Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom at Cornish College with Myra Melford, piano, Jenny Scheinman, violin and Todd Sickafoose, bass

A wonderful surprise at the fantastic, energetic drummer Allison Miller and her group  Boom Tic Boom which Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented at Cornish last Thurday. Right after the first piece, she introduced Bill Frisell, who came out and performed with the group.  What an unexpected treat. Allison Miller is a stellar jazz drummer. Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom performances, said the LA Times, are “as unpredictable as they are approachable. When not with mainstream artists Natalie Merchant, Ani DiFranco, and most recently, singer Brandi Carlile, fresh and energetic NYC-based drummer Allison Miller sits among a coterie of artists excelling in the NYC downtown and beyond – Steven Bernstein, Ben Allison, Kenny Barron, Erik Friedlander, Mark Helias, Ellery Eskelin, Peter Bernstein, Sheila Jordan, George Garzone, Mike Stern, Rachel Z, Kevin Mahogany, Bruce Barth, Mark Soskin and Harvie S.

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

A co-leader in several bands, including Honey Ear Trio (Steampunk Serenade, Foxhaven Records, 2011) and Eskelin/Deutsch/Miller, featuring Ellery Eskelin on tenor and Erik Deutsch on organ, Miller is fierce at the helm of her own quartet, Boom Tic Boom. The quartet features pianist Myra Melford, violinist Jenny Scheinman and bassist Todd Sickafoose on compositions primarily by Miller and Melford.

Miller’s second album released as a leader, BOOM TIC BOOM (Foxhaven Records, 2010) was named one of the Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2010 by the Los Angeles Times. It pays homage to and is inspired by all of the important women in Miller’s life. “Some of my closest friends are extremely smart and powerful women,” Miller says. “I can’t stress enough the importance of this community. There’ve been several women who’ve really helped me out in my career. I hope that I do the same for other women in the musical community.”

Raised in the Washington DC area, Miller began playing the drums at the age of ten, studying with Walter Salb, and was soon featured in DownBeat magazine’s “Up and Coming” section in 1991. Five years later, she moved to New York City to study with Michael Carvin and Lenny White and to pursue a career as a freelance drummer, composer, producer and teacher. Miller seeks to pass on the tradition of jazz drumming, even with branches into the realms of pop. In 2008, she founded the Walter Salb Memorial Musical Scholarship Foundation in honor of her late teacher and mentor. The foundation awards a promising young musician funds directed toward furthering music studies. Miller is currently on Modern Drummer’s 2011 Pro-panel and holds an adjunct teaching position at Kutztown University. She gives lessons and master classes throughout the United States………Continue reading in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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Hardcoretet

October 31st, 2011

Hardcoretet at Tula’s

For a great treat, I got to hear a tight group last Thursday night at Tula’s. Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented the energetic Seattle quartet Hardcoretet who performed originals drawn from jazz, rock, soul, and improvised music, inspired by fusion supergroups as well as modern jazz outfits like Chris Potter’s Underground and Kneebody. It featured Art Brown (alto sax), Aaron Otheim (keys), Tim Carey (bass), and Tarik Abouzied (drums).

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

With Art Brown on saxophone, Aaron Otheim on keys, Tim Carey on bass, and Tarik Abouzied on drums, Hardcoretet presents original material written by each of its members. Brown, Otheim, Carey and Abouzied have all worked on a variety of projects over the years, encompassing a broad range of genres and sounds. From the free jazz sounds of Speak to the funky rhythms of Pocket Change, each group including members of Hardcoretet has proved to be prolific in the Seattle Jazz scene. Hardcoetet members have performed both nationally and globally, and the band has shared the stage with heavy hitters such as Bill Frisell, Cuong Vu, Mike Stern, John Medeski, Bobby Previte, and Charlie Hunter.

Hardcoretet’s second album, Do It Live, to be released at Tula’s during this year’s festival, further propels Hardcoretet on their way to becoming one of Seattle’s most exciting and unique mixed-genre bands. Their debut album, Experiments in Vibe, released in 2009, started the group on that path with a nomination for Mixed Genre Album of the Year at Seattle’s Lucid I/O Awards.

Influenced by artists from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin, Hardcoretet’s sound is an amalgam of the best aspects of many genres. Combining elements of jazz, rock, soul and improvised music, Hardcoretet’s sound is similar to that of fusion groups like Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. Simultaneously, their modern vibe has been likened to the works of Chris Potter’s Underground and Kneebody. Hardcoretet’s compositions, combined with their vibrant energy, make for a show not to be missed. – Abi Swanson, from the Earshot Jazz Festival schedule program

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Cory Weeds Group

October 28th, 2011

Cory Weeds Group at Tula’s

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented the Vancouver BC saxophonist Cory Weeds has played with B3 master Dr Lonnie Smith, The Night Crawlers, and mellow vocalist Paul Anka while also excelling as a leader. His The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds (2010) featured organist Joey DeFrancesco, and remained in the JazzWeek charts for 10 weeks. Weeds performed at Tula’s with Mike LeDonne, guitarist Oliver Gannon and drummer Jesse Cahill.

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

Entrepreneurial Vancouver saxophonist Cory Weeds is an experienced bandleader, producer, club owner and voice for jazz in the Northwest. His show Chasin the Train aired on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio, 102.7 FM, and he’s been heard on the popular CBC show Hot Air, a radio program covering all eras of jazz. He’s played with B3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, with the Night Crawlers, and mellow vocalist Paul Anka. As a leader, his The Many Deeds of Cory Weeds (2010), featuring organist Joey DeFrancesco, remained in the JazzWeek charts for 10 weeks. Early work in his career with the popular Vancouver band People Playing Music enchanted Weeds to the funkier side of jazz – Maceo Parker, Grant Green, Dr. Lonnie Smith. His January 2008 debut recording as a leader featured New York heavyweights: guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Mike Ledonne and drummer Joe Farnsworth. He’s at Tula’s with Mike LeDonne, guitarist Oliver Gannon and drummer Jesse Cahill.

Cory Weeds’ father introduced him to jazz at a young age, and Weeds played piano for 13 years before making the permanent switch to the alto saxophone in high school. He attended the music program at North Vancouver’s Capilano College for three years before moving to the University of North Texas in Denton on a scholarship. Back home, Weeds concentrated his energies as a performing musician, then branched out.

In 2000, Weeds purchased The Cellar, a restaurant and jazz club in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood, since voted four times in the Top 100 Jazz Clubs Worldwide by DownBeat. With a focus on the promotion of Vancouver and Canadian musicians and as host to the likes of Charles McPherson, Frank Wess, Mulgrew Miller, George Coleman, Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Benny Golson and David Fathead Newman, it’s become an integral part in the advance of jazz in Vancouver and the Northwest.

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Nelda Swiggett’s Stringtet

October 28th, 2011

Nelda Swiggett at The Chapel Performance Space

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented Seattle gem, pianist Nelda Swiggett, who creates what All About Jazz called “refined and confident, open and inviting” music with “a bright palette, a sinewy execution, and a powerful, assertive command” with Chris Symer (bass), Byron Vannoy (drums), Rachel Swerdlow (viola), and Walter Gray (cello).

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

Clumps of notes. That’s how pianist Nelda Swiggett describes musical shapes that are the basis of her compositions. But don’t be misled by the word clump. The notes are not dissonant, grating or random. Her music is precise without being dry, clean without being dull, and light without being fluff. The sound is as clear, direct and crisp as the gaze of her piercing blue eyes. And behind those eyes teems a sharp mind that leaves plenty of air within and around those clumps

Swiggett finds material for composition by improvising at the piano. Her hands strike the keys, she finds pleasing sounds, and figures out harmony and time signature later. But the improvisations do not grow from the blues like much of jazz. Her roots penetrate classical music. “I was a serious classical pianist growing up, and now have my own piano students playing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. I’m rediscovering all that great music as well. It’s all fodder for the imagination. But everything goes through the jazz filter.”

For this performance, Swiggett chose to add viola and cello. “I’ve been fantasizing about writing for strings for some time. Once I imagined strings, that was it. I was sure what I wanted to do. “My son Dylan became good friends with [Seattle Symphony violist] Rachel Swerdlow’s triplet boys in the Washington Middle School concert band years ago. When I set my sights on adding strings, I realized I had wonderful players right in front of my nose.” Swerdlow and Seattle Symphony cellist Walter Gray were enthusiastic about the project. “We’ve been having a great time sharing our different areas of musical expertise. Rachel is nervous but excited to be playing jazz for the first time. They’re showing me what incredible sounds and textures can be pulled out of the cello and viola.”

The rhythm section is anchored by Chris Symer on bass and Byron Vannoy on drums. “Chris and Byron have performed my music with me for several years now. They’re both incredibly musical. Have huge ears. They go wherever I go. Can swing hard, but drop to a whisper. That’s why I play with them.” – Steve Griggs from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

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Clarence Acox leads the Garfield High School Jazz Band at The Triple Door Tuesday

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented the always exciting Garfield jazz band, nationally acclaimed, who performed with special guest, alto saxophonist Wessell Anderson, a veteran of the bands of Wynton Marsalis and a respected leader in his own right.

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

Wessell Anderson’s dedication to jazz education is unwavering. Currently a faculty member in the jazz department at Michigan State University, for over a decade, he served as a mentor to students across the globe as a member of Wynton Marsalis’ globe-trotting Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Over the years, he had many opportunities to meet Clarence Acox and the student musicians who are part of the award-winning Garfield High School Jazz Band during the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition each May in New York.

Although he studied with Alvin Batiste in Louisiana, and his big, vocalized sound and Marsalis association a might lead you to believe he’s from the trumpeter’s and Acox’s home state of Louisiana, Anderson was actually born and raised in New York City. For this concert, though, Anderson will bring his warm sounds to the Emerald City as the featured soloist for this set with the Garfield High School Jazz Band under Acox’s direction. In 2010, the band made history at the Ellington competition, becoming the first band ever to win the national contest four times. Expect a big band set of swinging tunes by legendary composers like Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams.

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Thomas Mapfumo and Blacks Unlimited at Triple Door Monday

Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented The “Lion of Zimbabwe,” Thomas Mapfumo, and his  music that he calls “influenced by the people who are struggling at home. Their voices have been silenced. Someone has got to talk.” His chimurenga – music of struggle – has merged Shona traditions and the West.

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

“Our music speaks for the people. We are influenced by the people who are struggling at home. Their voices have been silenced. Someone has got to talk,” Thomas Mapfumo explains. Widely revered in his homeland as the “Lion of Zimbabwe,” Mapfumo brings the protest music known as chimurenga (which means “revolutionary struggle” in Shona) – which he invented and made popular – to Seattle. His compositions mix traditional Shona mbira (thumb piano) music with Western rock and other modern genres. Even as they decry social injustice, political oppression, the AIDS crisis and domestic violence, Mapfumo’s uplifting, upbeat and danceable songs celebrate the human spirit and speak to the universal need for freedom.
Afropop Worldwide proclaimed that “since his first single in 1974, Mapfumo has shown an unfailing ear for a hook, for reaching his people. His voice, once described as a ‘bass whisper,’ endures, its defiant moral authority transferred gracefully now from a brash youthfulness to the intonations of a serene elder.” Continue reading Earshot Jazz Festival program guide

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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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Jay Thomas / Shunzo Ohno Group

October 27th, 2011

Jay Thomas performed last Saturday and Sunday at Tula’s with the Shunzo Ohno Group as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival 2011. Seattle’s multihorn great collaborated with the searing, stylish, New York-based Japanese trumpet bebopper Shunzo Ohno, a veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and Phil Sparks, bass John Hanson, piano.

Here are some pictures from their performance.

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

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Saturday night was my second time to see and hear a performance of  Evan Flory-Barnes Acknowledgement of a Celebration. Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented it at the Kirkland Performance Center. What a wonderful achievement. As a  reprise of the 2009 Earshot Golden Ear performance of the year, Evan brought back his Earshot- and Meet the Composer-commissioned work for large-ensemble fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and classical music with dancers and break-dancers. I was taken with how much fun he seemed to be having this time. Here are some pictures from the performance. ans some of the words from the Earshot Jazz program guide by Steve Griggs

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

“Evan Flory-Barnes stands six foot three, in suit and tie, in front of a thirty-five member chamber orchestra at Seattle’s Town Hall. He scans the musicians. Left. Right. He rubs his palms together. No baton. He smiles broadly and adjusts his jacket. He glances down at the score. His head tips back. His eyes close. He whispers in a slow tempo, “One, two, three, four …” as he conducts with both hands, fingers gently closed. The count off is more like a jazz ensemble leader starting a familiar ballad than a conductor launching a symphony debut.”

“Violas and cellos sway back and forth in unison between two notes. A celeste chimes like an old fashioned clock. Glissandos rise from a harp. Dense chords drift in from wind instruments. An oboe moans. French horns herald an opening melody. Acknowledgement of a Celebration, a ten movement, fifty-five minute opus commissioned by Meet the Composer, rises into the air.”

“The commission for Celebration requires four public performances. It premiered November 8, 2009, at Town Hall and was restaged in 2010 at Benaroya Hall. Flory-Barnes’ alma mater, Garfield High School, is being considered for the final yet to be scheduled performance. We will let you know when it will be performed next.”

“Celebration combines rhythmic loops, orchestral instrumentation, and melodic improvisation to propel a group of male break dancers and female modern dancers in spontaneous choreography. In the second movement, dancers lie on the ground while an oboe and cello solo over a slow drum pulse and bowed chords. One by one, feet and legs rise, twist slow motion in the air, bodies upended on heads and hands. Another movement matches a break dancer with a modern dancer in a contact version of Brazilian capoeira. Yet another section has side-by-side break dancers hypnotically stepping in unison then breaking into solos.”

“The scale of this work transcends the leadership of a single artist. While Flory-Barnes cultivates a growing reputation as composer, collaborator and catalyst, violist Brianna Atwell handles personnel and logistics for Celebration. Dancer Emma Klein organizes the gravity defying sliding, tumbling and spinning performers. Ryan Price leads the technical direction for the Kirkland performance space.”

“The full title of the piece is Acknowledgment of a Celebration: Inheritance, Authenticity and Healing. Flory-Barnes explains the autobiographic title as the inner process to open one’s heart to life, family and self. This enables a compassionate, loving response to negativity. “My mother provided lessons of unconditional love and my father provided a way to practice those lessons.” Flory-Barnes father, a Vietnam veteran, struggled with substance abuse and died when his son was sixteen. “There were times I wanted to remove ‘Barnes’ from my last name,” he says.”

“Hints of the narrative arc in Celebration can be traced by the movement titles – Please Know This, A Boy’s Dream A Man’s Majesty, Dance of the Girl Obscured, The End of Old Days, Letting Go of What Isn’t Yours to Begin With, Marching Towards the Now, An Alarm Call to Presence, A Hero Driven by His Tears, Requiem for a Love Misunderstood, Return to a Home Unseen.”

“Chances to hear Flory-Barnes in the Pacific Northwest are becoming more precious as his career begins to take flight. Frequently on the road with Meklit Hadero, recent tours took him from Bumbershoot all the way to Kenya and Ethiopia. “Meklit’s music is deep and simple. We can stretch it and grow. She’s like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and Nora Jones – a modern song writer through an Ethiopian filter.” Deep throated, dark and musky vocals croon of flirty love and loss to catchy grooves.” – Steve Griggs Read more in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

Near the end of the  performance,  Evan jumped down from the conductors podium and picked up a standup bass and dove into the music. After handing off the bass he moved stage center and joined in with the dancers.

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Last Thursday night at Tula’s Earshot Jazz Festival presented the Beat Kaestli Group. Very nice evening by a wonderful jazz vocalist. Beat Kaestli is an internationally acclaimed vocalist, songwriter, arranger and producer. Germany’s Jazz Thing eloquently described him this way: “With his unique voice, flowing between a dark timbre and fragile brilliance, he easily joins the ranks of the modern jazz crooners [Harry Connick Jr., Michael Buble, Kurt Elling], but his distinct principle of sparseness sets him apart from the rest.” Kaestli has forged jazz, R&B, gospel, musical theater, and Latin jazz into a personal style based in European song.
See who will be playing this week in upcoming concerts in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

n 1993 he moved from Switzerland to New York, leaving behind a promising singing career in his homeland, and was awarded a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music. While honing his craft alongside noteworthy jazz performers, such as Jane Monheit, Jason Moran and Stefon Harris, he immersed himself in Manhattan’s fiercely competitive music scene, emerging as a seasoned performer. He performs with artists like Esperanza Spalding, Jon Hendricks, Gregoire Maret, Joel Frahm, Billy Drummond, Magos Herrera and Hendrik Meurkens.

n 2005, Kaestli was the chosen vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, thrilling audiences in concert halls across the USA. Since the release of his acclaimed CD Happy, Sad and Satisfied in 2006, he is touring the world extensively with his own projects, showcasing his music in renowned clubs and at festivals across the US, Europe, Mexico, Central America and Canada. In 2007 he earned the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation Scholarship to complete his master’s degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, which was followed by the release of his lauded 2009 European song tribute Far From Home. Last year was highlighted by his major jazz label debut, an eclectic array of American standards, Invitation, on the Chesky label.
– Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

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