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Last night at The Royal Room was a great party with the thriving Northwest collective, and the joy of its fostering the expansive projects of many of the region’s leading voices in adventurous and entertaining music – and doing all of that in a sustained and still-expanding way.

 

For 15 years, the Monktail Creative Music Concern has fueled innovation in Seattle jazz and jazz-related music through its many member bands. It’s time to celebrate a collective of composers, musicians, and artists who live by a simple credo: “Thrive o­n the atypical and exigent; the real weirdo stuff.”

The MCMC was founded in 1990 by John Seman and Mark Ostrowski, two jazz musicians who sought to explore improvisation in jazz and contemporary music. Seman started the organization after he graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and moved to Seattle, soon followed by high school friend Ostrowski, who had studied at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. By 2000, the pair were admitting to having “abducted performers, artists, and other nogoodniks from Seattle’s seedy underbelly” to fuel the Monktail cause. Today Monktail musicians hail from Whidbey Island and Long Island to the UK and beyond.On show are two of Monktail’s many member bands. In the sonic-spelunking noise guerrilla trio Special O.P.S., Bay Area electric guitarist Stephen Parris joins Seattle’s John Seman on contrabass and Mark Ostrowski on drums to engage and skirmish with all elements of timbre, volume, and electrical resistance.

Non Grata is Monktail’s flagship big band. It doses its large-scale free improvisation with cued material, comet chasing the cosmic trails of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, The Mothers, and Globe Unity Orchestra. It features Darian AsplundRobby BeasleyKenny MandellBilly MontoPat HolenGreg CampbellBob ReesMark OstrowskiStephen FandrichDavid MilfordScott AdamsStephen ParrisSimon Henneman, and John Seman.

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Earshot Festival 2015

Seattle- and Brooklyn-based Jessica Lurie is one of the elite artists to come out of the Seattle 1990’s explosion of jazz and improvisational music. An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser, Lurie performs on saxophones, flute, accordion, electronics, and voice. Growing up under the influence of an inquisitive musical household and Seattle’s divergent yet crossover-rich music community, she calls on a wide range of musical influences from around the globe as a composer and performer. Known for “melding lyrical pop, stinging rock, rhythmic Eastern European folk music and improvisation-heavy jazz with a dose of free-wheeling avant-groove-meets-grind” (Dan Oulette), her performances are dynamic, full of high-energy interaction between band members. In fact, 2015 has been a watershed year for Lurie, with multiple European tours with The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet and as a soloist, ongoing development, and groundbreaking performances with the NYC Jewish Afrobeat group Zion80, creative growth with her Ensemble, the founding of improvising funk group Full Fathom Five, and the revitalization of the Living Daylights with Arne Livingston and Dale Fanning.

At this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival, she presents her Instant Light Ensemble. The name of the group and many of her new compositions are inspired by polaroids and memoirs by Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky. Performing with her will be Rene Hart on bass, dynamic improvisor Bill Horist on guitar, and high-octane drummer Tarik Abouzied, with special guest Alex Guy on violin.

Photographs by Michael Craft 

Earshot Festival 2015

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Also on the Sunday night bill with The Westerlies was the genre-defying saxophonist Skerik. Performing with electronics and looping, the Seattle native is a pioneer of a playing style dubbed “saxophonics.” The 2003 Earshot Jazz Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year was an original member of Les Claypool’s Fancy Band and Frog Brigade and a founding member of Critters Buggin and Garage a Trois. Skerik’s current projects include the rhythmically driven Bandalabra with revered Seattle players Andy Coe, Evan Flory-Barnes, and D’Vonne Lewis.

Photographs by Michael Craft 

Earshot Festival 2015

Earshot Festival 2015

On Sunday Earshot Jazz presented the Westerlies, a New York-based brass quartet comprised of four Seattle natives: Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. The players have followed similar musical veins, all products of one of two of the best US high school jazz programs – Garfield and Roosevelt – and further training in New York City at either the Manhattan School of Music or Juilliard.
Last May, The Westerlies released their praised debut album Wish the Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz, a brass reinterpretation of a collection of compositions by Seattle-based composer and mentor to the ensemble, Wayne Horvitz. With an unorthodox instrumentation and exceptional precision, the collaboration of Horvitz’s music and The Westerlies has been called “a perfect fit” (NPR’s Kevin Whitehead) and “one of the very best things released in 2014” (jazz blog Bird Is The Worm).

Photographs by Michael Craft 

Earshot Festival 2015

 

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Saturday night at Cornish was a special event in the 2015 Earshot Jazz festival hosted at Cornish College Poncho Hall. The trombone legend’s many Seattle-area friends paid tribute to his long career, which included spending the years 1979 to 2011 teaching at Cornish College of the Arts. His own quartet will be on hand, as will such friends as fellow trombonist Stuart Dempster, with a trombone choir.

Julian Priester grew up in Chicago, where his skills were apparent early and saw him playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Sonny Stitt. He joined the renowned Sun Ra Arkestra while still in his teens, and then from 1956 toured with Lionel Hampton and Dinah Washington. In New York, he worked in Max Roach’s band, and became a first-call trombone player for session work with many jazz greats, among them John Coltrane (including on the Africa/Brass sessions), Stanley Turrentine, Blue Mitchell, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, and Abbey Lincoln. Starting in the late 1960s, he toured with Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock, and later played with Sun Ra again, as well as Dave Holland, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and Lester Bowie’s New York Organ Ensemble.

In Seattle he has added to his long list of projects and recordings as a leader while also collaborating with a host of area innovators, among them Jerry Granelli, Wayne Horvitz, and Tucker Martine.

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At the Royal Room last night was a very special treat. It was wonderful. A rare, festival-only opportunity to see Marc and Jesse Seales, brothers and leading figures of separate Seattle scenes. Jesse Seales, a blues- and rock-drenched jazzer, takes the stage with distinguished pianist Marc Seales, an inductee into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame.

Jesse Seales, a Bellingham blues- and rock-drenched jazzer and educator, was a founder of Stypes, one of the most notorious bands based out of Tacoma at the time. They worked the circuit for 15 years. As an avid traveler and Francophile, he has lived and studied in France, and expanded his knowledge of non-Western musical forms over the past two decades, further broadening his experience as a recording artist. He joined the pop-rock cover outfit Notorious 253 in May 2014.

Joining him is the celebrated Marc Seales, jazz professor at UW, bandleader, and recent inductee into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame. The force behind the Marc Seales Quartet’s expansive trilogy, American Songs, he has been described as sounding like a pre-funk Herbie Hancock, with hints of Bill Evans. Adding gas to the fire tonight are trumpeter Thomas Marriott, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and LA drummer Moyes Lucas Jr.

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At Tula’s last night and again tonight is Frank Catalano, back by popular demand, the multi-genre, repeat Grammy Award-winning saxophonist excels whether accompanying the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Destiny’s Child, or in straight ahead jazz settings such as his riveting quartet. Frank Catalano Quartet members are: John Roothaan, piano Oliver Horton, bass and Mike Jeffers, drums

Frank Catalano’s new Ropeadope Recording, God’s Gonna Cut You Down, debuted at #2 on the iTunes Jazz sales chart and was the #1 charting Instrumental album upon its release in April 2015. Love Supreme Collectivedebuted at #1 on the iTunes Jazz Charts in July 2014 and is an homage to John Coltrane featuring Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins), Percy Jones (Brand X), Chris Poland (Megadeath), and Adam Benjamin (Kneebody).

Now 37 years old, Catalano is the only known saxman to have performed with Miles Davis, Randy Brecker, Charles Earland, Elvin Jones, Stan Getz, Betty Carter, Von Freeman, Tito Puente, Tony Bennett, Les Claypool, and Louis Bellson, while still in high school. This led to his signing to Delmark Records at age 18 and a string of critically acclaimed recordings. Catalano has been heard by millions of people all over the world thanks in part to three Grammy-winning and 11 Grammy-nominated recordings with artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, and John Legend. He has also performed live on the Oprah Winfrey TV show with singer/composer Seal.

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Last night at the Chapel Performance Space 2015 Earshot Jazz presented the trio of Tomeka Reid, Nicole Mitchell, & Mike Reed

From Chicago come three key figures of the new generation of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians collective: versatile cello experimenter Tomeka Reid, renowned for her playing in many genres; frequent DownBeat poll winner Nicole Mitchell, whose explorations have taken her to a professorship at the UC Davis Integrated Composition Improvisation and Technology program; and drummer Mike Reed, “a center of gravity for music in Chicago (and beyond),” Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich says.

Creative flutist, composer, bandleader, and educator Nicole Mitchell is the founder of Black Earth Ensemble, Black Earth Strings, Ice Crystal, and Sonic Projections. With her contemporary ensembles, from duet to orchestra, Mitchell’s music celebrates African American culture and integrates new ideas with the legacy of jazz, R&B, blues and African percussion. A member of the AACM since 1995, she served as the first woman president of the organization. In recognition of her impact within the Chicago music and arts education communities, she was named “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2006 by the Chicago Tribune. She’s the recipient of the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts (2011) and among the first recipients of the Doris Duke Performing Artists Award (2012). She has been commissioned by Chicago Sinfonietta, International Contemporary Ensemble, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and Maggio Florentino Chamber Orchestra.
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It’s generally a reliable sign that something exceptional is going on when the practitioner of a somewhat non-mainstream style of music (singing in Spanish to boot) begins to attract international attention with a weekly gig at a modest-sized New York City restaurant.

Such is the case with the extraordinary Pedrito Martinez Group, whose legendary residency at Manhattan’s Guantanamera Restaurant has earned the group and its leader wide-eyed praise from titans of rock, jazz, and Latin music alike. Martinez can count among his fans Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks, Rubén Blades, Steve Winwood, Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Steve Gadd, Paquito D’Rivera, and Joe Lovano, to name but a few. Wynton Marsalis himself puts it simply: “Pedrito is a genius.”

Since relocating to New York in 2000, the Cuban-born Martinez has extended and refined his consummate mastery of a wide variety of popular Latin music forms anchored with a deep mastery of Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms. His exceptionally strong tenor voice and dizzying skills on the congas are stretched by an infectious energy and unmistakable joy in the making of music, and he has found the perfect vehicle for his talents with his amazing quartet, which includes Álvaro Benavides providing elastic counterpoint and locked-in groove on electric bass, Jhair Sala (who has played with Martinez since the age of 10) on vocals and percussion, and the band’s newest member, the exceptional pianist Edgar Pantoja-Aleman. The band creates a very big sound, able to seemingly ratchet up to the intensity and drive of a full salsa orchestra, and yet still turn on a dime with the improvisatory flexibility of a small jazz group.

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Seattle’s own Latin music heroes Picoso opened the show last night at Nectar. 2015 had an evening of Latin music opening withPicoso, an ensemble with one foot in the Son Montuno of Eastern Cuba, and one in Seattle’s fertile jazz-groove scene. The group, who recently released their long-awaited Mi Paraiso, Picoso’s third full-length album which demonstrates their maturation as a band and their unique brand of Latin music, at once grown in the Pacific Northwest and rooted in tradition.

 

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