Emerging experimentalists Kate Olson and Naomi Siegel, with electronics, as Syrinx Effect open on Sunday night at 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 

Kate Olson holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She is an area educator and performs with the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, the Royal Collective Music Ensemble and in smaller improvisational ensembles. Naomi Siegel is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, now a performer and music educator in Seattle. She regularly performs with Thione Diop, Picoso and the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble.

Another great night at Tulas as Earshot rolls on. n this performance, vibraphonist Susan Pascal celebrated the 1960’s work of mallet masher Cal Tjader (1925-1982). Pascal is joined by pianist Fred Hoadley and percussionist Tom Bergersen, from Seattle’s Afro-Cuban jazz band Sonando, and bassist Chuck Deardorf and drummer Mark Ivester, from Jovino Santos Neto’s Brazilian jazz band Quinteto.

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

Swedish American drummer Callen “Cal” Radcliffe Tjader Jr. learned how to play the vibraphone while performing with pianist Dave Brubeck. His good vibes got him a job with pianist George Shearing. Later, Tjader sought out Cuban musicians to ply the warm waters of the late 1950s mambo craze. The title track of his 1964 album Soul Sauce, a cover of a Dizzy Gillespie song, climbed the radio charts and sold more than 100,000 copies.

Pascal began collecting music for this project in 2009, and the program has grown ever since. The mambo music in the band’s book and mondo talent on stage create an embarrassment of riches. “It’s tough to decide which tunes to use,” Pascal says. “There are so many great ones to choose from. It’s a balancing of mixing familiar hits with unknown gems. We start with the groundbreaking work of Mongo Santamaria and Dizzy Gillespie, then add collaborations of Cal Tjader and Clare Fischer with modern twists from Chick Corea and Don Grolnick.”

Pascal studied with Tom Collier, director of percussion studies at the University of Washington since 1980 and newly appointed chair of jazz studies. In addition to performances in Seattle clubs and concert stages, Pascal has toured Singapore multiple times. She appears on motion picture soundtracks for The Blind Side, The Wedding Planner and Office Space.
The audience may have a problem staying in their seats at Tula’s, especially after a few mint-laced Mojitos. Pascal says, “Expect everything from solo vibraphone cadenzas to languid cha-chas and up-tempo mambo jams.” – SG

Jaap Blonk

October 30th, 2012

Dutch vocal improviser Jaap Blonk uses synthesized sounds, including samples of his own voice, in powerful, joyful performances structured by the mathematical algorithms that are his other expertise. Blonk presents his 4-channel-mix piece “Polyphtong” as a first set and Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate” as the second (as an acoustic performance). In “Polyphtong,” Blonk writes, the phonetic concepts of diphthong and approximant are an important focus in meditative sections of the work. It also uses the techniques of his cheek synthesizer, in which many kinds of stereo mouth sounds are driven by sheer air, ranging from very low to extremely high pressures.

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

Dadaist Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate” is a sound poem in four movements, created over a decade in 1920s Germany. Schwitters left a few pages of instructions for reciters, and Blonk’s own internalization of the piece since he first heard it in 1979, and subsequent performances, make quite an odyssey for the vocal performance artist. “The piece is very much founded in the directness of real life,” Blonk writes. Blonk was born in 1953, Woerden, Holland. The self-taught composer, performer, poet and vocal performance talent used the voice as his main means for the discovery and development of new sounds for almost two decades. From about the year 2000, Blonk started work with electronics, at first using samples of his own voice, then extending to include sound synthesis. A year off of performing in 2006 prompted a renewed interest in mathematics and research into the possibilities of algorithmic composition for the creation of music, visual animation and poetry. As a vocalist, Blonk is unique in his powerful stage presence and almost childlike freedom in improvisation, combined with a keen grasp of structure. – SH

JD Allen Trio

October 30th, 2012

jazz photographers

JD Allen and his wonderful trio played Friday night at Poncho Hall at Cornish College as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

The 2012 Earshot Jazz festival continues. Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival 
Hailed by the New York Times as “a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” JD Allen is a bright, rising light on today’s international jazz scene. His unique and compelling voice on the instrument – the result of a patient and painstaking confrontation with the fundamentals of the art – has recently earned Allen a blaze of attention.

jazz photography

His latest recording, Victory! (Sunnyside, 2011), received four-stars in DownBeat and ranked as the third best jazz album of 2011 by NPR. The Victory! band, Allen’s longstanding trio with Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), features on tonight’s concert.

Originally from Detroit, Allen’s apprenticeship, anchored by his lengthy tenure with Betty Carter, occurred largely in New York, where he worked with legends Lester Bowie, George Cables, Ron Carter, Winard Harper, Butch Morris, David Murray and Wallace Roney. He added his voice to contemporaries Cindy Blackman, Orrin Evans, Dave Douglas, Jeremy Pelt, Gerald Cleaver and Nigel Kennedy as well.

jazz photographer

Following praise for his first two releases, Allen began an association with Sunnyside Records in 2008: I Am I Am features Gregg August (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) and garnered rave reviews from the New York Times, Time Out NY, and DownBeat.

In 2009, Allen released follow-up Sunnyside recording Shine!. Word-of-mouth praise for the album led Lorraine Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard, to invite him and his trio for a weeklong stint. The New York Times reviewed the residency, commending Allen for his trio’s “fearless approach to a formidable tradition.”

– DB

Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo

October 26th, 2012

The headline act of Earshot Jazz Festival presentation last night at Poncho Concert Hall was the sensational New York trio of Tamarindo, with Tony Malaby (tenor), the great William Parker (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums).

Strictly original – no covers or American songbook standards: “Twisting triumvirate coursing to the finish line,” bassist Mark Helias writes poetically in the liner notes of Tamarindo, the trio’s self-titled debut on Clean Feed, 2007. Five years later, Tucson-born tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby brings the project here.

Malaby is a frequent flyer to Earshot events, appearing on stages here since the late 1990s. He’s been a member of many notable jazz groups, including Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Fred Hersch’s Walt Whitman project. Malaby also has led several projects of his own, including his Apparitions projects with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey, Michael Sarin and John Hollenbeck.

Bronx-native bassist William Parker anchors the harmony for Tamarindo. Parker studied with bassists Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilbur Ware and Jimmy Garrison. A legendary and powerful collaborator in the U.S. and European avant-garde, Parker’s work includes a decade-long stint with pianist Cecil Taylor, collaborations with drummers Hamid Drake, Milford Graves and Rashied Ali, and work on New York’s Vision Festival. He has taught at Bennington College, NYU, the New England Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, New School University and Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. Parker is also a composer, playwright and poet.

The original incarnation of Tamarindo included drummer Nasheet Waits. This time around, Mark Ferber occupies the drum throne. Ferber studied with Billy Higgins and Joe LaBarbara. Now living in Brooklyn, Ferber is an auxiliary faculty member at City College of New York.

Tom Varner Quartet

October 26th, 2012

French horn player Tom Varner and Seattle saxophonist Eric Barber, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Byron Vannoy opened last night for Tamarindo at Poncho Concert Hall at Cornish College as Earshot Jazz Festival moves on. The Tom Varner Quartet celebrated the legacy of the late Steve Lacy, with whom Varner performed in Seattle in 1993. The program also included Varner’s arrangements of tunes by Lacy’s favorite composers, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.

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

Varner studied with pianist Jaki Byard, composer George Russell and saxophonist Steve Lacy; organized the Julius Watkins French Horn Festival at Cornish; appears on more than 70 recordings; and performs with the Washington Composers Orchestra, Jim Knapp Orchestra, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, and his own quartet, nonet and tentet.

Before moving to Seattle in 2005, Varner lived in New York, where he performed with Tony Malaby. Malaby appears on two of Varner’s CDs. Varner writes to me that he’s excited by the potential to have Malaby join in on a tune with Barber, Sparks and Vannoy.– SG

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.

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

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.

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


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.

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

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