Saturday night 2015 Earshot Jazz Festival presented Somi at the Seattle Art Museum in beautiful concert.

An emerging artist with a fresh musical vision and a steadily growing fan base, Somi has been described as having “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves” (JazzTimes). Her band features Liberty Ellman (guitar), Toru Dodo (piano/keyboard), Ben Williams (bass), and Otis Brown III (drums).

Born in Illinois to parents from Rwanda and Uganda, Somi grew up surrounded by a multitude of musical styles. She “combines the sounds of jazz and soul with the musical depth of her African heritage” (SoulTrain.com). This blend of styles creates a new genre she refers to as New African Jazz.

After an 18-month sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria, Somi created the music that makes up her most recent album, The Lagos Music Salon. Released in August 2014, her Sony Music/Okeh debut reached #1 on the US jazz charts. According to her website, the album takes “material from the tropical city’s boastful cosmopolitanism, urgent inspiration, and giant spirit – straddling the worlds of African jazz, soul, and pop with a newfound ease.” It also features contemporary luminaries such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Common, and Angelique Kidjo. New York Times writer Jon Pareles says, “Somi’s songs gracefully fuse African-tinged grooves, supple jazz singing, and compassionate social consciousness; they’re both serious and seductive!”




<a href=Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao opens the 2013 Bellevue Jazz festival at Bake's Place.

The 6th annual  Bellevue Jazz Festival started on Weds May 29th, and I began covering it on Thursday night at Bakes Place. Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao is a six-piece Latin Jazz band that plays a variety of rhythms from Boleros to Timba and Joropo to Danzón. This exhilarating group is comprised of some of the Puget Sound area’s hottest musicians who hail from all over the world.Tumbao is comprised of Carlos Cascante (vocal), Jeff Busch (drums), Julio Jáuregui (piano, musical director), Dean Schmidt (bass) and Pedro Vargas (congas). Known for keeping a firm foundation in Jazz but also exploring the realms of Caribbean and Latin genres, Tumbao keeps audiences moving and living in the music from the first note to the last.

The Bellevue Jazz Festival continues through the weekend. Come tonight and see at Kendrick Scott Oracle, opening by Evan Flory-Barnes at 7:30PM at the  Theatre at Meydenbauer Center.

Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao opens the 2013 Bellevue Jazz festival at Bake's Place.

Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao opens the 2013 Bellevue Jazz festival at Bake's Place.

From Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Arga Bileg performed last night at the Seattle Asian Art Museum as the 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival continues. In a packed sold out concert, Arga Bileg presented an uncanny blend of jazz and Mongolian folk music created with traditional and western musical instruments in a transporting evening complete with piano and horse-head fiddles and zithers and throat singing – Arga Bileg blended old and new on both Mongolian and Western instruments. It makes me want to hop on an airplane and fly off to Mongolia.

Click on the schedule here 2012 Earshot Jazz Festival  continues.

Founded in 2009 by percussionist Gantulga Ganbat, this eleven-piece ensemble – dancers Enkhgerel Dash-Yachil, Odbayar Batsuuri, Bayart Dash-Yachil, Norovbanzad Byambasuren and musicians Davaazorig Altangerel (fiddle), Batzaya Khadhuu (fiddle), Munkhtogtokh Ochirkhuyag (zither), Purevsukh Tyeliman (pianist), Jigjiddorj Nanzaddorj (fiddle), Bayasgalan Terbish (percussion) –combines several years of talent from the group’s award-winning musicians, composers, dancers and choreographers.

Arga Bileg members sit on the National Morin Khuur Ensemble of Mongolia, the country’s prestigious national orchestra, and have performed in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, Beijing’s National Grand Theater and the Vienna Philharmonic. In June 2010, the band released soundtrack to horror film Dev and ethno jazz record Deelt – albums with electronic elements and modern interpretations of folk songs.

Traversing layers of geographic, historic and musical complexity, Arga Bileg brings Mongolia’s contemporary music and choreographed dance all the way from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
– Sarah Thomas