It sure was hard to pick just five, but here are the best live KPLU studio sessions of the year.
This was the year for long-percolating Seattle jazz band Industrial Revelation. Nearly a decade after their first rehearsal together, Industrial Revelation was packing clubs full of young music fans, solidifying a sound blending modern soul and hip hop with progressive, improvisational jazz.
Terrific tunes and compelling arrangements highlighted each member of the quartet, and they hooked our studio audience immediately with their energy and talent. Just a few weeks later, they won the Stranger’s prestigious “Genius Award”. Their studio session was ample evidence that they earned it.
He doesn’t impress you as a titan of the saxophone when he enters the room, but by the end of his live studio session there was no doubt we’d witnessed one of the finest on his instrument.
Ernie is probably best known from his collaborations with the Charlie Haden Quartet West, but he also told us about playing with pop groups like the Rolling Stones and Marvin Gaye. Ernie grew up thinking that John Coltrane was what jazz sounded like, and he’s making world class jazz worthy of that legacy today.
Last year, we were honored by a visit from young singer Gregory Porter, who’s just released album would go on to win him the Grammy Award for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year. One of his fellow nominees was an even younger talent, Cécile McLorin Salvant.
A songwriter who’s just as interested in reviving forgotten songs of a century ago, Cécile sang an intimate set in our studios with just pianist Aaron Diehl to accompany her. She told us about her discovery of jazz while studying classical voice in France, and her attraction to discovering great songs from the long history of jazz.
Four of the finest musicians on the cutting edge of jazz for the past couple decades have teamed up to play their versions of number one hits, and they take no prisoners.
Budding legends Charlie Hunter (guitar), Steven Bernstein (trumpet), Skerik (sax) and Bobby Previte (drums) took on tunes that have been overplayed to the point of annoyance and transformed them into fresh, thoroughly exciting adventures in melody and rhythm. I could watch a solo concert from any of these cats, and together it was a magical afternoon.
Masters of the groove from different generations, guitarist John Scofield and the trio Medeski, Martin & Wood (John, Billy, Chris: piano, drums, bass) got together for a third album this year and performed three smashing new songs in the KPLU studios months before the album’s official release.
Collaborating on and off since the mid-’90s, they easily found common ground in a driving but lazy rhythm. Chris Wood explained their tight, groovy teaming best when he answered my question if they ever have trouble finding “the groove” – “Nope.”
What was your favorite studio session of the year? Tell us in the comments below.