Last night at The Royal Room the Frode Gjerstad Trio put on a blistering set. The Trio features: Frode Gjerstad, Saxaphone, Jon Rune Strøm, Bass and Paal Nilssen-Love – Drums

Sixty-four-year-old alto saxophonist and clarinetist Frode Gjerstadis threw down with long-time collaborator Paal Nilssen-Love and new bass player Jon Rune Strom as Gjerstad’s all-Norwegian trio performed at the Royal Room in an Earshot Jazz presentation. The following commentary is  by Schraepfer Harvey from Earshot Jazz.

Nilssen-Love was 15 when he first started playing with Gjerstad. Since then, the drummer has continuously innovated and grown among a new generation of Norwegian and global improvisers. He’s performed with saxophonists Mats Gustafsson, Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark and Peter Brotzmann.

In a blog update about recent duo release Side by Side (CIMP Records), with Nilssen-Love, Gjerstad writes, “Paal is a very natural player who is not dogmatic in any way. He is so much part of the moment and manages to grab it and process it in a very personal way. A great musician!”

The two have a handful of duo recordings, and Nilssen-Love is a central figure in the many other extensions of Gjerstad’s work, including his Circulasione Totale Orchestra, a collective of rotating improvisers first established in 1984.

Each iteration of that group is as distinct as the characters in it, and, like the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, started in mid-sixties London by Gjerstad’s friend, colleague and drummer John Stevens, the CTO is a threshold to the improvising life for many emerging free improvisation artists, as they cycle in with more experienced players. The acoustic-electric CTO that re-emerged in 1998, after a short hiatus, with Borealis (Cadence), is working in peak form for Gjerstad’s near-thirty-year project in scene building for Norway and the world.

The CTO came from Gjerstad’s direct experience performing with drummer Stevens and bassist Johnny Dyani (from Steve Lacy’s mid-sixties quartet including Enrico Rava): “I felt it was important to bring on some of the things I learned from playing with them, to younger musicians,” Gjerstad writes on his website.

Bassist Jon Rune Strøm recently joined Gjerstad’s trio and brings renewed energy for Gjerstad. “I feel very excited playing with Jon Rune, and I think we are moving into something else,” Gjerstad writes.

After two decades of trios with various international musicians, Gjerstad wass here with Paal Nilssen-Love and Jon Rune Strom, propelled by incredible creativity, rhythms and an astounding improvisational endurance and positive spirit. – Schraepfer Harvey

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.

Grace Kelly Quintet

November 13th, 2011

Grace Kelly Quintet at Tula’s in the last week of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented the 19-year-old jazz wonder, saxophonist/vocalist Grace Kelly  who “plays with intelligence, wit, and feeling,” says one of her many fans, Wynton Marsalis.

Just five years ago at the age of 14, Grace Kelly garnered the first of her ASCAP Foundation awards and landed an invitation to perform with the Boston Pops. Kelly met this challenge by writing her first full orchestral arrangement and performing it in Boston’s iconic Symphony Hall. Since then, she has garnered accolades for many of the artists she has grown up revering. She has already performed and recorded with the likes of Dave Brubeck, Phil Woods, Harry Connick Jr., Jamie Cullum, Frank Morgan, Esperanza Spalding, Chris Potter, Cedar Walton, James Cotton and Terri Lynn Carrington, among many others. Perhaps her most intensive connection has been with Lee Konitz, whom Kelly has studied with since age 13.

Lately acclaimed for her recordings of “gospel jazz,” she was joined by Jason Palmer (trumpet), Doug Johnson (piano), Evan Gregor (bass), and Jordan Perlson (drums).

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We Four at Town Hall

Celebrating Coltrane and Mingus: We Four which Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented at Town Hall Saturday Oct 22 was a fantastic show. Seattle photographer Michael Craft photographed this performance and these are his pictures. Among tributes to John Coltrane, We Four ranks as the most soulful and masterful: joining the tenor-sax hard bopper, Javon Jackson, was piano master Mulgrew Miller, peerless bassist Nat Reeves, and – here’s the clincher – NEA Jazz Master and Kind of Blue drum vet Jimmy Cobb. John Coltrane remains one of jazz music’s most revered artists, nearly 44 years after his death. For this concert, the collective We Four proves that the saxophonist’s music can still electrify audiences with its combination of potent swing and spiritual depth. Featuring legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, the 82-year-old provides much of this band’s heat. Cobb is joined in We Four by tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Peter Washington, a new band of highly esteemed New York jazz players, all of whom feel a special connection to John Coltrane.

Check out the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule to see what’s next in the last week of the 2011 Festival lineup.

An NEA Jazz Master, Cobb’s playing on Coltrane recording sessions is unforgettable. He famously played with Coltrane in the Miles Davis band of the late 1950s, including on Kind of Blue. Not to be overlooked is his standout performance on the recording of one of Coltrane’s most renowned ballads, “Naima,” a tune likely to be performed tonight. Cobb’s inspirational work with Davis, Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley and company spanned 1958 until 1962 and included work on Sketches of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come, Live at Carnegie Hall, Live at the Blackhawk, Porgy and Bess, and many, many other landmark Miles Davis recordings. Miller is a most excellent pianist who has worked steadily as a musician, including three years with Woody Shaw’s Quintet, three with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra and over six years with the Tony Williams Quintet. He is featured on over 400 recordings total and has composed nonstop. In 1985 Miller made his first recording as a leader for producer Orrin Keepnews’ former label, Landmark, and later recorded on the RCA Novus label. He tours throughout the world and is also a member of the Contemporary Piano Ensemble, a unique group consisting of four pianists performing simultaneously on four grand pianos with a rhythm section. Other innovative projects include his duos with Danish jazz bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen.

Jackson came into international prominence as a member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He has also toured and recorded with Elvin Jones, Betty Carter, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Curtis Fuller, Stanley Turrentine and many others. As a recording artist, Jackson has appeared on over 125 recordings and has developed a formidable career as a leader, recording and touring throughout the world. His current musical group, The Javon Jackson Band, incorporates many styles, including jazz, funk, R&B and rock. Reeves was introduced to the electric bass by his grandfather, Russell Jackson. By 1979, he was in New York City, performing in small jazz clubs and at jam sessions. He soon after toured the US and Japan with Sonny Stitt and worked with Jackie McLean, including teaching alongside McLean at the University of Hartford. Influenced most by bassists Sam Jones, Paul Chambers and Ron Carter, Reeves is a gifted musician, who can be seen performing in every major jazz venue in the world.

We Four’s repertoire will explore many of the classic tunes associated with Coltrane, including “Impressions,” “Giant Steps,” “Mr. PC,” “Central Park West,” “Fifth House,” “Like Sonny,” “Blues to Elvin” and “Countdown,” in addition to original material inspired by John Coltrane. – Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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Wessell Anderson Quartet

October 27th, 2011

Wes “Warm Daddy” Anderson at Tula’s Monday

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented a special jazz lesson from soulful, searing alto saxophonist Wessell “Warm Daddy” Anderson, with Phill Sparks on bass, Bill Anschell, piano and D’Vonne Lewis, drums.

Check out the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule to see what’s next in the 2011 Festival lineup.

A former member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and charter member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, alto saxophonist Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson blends traditional jazz, some bebop and swinging sounds in a blues-inflected style that has drawn flattering comparisons to Cannonball Adderley. For over a decade and a half, he was part of Marsalis’ efforts at Jazz at Lincoln Center, but he left in 2006 to join the jazz faculty at Michigan State University.

“Always one of the most popular members of Jazz at Lincoln Center, many fans of the venerable institution were saddened to hear about Anderson’s stroke in 2007. Following the stroke, much of the left side of his body was numb, and many speculated as to whether he would play again. Musicians who knew Anderson well, however, were not surprised when he returned triumphantly to the bandstand after just a few months.”

“is 2010 return to a New York stage at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola was applauded by fans and critics alike. Nate Chinen, reviewing the outing in the New York Times, wrote: “And how did he sound? Excellent, unchanged. His mellow, sweet-tart tone was a physical presence, and he gave it plenty of air, often holding a note for a long stretch, then taking a breath and modulating to another one … In his alto style, there’s no chasm between the chivalrous croon of Johnny Hodges and the roguish charisma of Charlie Parker.”

“Born into a musical family in Brooklyn, Anderson played piano from an early age, starting to study classical music when he was 12. However, two years later he switched genres and instruments. His father, a drummer, had worked with Cecil Payne and directed his son towards jazz. Hearing records by Charlie Parker prompted the shift from piano to alto saxophone. Anderson studied with various teachers, including several he met through the Jazzmobile workshops.

“In 1983, he was heard by Branford Marsalis, who urged him to pursue his studies, this time under Alvin Batiste. Five years later, Anderson joined Wynton Marsalis’ band, touring internationally, with the corresponding gain in reputation and audience awareness that this brought about. Anderson, who also plays soprano and sopranino saxophones, has also worked with Betty Carter, Ted Nash, Marc Cary, Victor Goines and many others. For this concert, he is joined by Seattle’s top sidemen.”

by Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule program

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Eric Barber SOLO

October 1st, 2011

Saxophonist Eric Barber, an innovative saxophonist and composer in the world of jazz, world, and improvised music gave a solo performance last night at the Chapel Performance Space. I was entranced by the sounds he blew and recorded in his black box and then played on top of again and again and twice he played pieces with recorded human voices including his young daughter’s. Beautiful.

Presented by NONSEQUITUR, which supports a wide range of adventurous music and sound art through recordings, performances, and exhibitions since 1989. They currently sponsor the Wayward Music Series in the Chapel Performance Space at the historic Good Shepherd Center in the Wallingford neighborhood.

Complex, emotional, and spontaneous, Eric Barber’s boundless musical energy and creativity have made him a favorite collaborator with master musicians from the United States, India, Iran, and the Balkans. Exploring the full sonic capabilities of his instruments, Barber fuses complex rhythmic structures and multiphonics with a keen ear and compositional sensibility. For this concert Eric will perform acoustic solo saxophone compositions and improvisations, as well as works with electronics. Sonic, metric, rhythmic, and melodic concepts are unified into cohesive pieces that have compositional structure yet allow for deep improvisatory exploration from performance to performance.

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James Moody 1925-2010

December 9th, 2010

International jazz star and acclaimed saxophonist, flutist, composer and band leader James Moody died today in San Diego. Above picture was made at the Earshot Jazz Festival in 2008 when he played with the SJRO and came out on stage with Bill Cosby.

“Mr. Moody died at 1:07 p.m. at the San Diego Hospice, according to his wife, San Diego Realtor Linda McGowan Moody, who was by his side. His death came after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

“He couldn’t have gone more peacefully,” said Mrs. Moody, who on Monday had her husband moved from their San Carlos home to the San Diego Hospice.”

Continue reading at San Diego Union-Tribune

Michael Blake in an Earshot Jazz Festival performance at Cornish Poncho Concert Hall Thursday night with Soren Kjaergaard keyboards. and Godske Lindenov on bass and Ben Perowsky, drums.

Michael Blake’s Nordic ensemble, Blake Tartare, and their tribute to Lucky Thompson, the peripatetic tenor and soprano genius who went from the bands of Don Redman, Billy Eckstine, and Count Basie, to a world without improvising, without playing publicly, after he abandoned playing in the 1970s. It’s a fitting locale for Blake’s tribute, given Thompson’s final days here in Seattle and his death in 2005 after a bout with Alzheimer’s.

Blake Tartare will certainly indulge Thompson’s lyrical side, but they’ve also got a broader view of the tradition, one where the avant-garde and tradition aren’t separate kingdoms; it’s instructive in this light to herald Thompson’s soprano playing, which was more Steve Lacy and John Coltrane, not completely avant but certainly tinged with plenty of post-bop thought patterns even when the horn was barely being dusted off. Blake has a similar ear, a likeminded sense of the tradition, and when it came time to record Thompson’s tunes, Blake added cello and bass clarinet and more, scaling some Thompsonian bop staircases and adding color and depth along the way. Paired with Horvitz as a double-bill, Blake’s Thomson reveries touched that classic nerve center in the annals of experiencing improvisation: mutual discovery simultaneously with the audience.

Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

Tia Fuller tenor saxophonist and flutist, another rising young star who has performed with Ralph Peterson, Jon Faddis, T.S. Monk, Rufus Reid Septet, Nancy Wilson, Sean Jones and Wycliffe Gordon performed at the Triple Door last Sunday opening for Gretchen Parlato.

In addition to her two albums as leader, Healing Space and Pillar of Strength, she is featured extensively on Sean Jones’ four Mack Avenue CDs. A high profile job has been with Beyoncé’s all-female band. Her jazz quartet will perform at The Triple Door.

Also respected as an educator, Ms. Fuller has lectured and taught ensemble and masterclasses at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Stanford University, IAJE Jazz Convention, New Mexico State University, Duquesne University, the Panama Jazz Festival and Purchase College.

Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

Photography by Seattle photographer Michael Craft.

Saxophonist Matana Roberts brought her solo works and a series of ensemble pieces called “COIN COIN” to Seattle last Thursday night at the Chapel Performance Space. “COIN COIN” is inspired by her own research and examination of her family’s African American history over ten generations. At the same time “COIN COIN” has also become a catalyst for collaboration with musicians in cities across the country. Tonight, she tries it out with a select group of Seattle soloists.

Roberts is herself a much-desired collaborator and has worked with artists and ensembles like Greg Tate and his Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Savion Glover’s homage project to John Coltrane, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Julius Hemphill Sextet and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. She has also appeared on recordings with genre-bending bands such as Godspeed You Black Emperor and TV on the Radio. In 2008, she released a critically-acclaimed recording entitled The Chicago Project, produced by pianist Vijay Iyer, and featuring Chicago collaborators like the late Fred Anderson, a founding Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) member. (Roberts is a current AACM member.)

Continue reading at: EarshotJazz Festival

Click here for the complete schedule for the rest of the upcoming shows at the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival

Jazz Photography by Seattle photographer Daniel Sheehan creating portraits for publications and a Seattle Wedding Photographer with a photojournalist style.