Travis Shook Trio

November 1st, 2011

Travis Shook Trio at Tula’s

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented the Travis Shook Trio at Tula’s last Friday and Saturday nights. this was one of my favorite performances of the festival so far. Travis with Matt Jorgensen (drums) and Essiet Essiet (bass) played some really cool sounding jazz from some standards, to Beetles tunes to his own compositions. Travis – a former Seattleite who was Earshot Golden Ear Award winner for best emerging jazz artist in 1992 and 1993 – gained early notoriety with drum legend Tony Williams, vocalist Betty Carter, and his own brilliant trio releases. Check out the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule to see what’s next in the last week of the 2011 Festival lineup.

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A former Sony/Columbia recording artist, Travis Shook has been called a “man of mystery” by JazzTimes, “pianist-in-exile” by Time Out New York, and he has been highly praised by the likes of Tony Williams and Ahmad Jamal. Shook’s playing demonstrates an unusually wide scope of feeling from the simple to the complex, the conventional to the unconventional, and from the softest, most lush ballads, to the fiercest, hard-driving jazz.

Born in Orville, California, on March 10, 1969, Shook (who began studying the piano at the age of 7) moved to Olympia, Washington, with his parents when he was 10 and spent his adolescent years in the Pacific Northwest. At 18, Shook moved to New Jersey to attend William Paterson College, graduating in 1990 with a BA in jazz performance. He then returned to Washington State and spent three years in the band of veteran bassist Buddy Catlett (famous for his work with Count Basie and Louis Armstrong, among others). In 1993 – the year Shook moved to New York City – Columbia released his self-titled debut album, which boasted the late Tony Williams on drums, Bunky Green on alto sax and Ira Coleman on bass. (But Shook’s association with Columbia turned out to be short-lived. When Columbia’s jazz department went through a major regime change, Shook was dropped from the label along with Horace Silver, Joey DeFrancesco and many others.)

Then in 1994, jazz vocal innovator Betty Carter hired Shook as her pianist, and he ended up touring Europe extensively with her. The future looked promising for Shook, but not long after that European tour concluded, he entered a very dark period of his life and struggled with addiction for a few years, reaching sobriety in the late 1990s with the help of his wife, jazz vocalist Veronica Nunn. In 1999, he and Nunn started their own company, Full Gallop Entertainment, which includes his label, Dead Horse Records. They have released a trilogy of albums on Dead Horse: Nunn’s debut album, American Lullaby; Shook’s second album, Awake; and his third album, Travis Shook Plays Kurt Weill.

Reggie Workman, Eddie Harris, Joe Lovano, Toots Thielemans, Rufus Reid, Chuck Israels, Ernestine Anderson, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson and Clifford Jordan are among the many jazz greats Shook has played with along the way. He maintains a busy performance schedule in New York, and Earshot Jazz is pleased to welcome him back to Seattle for tonight’s concert. – Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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