spring, where they recorded their first public performance. The album features over 60 minutes of grooves created in the moment, where witnesses say they stumbled upon the notable psychedelic explosion now known as the track “Beast Crusher.” On the heels of the successful debut album, Bandalabra embarked on a nationwide tour this summer that took them from Seattle to New York and back again. The tour wraps up this fall where it all started, at the Royal Room, Columbia City.– ST

Christian Scott Band

October 31st, 2012

I was really impressed with the Christian Scott Band last night at the Triple Door as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival. I had never heard Christian play and he has a wonderful tone and a high level of energy that was great.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz festival continues in it last week. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 
Christian Scott grew up in a jazz family in New Orleans. His grandfather Clinton Scott was the host of “Sittin’ in with Clint,” a jazz program at the WWOZ radio station; his uncle, saxophonist Donald Harrison, is a modern jazz icon. Scott takes these traditional foundations and creates innovative compositions with his self-described style of “stretch music,” pushing the limits of traditional jazz by adding stylistic elements like rock and hip-hop. Bandmates Matthew Stevens on guitar, Lawrence Fields on piano, Kris Funn on bass and Jamire Williams on drums meet him at every beat.

Scott started playing the trumpet at 12 and within a year was performing alongside his uncle. When he was 18, he self-released his self-titled album Christian Scott. At 22, he signed with Concord Jazz and released the Grammy-nominated album Rewind That. With the release of sixth album Christian aTunde Adjua this year, Scott shows no signs of slowing down.

Christian aTunde Adjua’s two-CD, 23-track collection takes traditional New Orleans jazz to edgy territories. Trained in classic jazz, Scott says, “My uncle took me back to the very beginning of the music. He taught me stuff that Buddy Bolden was playing in the early 1900s.”

Scott’s provocative style goes a step further to illuminate current social and political issues. He reflects on the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina, racism, abortion and gay marriage. Song “The Last Broken Heart,” from his Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (2010), was inspired by debate over gay marriage. “It’s a very challenging song to play, but the small dissonances within the song make it very captivating,” Scott says. “What could be more beautiful than two people deciding to love each other? It’s better than two people deciding to hate each other, but somehow that’s more acceptable.”
Scott says, “There’s no better time than right now to fix all of the problems and issues that we face as individuals and as a society,” he says. “The problems that some of the musicians of the 60s addressed still exist. They may look a little different, but they’re still around.” – ST

Sumi Tonooka

October 30th, 2012

Sumi Tonooka the “fierce and fascinating composer and pianist” (Jazz Times) Sumi Tonooka performed an amazing solo last night at the Chapel Performance Space as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival 2012.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz festival continues. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

Born in 1956 Philadelphia, Tonooka experienced unfettered freedom at the piano as a young child. She started piano and music instruction at the age of seven at the Settlement Music School and cites a teenage experience seeing Thelonious Monk for making her want to be a jazz musician. She holds a bachelor of music degree from the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, and has gigged with Kenny Burrell, Little Jimmy Scott, Sonny Fortune, Red Rodney, Benny Golson and David “Fathead” Newman.

Her debut release as a leader, With An Open Heart (Radiant Records, 1986), was the beginning of a long friendship with bassist Rufus Reid. Taking Time (Candid, 1991) and Here Comes Kai (Candid, 1992) are ripe with agile melodies, darting and daring rhythmic maneuvers and interplay with her bandmates.
Tonooka has penned almost fifty jazz compositions, and she’s composed over a dozen film scores, such as the Academy Award-nominated Family Gathering by Lise Yasui and Daring To Resist by Martha Lubell. Tonooka currently teaches piano at both Bard College and Dutchess Community College in the Hudson Valley, New York. – SH

Accomplished bassist Chris Lightcapperformed new compositions with New York outfit Bigmouth: Matt Mitchell (piano), Tony Malaby and Andrew Bishop (tenor sax) and Ches Smith (drums) on  Sunday at the  Seattle Art Museum Plestcheff Auditorium as Earshot Jazz festival continues.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz festival continues. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 

A creative and dynamic ensemble, Bigmouth has met a high level of critical acclaim in its 13-year history. In 2010, the group’s Deluxe (Clean Feed), with special guest Andrew D’Angelo on alto saxophone, was called superb by the Wall Street Journal and named on over 20 year-end best-of lists, including the New York Times, NPR, the Village Voice and JazzTimes. In July 2011, Lightcap led the group on a European tour, highlights of which include festival appearances in Slovenia, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Born and raised in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Chris Lightcap started out on the piano at age eight, switched to violin at nine and began to teach himself the electric bass at fourteen. Later, while at Williams College, he studied with jazz bassist Cameron Brown, composers Robert Suderburg, David Kechley and Alvin Lucier, trumpeter Bill Dixon and the late master bassist Milt Hinton.

Lightcap moved to New York City, becoming a busy performing and recording artist within the city’s fertile jazz and contemporary music scenes. Lightcap has collaborated with Marc Ribot, Regina Carter, Mark Turner, Dianne Reeves, Tomasz Stanko, Chris Potter, Paul Motian, John Scofield, Dave Liebman, Paquito D’Rivera and Ben Monder, appearing on over 50 recordings.

In 2011, Chamber Music America awarded Lightcap a New Jazz Works commission grant; Bigmouth premiers the new piece at this 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival performance at the Seattle Art Museum. Q&A with Chris Lightcap follows.