Just came back from a wonderful set of steel music. At the Triple Door tonight, The Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 presented The Campbell Brothers. Pedal-steel guitar ace Chuck Campbell, his lap-steel playing brother Darick, and their sizzling band deliver devoutly rocking Holiness-Pentecostal repertoire with growling, wailing, swinging steel. The group includes another Campbell brother, Phil (electric guitar) and his son Carlton (drums), as well as Katie Jackson’s soul-curing vocals. Phil mentioned that the band that played late into the Saturday night at a honky tonk downtown, had the same musicians showing up in church Sunday morning to play the gospel music with the service. Its all sacred music to them. See who will be playing this week in upcoming concerts in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

The Campbell Brothers’ Sacred Steel is African-American gospel music with electric steel guitar and vocal. This tradition emerged from the House of God Keith Dominion Church, headquartered in Nashville, where for over sixty years it has been an integral part of worship and a vital, if little known, American tradition. As the music moves from sanctuary to concert hall – including the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Symphony Space – secular audiences are now able to appreciate a performance both devout and rocking. Pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell and his lap steel-playing brother Darick are two of the finest in this tradition. Rounding out the band, which has been playing together for nearly two decades, is a high-energy rhythm section featuring brother Phil Campbell on electric guitar and his son Carlton on drums. Katie Jackson’s classic, gutsy gospel vocals bring the ensemble to a level of energy and expression that defies description. The Campbell Brothers present a compelling, rich variety of material from the African-American Pentecostal repertoire with a new twist: the g
rowling, wailing, shouting, singing and swinging voice of the steel guitar, played as you have never heard it played before.

Chuck Campbell began playing the lap steel guitar at the age of 12. At the age of 17, he became one of the first players to utilize the pedal steel guitar in the House of God Church, Keith Dominion. Campbell is renowned for his innovative approach to the instrument both technically and musically. His use of effects such as distortion and wah pedal and his picking techniques enable him to emulate the human voice in an uncanny fashion, which evokes images of gospel moaning and field singing. His inventive blending of many styles, along with his groundbreaking use of complex chords and fast picking, formed the musical style which is the most emulated among young sacred steel players today.

Darick Campbell first made his mark in music as a drummer. For several years, he was the premier drummer of the General Assembly, the National Convocation of the House of God Church, in Nashville, Tennessee. His choice of the lap steel is a reflection of the influences he has blended to become the most emotional player of the Campbell Brothers’ musical tour d’ force.
Phillip Campbell began life as a drummer but quickly proceeded to the instrument which is arguably his most accomplished, the bass guitar. It was on the bass that he began to explore the many genres which form his eclectic musical personality. Phil combines the rhythmic attributes of the guitar with MIDI guitar synthesis to bring a unique stylistic blend.

Drummer Carl Campbell is the heartbeat of the Campbell Brothers. Carl and dad, Phil, form the rhythmic foundation upon which the Campbell Brothers soulful gospel is built. Formally trained in jazz percussion, Carl has been able to assimilate the classic rudiments of drumming with his improvisational upbringing in church to formulate a style which always finds itself in the groove.

The fact that Katie Jackson is a part of the Campbell Brothers is the result of unbelievably good fortune. She just happened to be “available” when the Campbell Brothers asked her to be the vocalist on their critically acclaimed Pass Me Not disc. Indeed Katie Jackson has shared the stage with some of gospel’s most famous singers, including Mahalia Jackson (no relation) and is well renowned throughout the eastern United States for performances she has given in numerous venues.

– Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

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The Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 last Saturday Oct 15th, presented two leaders of East and West coast piano innovation at the University of Washington BRECHEMIN AUDITORIUM. Craig Taborn & Gust Burns debuted a collaborative two pianos project. Both contributing compositions and combining their respective approaches to post-jazz virtuosity and musicality, Taborn and Burns supply a contemporary voice to the tradition of two-piano jazz improvisation. Photos by Seattle photographer Brian Hartman. See who will be playing this week in upcoming concerts in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

Born in Minnesota, Craig Taborn has been performing piano and electronic music in the jazz, improvisational and creative music scenes for 20 years. Jazz Times has called him “[p]erhaps the most influential keyboard sideman of the past 15 years.” He has played and recorded with many luminaries, including Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Tim Berne, Steve Coleman, Carl Craig, Dave Douglas and Rudresh Mahanthappa. Taborn leads the Craig Taborn Trio, Junk Magic, and the Ancients and Moderns ensemble, and is a member of progressive noise/punk band The Gang Font and the instrumental pop group Golden Valley.

Seattle-based pianist and composer Burns continues to develop new routes into improvisation on the piano, working with diverse areas of music, such as silence, density, structure and alternative narrative approaches, extending traditional piano technique, and developing new techniques for inside the piano. He performs on both traditional piano – playing the keyboard – and “inside piano,” or re-assembled and altered piano soundboard and strings, with or without electronics.

He has long-standing collaborations with top improvisers, including Wally Shoup, Jeff Johnson, Tim DuRoche, and many others. He has performed and recorded with Keith Rowe, Radu Malfatti, Andrea Neumann, Tetuzi Akiyama, Stéphane Rives, Jason Kahn, Michael Pisaro, John Edwards, Adam “Doseone” Drucker, Jack Wright, and many others. Burns was also director of the Seattle Improvised Music Festival from 2003-2011 and co-founder of Gallery 1412.
– Danielle Bias from the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

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Trio BraamDejoodeVatcher

October 23rd, 2011

Last Saturday, Oct 15th , at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, one of the great New Dutch Swing outfits, Trio BraamDejoodeVatcher, performed as part of the first week’s lineup of the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival. They are as creatively unpredictable as they are stunning musicians: Michiel Braam (piano), Wilbert de Joode (bass) and American-in-Amsterdam Michael Vatcher (drums). Photos are by Seattle photographer Brian Hartman. See who will be playing this week in upcoming concerts in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule.

While the American jazz world’s focus is understandably within its own shores, the fact is that Europe has produced as much genre-expanding music over the last few decades as the form’s home continent. With an admixture of folk strains and fresh perspectives, European players and composers have constantly refreshed the art form. Nowhere has that been more true than in the Netherlands.

It was no mistake that Eric Dolphy looked, late in his career, to two emerging masters, pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, to bring new growth to his already reimagined jazz. And no two players have had a greater influence on what has since emerged from Amsterdam, which has now long been one of the great hotbeds of musical art.

For ensuring its continued good health for years to come, we can thank the likes of pianist Michiel Braam, double bassist Wilbert de Joode, and drummer Michael Vatcher. Together they comprise one of the freshest small ensembles in jazz. They typify a European simultaneous devotion to the whole tradition of jazz and wariness of tired jazz tropes that continue to underpin so much American jazz product. Their take is at once savvy, experimental, and alert to audiences’ wishes to be both transported and embraced.

All three members of the trio are great, intuitive improvisers, and all three have the chops to make much of the moment by moment eddies that flow among them. BraamDeJoodeVatcher is a collective in the true sense: the three players drive each other forward, and have each other’s backs.

Their cohesion, at once locked in and liberating, stems in part from their long musical association, which dates back to 1990. It was then that the two Dutchmen and Vatcher, an American expatriate, got together to play the music of Thelonious Monk. Soon, they were playing only Michiel Braam’s compositions. Typifying his approach were the 18 miniatures he wrote for Change This Song; they could be played in any order, mood or style. To emphasize the group’s playful approach, Braam created 18 titles that were all anagrams of “change this song.” (In Braam’s untiring quest for fresh sounds and ideas, he later recorded all 18 pieces again, on Hosting Changes, but this time with a Wurlitzer organ backed by a drummer and electric bassist.)

Among tours of Europe, North America, Japan and Indonesia, the three masters ensured the freshness of their sound by such measures as adding a fourth player to each appearance by their 2010 project, Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher Quartet, and they were players of vastly varied styles and histories – Fred Anderson, Paul Dunmall, Taylor Ho Bynum, Mats Gustafsson, Nils Wogram.

Critics greeted the results enthusiastically. In Chicago Reader, Peter Margasak noted: “Braam has no problem reconciling historical impulses with more contemporary gestures, and like fellow Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg, he’s fond of exploding a hard-swinging line with a burst of dissonant clusters and spiky runs; Vatcher and de Joode take similar delight in upending the flow of the tunes. Onstage, any of them might call out a new song in midstream, which gives their concerts thrilling tension – but even if someone manages to pull the rug out from under the others, they always regain their footing, deftly and elegantly.”

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Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 moves on through the first week. Tonight I was blown away at the level and quality of the sound of the Avram Fefer Trio. Wow. Having seen him in Seattle over the past decade or so, I know Michael Bisio plays with a level of intensity but I was not familiar with  Avram Fefer and his trio including Chad Taylor & Michael Bisio. These formidable New Yorkers output raw power. Praised by All About Jazz for his “undeniably spiritual feel for the music,” Avram Fefer took the stage with a formidable trio, featuring drummer Chad Taylor (known for his work with the Chicago Underground) and former Seattle bassist Michael Bisio (of the Matthew Shipp Trio). Fefer has led or co-led bands through ten highly regarded albums. With a distinctive voice on alto, tenor and soprano saxophones, as well as bass clarinet, he brings depth, intelligence and soulfulness to every situation he’s in. Tonight’s concert featured many selections from his latest release, Eliyahu (NotTwo Records, 2011), a fine collection of memorable and infectious compositions, brimming with improvisation and soulful grooves. (See who will be playing next in upcoming concerts in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule)

Fefer was born near San Francisco, but his family eventually settled in the Seattle area. After several years in the hands of inspirational high school jazz band director Leo Dodd, Fefer went on to receive a liberal arts degree at Harvard University and studied music at Berklee College and the New England Conservatory. He then moved to Paris, France (1990-95), where he began his career as a saxophonist, composer, bandleader and teacher. In Paris, he found many new sources of inspiration and growth, including a vibrant African and Arabic music scene and a wealth of American expatriate musicians.

His own bands were featured regularly in many of Paris’ top jazz clubs, and he performed with fellow ex-pats Jack Gregg, Bobby Few, Graham Haynes, Archie Shepp, Kirk Lightsey, Oliver Johnson, John Betsch, Sunny Murray and Rasul Siddik, among others. He is featured on diverse recordings, including by rap originators the Last Poets (Scatterap/Home), and with jazz legend Archie Shepp on drummer Steve McCraven’s Song of the Forest Boogeraboo.

Since moving to New York, Fefer has continued to indulge his passion for a wide variety of music but has particular success with the sax-bass-drum trio format and continues to use this as one of his primary musical vehicles. As a section player and soloist, Fefer has been featured in a number of large ensembles, including Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra, the David Murray Big Band, Butch Morris Orchestra, Joseph Bowie Big Band, Mingus Big Band, Frank Lacy’s Vibe Tribe, and the Rob Reddy Octet. Fefer also has a thriving private teaching practice in downtown Manhattan. – Danielle Bias from Earshot Jazz Program in the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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Earshot Jazz Festival 2011 continues and last night presented the Matt Slocum Trio at Tula’s Jazz Club.  I really enjoyed the performance of Matt and his group. The award-winning New York drummer and the expansive Danny Grissett (piano) and Darek Oles(bass) played in support of After the Storm, an inspired disc of originals, standards, and an arrangement of Ravel’s “Miroirs.” If you missed them last night you have another chance. They will be performing again tonight at Tula’s.(See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule)

The award-winning New York drummer and the expansive Danny Grissett (piano) and Darek Oles (bass) appear in support of After the Storm (2011), Slocum’s inspired recent release.

At 29, Slocum is emerging as a leading jazz artist of his generation. His original works on After the Stormshow a level of compositional depth, recently recognized with composition grants from the American Music Center, the Puffin Foundation, and the Meet the Composer Foundation. Slocum has been featured on more than twenty recordings and has performed or recorded with artists such as Shelly Berg, Seamus Blake, Alan Broadbent, Steve Cardenas, Bill Cunliffe, Taylor Eigsti, Larry Koonse, Lage Lund, Wynton Marsalis, Linda Oh, Alan Pasqua, Jerome Sabbagh, Jaleel Shaw, Walter Smith III, Dayna Stephens, Ben Wendel, Gerald Wiggins, Anthony Wilson and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His jazz trio work has earned a reputation as some of the most modern yet swinging in jazz today.

Slocum was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and began playing the drums, after piano, at age 11. He attended the University of Southern California on a full scholarship, where he met classmates and collaborators Gerald Clayton and Massimo Biolcati. Now in New York, Slocum continues he growth of his artistry on the drums.

Slocum has been frequently noted as a musical drummer. “The man has found his dru mming voice, and at an early age!” Peter Erskine says. While Slocum has a deep understanding of the jazz tradition, his intuitive and interactive musical language on the drums avoids the predictable. He possesses a personal voice on the instrument and is a propulsive, melodic and dynamic accompanist and soloist. And like his band mates, Slocum’s identifiable touch and sound is greatly attuned to needs of the music.
– Compiled by Schraepfer Harvey (See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule)

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Earshot Jazz Festival presented two groups tonight. At the Chapel Perfoming Space was the Rich Halley Trio + 1 putting out some beautiful and satisfying music. See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

“The Portland saxophonist and composer returns with his Tap Rack Bang Trio, featuring four veterans of progressive jazz: Vancouver bass stalwart Clyde Reed, and Oregon drummer Carson Halley, plus acclaimed trombonist Michael Vlatkovich. Described as both “freewheeling and satisfying” by DownBeat magazine, Halley has released more than a dozen critically acclaimed recordings and performs in settings that range from solo improvisations to large group explorations.

Signal to Noise points out that “Halley has a knack for writing open melodic themes full of aggressive swing that provide effective structures for freewheeling exploration. [Drummer Dave] Storrs and Reed are masters at propelling the pieces along with an elastic sense of time, moving back and forth from pulsin
g groove to open freedom with relaxed authority.”

For over two decades, Halley was the leader of the Lizard Brothers sextet; he has also led the Multnomah Rhythm Ensemble, a group that combined new jazz with multi-media. The founder of Oregon’s Creative Music Guild, Halley also appears with the Outside Music Ensemble, a four-horn, two-percussionist group that performs acoustically in outdoor settings. He has performed with Andrew Hill, Bobby Bradford, Vinny Golia, Tony Malaby, Julius Hemphill, Michael Bisio, Oliver Lake, Obo Addy, Rob Blakeslee and Bert Wilson.

Bassist Reed is one of the founders of the NOW Orchestra and has performed with Bradford, Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, George Lewis, Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell, Peter Brotzmann and many leading Canadian musicians. Drummer Halley studied with Bradford at Pomona College and later began playing with his father. He brings contemporary musical sensibilities to the group and has performed with a variety of musicians in jazz and rock groups, including Golia, Shakespeak, The Wayward Trio and Ruby Starfruit.” – Danielle Bias from Earshot Jazz Program. See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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Performing at Tula’s on Friday and Saturday nights last weekend was a new group Human Spirit, playing some wonderful music, as they helped open the first night od Seattle’s anual Earshot Jazz Festival. With 14 albums as leaders, longtime collaborators Thomas Marriott (trumpet), Mark Taylor (sax), and Matt Jorgensen (drums) have been a “three-headed monster” defining the “New West Coast Jazz” of Seattle’s Origin Records. With them are two East Coast stars, pianist Orrin Evans, and bassist Essiet Essiet. Both nights will be recorded for an up-coming release on Origin Records. See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

A seven-time Earshot Jazz Gold Ear Award winner with collaborations with Brian Lynch and Charlie Hunter to his credit, trumpeter Thomas Marriott stands out among today’s cream of the crop. With 14 albums as leaders, longtime collaborators Marriott, Mark Taylor (sax) and Matt Jorgensen (drums) have been a “three-headed monster” defining the “New West Coast Jazz” of Seattle’s Origin Records. With them are two East Coast stars, pianist Orrin Evans, and bassist Essiet Essiet. Both nights will be recorded for an up-coming release on Origin Records.

Marriott adeptly and frequently takes the classic instrumentation of trumpet, saxophone and rhythm section to a new level with his unique blend of energy, beauty and intrigue. His sets often feature explorations of music by well-known composers like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis; each set is equally memorable for his compelling originals. It is this ability to cover a diversity of styles and genres while still maintaining originality that has become Marriott’s calling card.

Marriott received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington; then, after winning the prestigious Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition Award, he moved to New York City and immediately began to play with there. During this time on the East Coast, he completed three world tours with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau Band. He then worked with other artists such as Chico O’Farrell, Les Brown, Joe Locke, Ritchie Cole and Eric Reed. Since returning to Seattle, he has become a driving force in the city’s thriving jazz scene.

Reviewing the studio recording of Human Spirit (Origin), released earlier this year, in All About Jazz, C. Michael Bailey wrote: “Marriott’s trumpet sound is as solid as it is round. Even at high velocity, Marriott holds his notes together, a squeak or squawk being rare or non-existent. But Marriott is not the only principal here: alto saxophonist Mark Taylor, an Origin Arts mainstay, provides saxophone wares that are all over the map, from straight bop to beyond, wailing plaintively on ‘Hiding in Public,’ while hitting a simmer on the minor-key blues ‘Yakima.’ Gary Versace … provides the roux that holds this rich assembly together. Human Spirit works in all quarters, hitting on all cylinders while delivering a bang-up good jazz time.”

See the rest of the Earshot Jazz Festival Schedule

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Endangered Blood at Town Hall

October 17th, 2011

Since meeting in Seattle high schools in the late 80s, Chris Speed (sax) and Jim Black (drums) have deeply affected jazz. Joined here by Oscar Noriega (bass clarinet) and Trevor Dunn (bass), they played a wonderful and engaging set.

Tenor saxophonist Chris Speed and drummer Jim Black met while high-school students in Seattle, left for the East Coast, and have become two highly influential players and composers in New York City’s heady mix of recombinations of jazz.

Their Endangered Blood, originally formed in 2008 for a benefit concert for their ill friend and band mate, saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo, another Seattle transplant to New York, combines the tried and trusted with a dash of the new. Steeped in tradition, their quartet also urges the art form ahead, with the muscle power and hearty stew of imagination necessary to find fresh veins in a genre now well over 100 years in development. That, thanks to the monster bassist Trevor Dunn and alto saxophonist and bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega.

Four players like that, and you have something of a supergroup of avant-jazz that promises “fast, looping, dynamically even and entwining lines, laying bebop over clanky grooves” (NY Times).

Various members of Endangered Blood have fueled the creative fire in bands like Alas No Axis, Human Feel, Yeah No, and Electric Masada, to name just a few core drivers of innovation in New York over the last decade or two.

Speed (Pachora, Claudia Quintet) and Black have worked together in not only their own bands but also in stand-out projects like Uri Caine’s ensembles and Tim Berne’s Bloodcount.

As for Trevor Dunn, he is certainly among the leading bassists of his generation, as attested by his stints with the legendary West Coast avant-rock bands Mr. Bungle and Fantomas, and projects with musical polymath John Zorn and vocal contortionist Mike Patton.

Oscar Noriega’s association with Speed and Black goes back 20 years in New York jazz circles. A measure of his standing has been his longtime collaborations with pianist Satoko Fujii and his recent work with Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, and Tim Berne’s new quartet, Los Totopos.

Together, Endangered Blood explores jazz from its New Orleans roots, through mid-century innovations from the likes of Thelonious Monk, to its beckoning future. Along the way, it slows to pick up some great musical developments from Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

In the New York Times, Ben Ratliff wrote earlier this year that Endangered Blood exemplifies 1990s “new jazz” after it has moved on from “intense polyphony, liturgical melodies, and the clank: drummers playing roughed-up rhythm, rushing time and forestalling your pleasure, vexing you on purpose.” He believes that Endangered Blood has come, instead, to a place that is “less jagged and self-consciously transgressive, more studied and self-possessed. It’s gone deeper into harmony and odd or changing meters; it’s more exact in every way.”

In All About Jazz, Mark Corroto agreed: “Endangered Blood signals a sort of watershed in the evolution of creative music that was once called jazz. The dust has cleared, and what’s left is an idiosyncratic and very entertaining sound.”

In East Bay Express, Neal Clevenger chimed in: “If rangy counterpoint and bracing metric destabilization are the order of the day, Endangered Blood also shows little interest in throwing out the jazz baby with the bath water: Forms, heads, and solos abound.”

“This project deserves attention from jazz fans of every stripe,” wrote Chris Barton of the LA Times.

– Peter Monaghan

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Roosevelt High School Jazz Band

October 17th, 2011

On the opening night of the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival two of the top three bands in this year’s Essentially Ellington competition at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center assure Seattle’s jazz future. Roosevelt & Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Bands Performed. here are some pictures of the Roosevelt band I manages to get. Scott Brown conducts the Roosevelt HS Jazz Band. To see more pictures and to order prints see Roosevelt Web Gallery.


Being selected to participate in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual Essentially Ellington competition in New York is a prestigious honor that has been bestowed upon Seattle-area bands many times in the competition’s 16-year history. This year, 110 schools applied to the competition; 15 were invited to compete, including the Roosevelt and Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Bands. Those two bands were on stage at Town Hall, playing some of the swinging Count Basie tunes that got them second and third place, respectively, in the competition.
The Roosevelt High School Jazz Band remains a titan of big band excellence. They have been to the Essentially Ellington competition 12 of the last 16 years. Praised far and wide for their strong ensemble playing, the band performs under the direction of Scott Brown, a dedicated teacher and accomplished jazz artist. Brown is himself a trombonist with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and recipient of the 2007 KCTS Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education. To see more pictures and to order prints see Roosevelt Web Gallery.

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John Gilbreath, Executive Director of Earshot Jazz, Introduces the Roosevelt HS Jazz Band on the first night of the 2011 Earshot Jazz festival.