Dafnis Prieto performing last year with his Proverb Trio at the Crocodile as presented by the Earshot Jazz Festival 2010

It was announced today that jazz percussionist and composer Dafnis Prieto has been awarded a $500,000 so called “Genius Awards” by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

When the 25 year old Cuban born percussionist Dafnis Prieto’s arrived on the New York scene back in 1999 it sent shock waves throughout the jazz world. His subsequent years of performing, composing and recording have gone a long way toward cementing his place as one of the world’s preeminent percussionists. If fact, many believe he is revolutionizing the art of drumming. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation just might be among those who believe this.

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Here is another overdue photograph from the Earshot Jazz Festival. The Teaching performed at the Triple Door on October 27th. Featuring keyboardist Josh Rawlings, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and and percussionist Jeremy Jones, The Teaching creates immersive and infectious improvised music as no one else in Seattle is making it. The trio formed in 2006, growing exclusively from the chemistry the band discovered on stage. The band’s philosophical trajectory was more clearly defined, as the trio shared the rather grand interest in sharing the teachings of mankind, while also fostering a musical environment of “devotion, surrender, sensitivity, enthusiasm, and joy to direct the flow of the music.”
Musically, The Teaching revels in spontaneity, jumping off in any number of directions (hip-hop, jazz, R&B, soul, Afro-Cuban, drum n’ bass) on a whim, while controlling momentum and pacing with great precision. Josh Rawlings’ sparkling, luscious chords (affectionately dubbed “kraws” by those in the community familiar with the man), Flory-Barnes’ explosive swing and inventive technique, and Jones’ ferocious drumming are the trademark sounds of the band. More recently, spontaneous vocals and devotional chanting have added greater depth to the trio’s sound. It is quite magical when it all comes together, and here the band does indeed create “music that has no limits,” as Rawlings told Earshot Jazz in an interview during the summer of 2009.
Having now released their self-titled debut studio album and a live DVD, and having won the Golden Ear for 2009 NW Acoustic Jazz Group of the Year, The Teaching is poised to reach a larger audience than ever with their celebratory music and their message of community. Effortlessly enjoyable, but not wanting for intelligence.

Photography by Seattle photographer Michael Craft.

With these pictures of Gretchen Parlato I am trying catch up with photos from the now completed Earshot Jazz Festival which ended a week ago. I was quite busy shooting during the festival and still have some pictures that I never had time to upload. They will be all get posted here shortly.

Young vocalist Gretchen Parlato is widely respected and loved by her peers – other musicians – and has received rave reviews for her distinctively original recordings. According to Billboard Magazine: “Parlato’s time has arrived…the most alluring jazz vocal album of 2009.” Her CD In A Dream also “belongs in the 4-5 Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album,” said critic Don Heckman. It was chosen #1 Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year by the Village Voice. Fans, fellow musicians, and the press all seem to be on the same page when it comes to Ms. Parlato’s burgeoning career, poised on the brink of super-stardom as some have stated.
Few improvising singers have her combination of a lovely natural voice, wide range, willingness to take chances, seemingly unlimited imagination in her original songs, wise choice of music written by others, and innate soulfulness less any artifice or posturing.
These numerous talents are evident on her first self-titled CD, the stunning recordings with Lionel Loueke (Virgin Forest from 2007 in particular), collaborations with Helen Sung and Ambrose Akinmusire, and the 2006 performance of “Journey” with Kendrick Scott Oracle from The Source. Parlato has quickly amassed an impressive discography.

Photography by Seattle photographer Michael Craft.

Jack Wright, saxophones, Wilson Shook, alto saxophone, Mark Collins, bass, John Teske, bass, Gust Burns, piano, Doug Theriault, electronics

“In the rarefied, underground world of experimental free improvisation, saxophonist Jack Wright is king,” according to the Washington Post. For more than twenty-five years, Wright has toured practically non-stop and rightfully claims that he has played in virtually every venue available to experimental improvised music in the United States, and many in Europe as well. Wright mostly plays alto and soprano saxophones, but he is a pianist as well. To date, he has made over 40 recordings (many published on his own Spring Garden label), performed in over 20 countries, and written extensively about music and society for journals such as Improjazz (France) and Signal to Noise (US).

Over the years, Wright has focused most of his public performances on collaborative exchanges with artists like William Parker, Bob Marsh, Nate Wooley, Bhob Rainey and Andrew Drury, just to name a very few. For this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival, he presents two shows in collaboration with his preferred collaborator in the Northwest, Seattle’s own Gust Burns, a pianist, improviser, and composer who seeks new routes into improvisation by working with diverse areas of music such as silence, density, structure and alternative narrative approaches.

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

Another really wonderful performance by Thomas Marriott at the Chapel Performance Space on the next to last night of the 2010 Earshot Jazz Festival. What an amazing group of musicians he assembled to play his music from his 6th CD on Origin Records for which this was the release party.

Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop on drums

As Thomas says about this CD “After many successful recording endeavors, this is my first album of all-original music and I am happy to say it is my favorite so far. This album represents my own beliefs and thoughts on music and I am happy to be joined by some of my favorite musicians.”

Hans Teuber on saxophone

Of all the instruments associated with the “Third Stream,” the trumpet always seemed too blaring, with too many immediate blasts and incongruously declarative tendencies. In the era when post-bop melded with the post-classical, the blurring of genres seemed to need instruments that could be blurry overall. Think of Jimmy Giuffre’s clarinet, Gunther Schuller’s French horn, the way a cello can elide what a brass instrument blurts out.

Marc Seales transcendent and incandescent on piano.

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

It was so good to see and hear Gail Pettis again this time at Tula’s as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival on one of its last nights for 2010. She is an amazing singer and performer and wonderful to watch on stage.

“As I experience it, the currency of jazz is emotion,” Gail Pettis explained in a 2005 interview with Earshot Jazz. “That’s what you give and hopefully get back. Many of my song selections are a result of how I feel after listening to a particular song for the first time. Several of the tunes I perform [are] chosen after hearing only an instrumental version and discovering the lyrics much later.”

Pettis is a four-time nominee and 2007 winner of the Earshot Golden Ear Award for “Northwest Vocalist of the Year.” Born in Henderson, Kentucky, Pettis grew up in Gary, Indiana. Her grandfather Arthur Pettis was a blues singer and guitarist who recorded for Victor Records in Memphis in 1928 and for Brunswick in Chicago in 1930. In spite of her musical heritage, Pettis’ road to jazz was indirect. She taught and practiced orthodontics full-time for 15 years, before moving to Seattle in 1996 by way of Memphis.

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Eric Barber and Chris Symer at Cornish’s Poncho Concert Hall as Earshot Jazz Festival presents Ziggurat on the next to last day of the 2010 Festival.

The Ziggurat Quartet’s recent Origin CD Calculated Gestures has received widespread critical acclaim and significant airplay on jazz radio. According to the group’s myspace.com page: “A passion for rhythmic experimentation drives the ensemble’s complex original compositions; many of the pieces are deeply influenced by the rhythms of East Indian music, as well as jazz and contemporary chamber music.”

Bill Anschell on piano at Ziggurat performance.

Despite working in the “standard” jazz quartet format of horn, piano, bass and drums, the ensemble comes up with a vital and visceral approach that sounds sui generis. The repertoire is entirely original compositions by Bill Anschell, Eric Barber and Doug Miller. Pianist Anschell’s knowledge of Carnatic music strongly influences the complex rhythms and patterns in his compositions. Saxophonist Barber also has a deep interest in the music of India, plus that of the Balkans and Hungary; the asymmetrical meters and surging cross-rhythms that result swing in a decidedly unconventional but still infectious manner. Although still dealing with odd meters, Miller’s tunes have a bit more of a traditional focus in terms of singable melodies.

Bryon Vannoy anchored the performance on drums.

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

Drummer Brian Blade brought his Fellowship Band to the EMP for an Earshot Jazz Festival concert. The Fellowship Band is guitarist Jeff Parker, keyboardist Jon Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas, and is front-lined by the twin-horns of Myron Walden (alto saxophone, bass clarinet) and Melvin Butler (tenor saxophone), bassist Chris Thomas.

The Fellowship Band’s beautiful blend of guitar, keyboards and horns is a transcendent sound presenting a unique flow of melody and improvisation. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, percussionist Brian Blade moved to New Orleans to study at Loyola University in 1988. At Loyola Blade was able to study with many of the city’s great educators, including John Vidacovich, Ellis Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, and John Mahoney.  It was at Loyola that Blade also befriended pianist Jon Cowherd and bassist Chris Thomas, with whom he later moved to New York City.
This trio formed the core of Blade’s Fellowship, which soon expanded to feature two reeds, electric guitar, and pedal steel guitar. With Fellowship, Blade released the eclectic Brian Blade Fellowship (1998) and Perceptual (2000) for Blue Note, and though the albums were critically acclaimed, they were not great commercial successes.

Blade’s star continued to rise, however, first in high-profile gigs with Joshua Redman and Kenny Garrett, and later with Wayne Shorter in his new quartet with John Patitucci and Danilo Perez. Blade has also gone to conquer some seemingly unlikely gigs with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Seal, while winning numerous award from major jazz and percussion publications along the way.

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Steve Lehman in concert with his Octet at the Seattle Art Museum on October 29th presented by the Earshot Jazz Festival 2010.

In the year since Steve Lehman made his first Earshot Festival appearance, in a riveting solo performance for sax and electronics, he has confirmed his standing as one of the most exciting and innovative jazz performers, anywhere.

His 2009 octet album Travail, Transformation & Flow has continued to draw rave reviews: four-and-one-half stars from DownBeat; top-10 listing from more than 30 publications around the country; and a New York Times rating as the pop or jazz CD of the year. The Jazz Journalists Association in April recognized Lehman in three categories: composer, alto saxophonist, and recording of the year.

Win acclaim like that, and suddenly the seemingly impossible can happen: a musician can get to go on tour with his octet, generally a prohibitively expensive undertaking. That is what Lehman has been doing. His eight-piece has appeared around the U.S. and Europe. It is scheduled to continue touring well into 2011.
Also since his last Earshot appearance, another of Lehman’s bands, Dual Identity, released its debut, self-titled disc. The band includes other leaders of the New York progressive-jazz scene including Rudresh Mahanthappa.

The same month, the Jack Quartet presented the world premiere of Lehman’s “Nos Revi Nella” for string quartet.

That suggests the Brooklyn-reared saxophonist’s musical range. So do his recordings with his quintet, and with the group Fieldwork (Lehman, pianist Vijay Iyer, and monster drummer Tyshawn Sorey). With Mahanthappa, those players comprise a new breed of charging instrumentalist-composers.

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Tessa Souter performing at Tula’s on October 29th as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

New York-based performer Tessa Souter has been critically acclaimed as much for her expressive style as for her beautiful voice. Born in London, the daughter of English and Trinidadian parents, her unique style infuses jazz with the soul and passion of flamenco, Middle Eastern, and Brazilian music.

Formerly a features journalist for the international press, Souter was cited by San Francisco author Po Bronson, in his best-selling What Should I Do With My Life, as someone who successfully transformed her life twice. After moving from London to San Francisco in the early 90’s, she established herself as a freelance journalist, initially juggling cleaning houses with writing articles on everything from the San Francisco homeless to travel, to celebrity interviews, to her own experience as a teen mother. But, she never let go of her long-held dream to be a singer.

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