Abe Beeson’s Preview: EARSHOT JAZZ FESTIVAL 2015




With nearly six weeks of concerts, you really have no excuse to miss Seattle’s premier jazz festival. Earshot’s 27TH annual jazz fest includes big names like Wayne Shorter, Brad Mehldau, Charles Lloyd, and Hugh Masekela, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to catch world class performers you may not have heard about, as well as the Northwest’s finest jazz musicians in various settings. All this, scattered around the Seattle area in venues ranging from Benaroya Hall to the Elliott Bay Book Company. Really, you can’t go wrong with a single act this year, but here’s a selection of exciting shows I’m circling on my festival program:


Joe_Doria_by_DSheehanThomas Marriott w/McTuff: October 9 & 10 Tula’s


I’ve been a big fan of the groovy organ trio McTuff for years, when the group would often feature the iconoclastic Northwest sax king Skerik (more on him later). Organist Joe Doria has adjusted his group again, now featuring Dan Heck and Byron Vannoy on guitar & drums. Seattle’s trumpet star Thomas Marriott is also a favorite of mine, but I’d never imagined they would join forces. Marriott has shown his musical flexibility in latin jazz (Tumbao), big bands (SRJO), leading his own groups and playing with countless others, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him with an organ trio. This is a terrific opportunity to see top talent in a fresh setting, and to get your groove going two nights in a row!

Check out McTuff in our live Studio Session.

Dawn_Clement_byDSheehanMark Taylor/Dawn Clement Group: October 17 Tula’s


Mark Taylor and Dawn Clement are two of the first musicians you call around Seattle when you need the best on saxophones and piano, and they team up in a new ensemble including local stalwarts Phil Sparks (bass) and Byron Vannoy (drums), also adding Russ Johnson on trumpet. A popular player for years on the New York scene and just relocated to the Midwest, but perhaps a new name for NW audiences, Russ has experience working with Bill Frisell, Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano, with more than 70 credits as a sideman. Expect lots of energy, melody and intelligence from this group.


Westerlies_by-SashaArutyunovaThe Westerlies / Skerik opens solo: October 25 SAM downtown


Proud products of our area’s award winning high school jazz programs, Zubin Hensler & Riley Mulherkar (trumpets) and Willem De Koch (trombone) of Garfield High and Roosevelt grad Andy Clausen (trombone) represent four of the top young jazz players in the crowded jazz hotbed of New York City. Their convention-defying brass quartet is remarkable for blending jazz sensibilities with chamber music and folk styles, and writing compelling melodies that, if they don’t get you whistling, will have you wondering why you don’t hear more 2-trumpet/2-trombone jazz bands. Opening the show with a sure-to-be-explosive solo set is the titanic Seattle sax veteran Skerik, so don’t arrive late!

Jessica-Lurie_courtesy-of-artistJessica Lurie Ensemble: October 25 Tula’s


I’m a sucker for Jessica Lurie’s live shows, whether she’s playing straight ahead sax, middle-eastern clarinet, latin-jazz flute or singing genre-defying vocals. I remember her band Living Daylights adding an exciting jazz element to my Mudhoney-filled college years, and she’s back in Seattle again (from her current home base in NY) to entrall us with her own complex, at times spiritual compositions. She’s leading her INstant Light Quartet including guitarist Bill Horist, bass player Todd Sickafoose and funky drummer Tarik Abouzied, with special guest Alex Guy playing violin and/or viola. Caution: if all of Jessica’s friends from the area plan to be at the show, it’ll be standing room only. Book ahead!

BillFrisell_byPaulMooreSonic Evolution – Sea Symphony Orch. w/Bill Frisell: October 29 Benaroya Hall


Bill Frisell is a jazz guitarist loved by music fans who may not say they like jazz – he plays his own music in his own unique style, evoking the wide-open spaces of the American West and also pushing the limits of his amplifiers and effects pedals into previously undiscovered places. He’s also flexible enough to fit into a wide variety of settings, so this gig with the Seattle Symphony is highly recommended, especially considering they’ll be performing new music by composer Wayne Horvitz (more on Wayne later!). Show up early to catch the Symphony collaborate with the Roosevelt High Jazz Band, and a set of soulful, electronic jazz/r&b vocals from Seattle-native Shaprece.


Jacob_Zimmerman_w1Jacob Zimmerman Sextet: October 30 Tula’s


With early experience in the avant garde working with sax player Roscoe Mitchell, you might think Jacob Zimmerman’s new album would be on the cutting edge of free improvisation. You’d be wrong, but not disappointed. He’s turned his intensity to the early bebop of the 40s on his Recording Ban CD, burning up obscure gems from Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray and Tiny Grimes. His band is young enough to have trouble naming grandparents who remember this music, and yet they bring the youthful passion that elevates this antique songbook to thrilling new heights. Bonus: Katie Jacobsen will be singing, too!

Check out Jacob’s live Studio Session:


SWOJO_1_by_Jim_LevittSWOJO w/Mimi Fox: November 4 Triple Door


The iconic Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra celebrates 15 years of showing the world that young women can have a future in the world of jazz, while giving their long list of past and current players a world-class setting for adventurous big band swing. This show features winners of SWOJO’s composing competition, as well as guitarist Mimi Fox, a winner herself in 6 consecutive Downbeat Magazine critic’s polls. Now that’s my kind of “Ladies Night”. (PS: don’t miss the SWOJO small ensemble live on KPLU October 21st!)


JFJFO-BATTLE-FOR-EARTH-EARSHOT-v1Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey w/Skerik: November 5 & 6 Royal Room


Any band who names themselves with a nod to the satire This Is Spinal Tap (the live “Jazz odyssey” scene is a riot!) is A-OK in my book, and the JFJO’s 20 years of spicing their jazz with modern soul, hip hop, rock and funk has produced dynamic instrumentals that consistently attract younger music fans looking for a new thrill. Quirky, eccentric, abstract and always a lot of fun, the Jazz Odyssey ups the ante at this year’s festival with sax-shredder Skerik.


2014-wilbladesgraffitiBlades/Ciotti/Coe/DJ Logic / Industrial Revelation opens:  November 5 Nectar Lounge


Wade into a sea of hipsters for this all-star lineup in Fremont – moustache wax not required. SF-based Hammond organ champ Wil Blades and drummer Pete Ciotti join forces with Seattle’s groovy guitarist Andy Coe and world-class NY turntablist DJ Logic. For the uninitiated, you might think a band member playing records is incongruous with the world of improvised music, but this fella is a true artist and an entertainer who must be seen & heard to be believed. Seattle’s modern jazz superstars Industrial Revelation open the show, so show up early to hear tunes from their highly anticipated new album Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri.



Ed-ReedEd Reed  & Anton Schwartz play Hartman/Coltrane: November 6 & 7 Tula’s


A “rising star” in his late 70s, Ed Reed has a resume filled with jazz greats like Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray from his formative years in Los Angeles. He’ll join sax man Anton Schwartz for a tribute to one of the great ballads albums in jazz history, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. This collection of songs from Strayhorn, Berlin, Rodgers & Hart et al is just about guaranteed to satisfy, and in the hands (and lungs) of these two, it will be a romantic evening to remember.

Check out Anton Schwartz’s latest Studio Session:



Anat-Cohen_byBillWestmorelandAnat Cohen Quartet: November 10 PONCHO Concert Hall, Cornish College


Several fingers have been crossed in our hopes to bring Anat Cohen to the KPLU studios for a live performance, and I expect plenty of my co-workers will be at Cornish for this concert. New York-based and Israeli-born, but fluent in international styles ranging from Cuban to Brazilian, Argentine to classical and all the way to New Orleans, Anat Cohen is one of the world’s most sought-after clarinet players. She’ll be sharing her knowledge at a master class earlier in the day, open to the public and welcoming musicians and non-musicians. Her most recent visit was as a guest with the SRJO, here’s a chance to catch her renowned quartet!



Wayne-Horvitz_by_Hayley_YoungWayne Horvitz @ 60: November 12 Royal Room


One of Seattle’s most famous musical imports, Wayne Horvitz became the area’s biggest name in modern jazz when he arrived from New York in the late 80s. From free jazz to funk, gospel, country, film music and bop, Horvitz has been a driving force in the development of top notch improvisers in our area. Perhaps despite, maybe because of his diverse musical catalog, he always sounds like Wayne Horvitz. This concert is a chance to hear 3 different aspects: solo piano with electronics, piano & synth with bass & drums in his Snowghost trio, and his new sextet adding a trumpet and two saxophones. It’s a heaping helping of Wayne! Don’t miss his other shows at this year’s festival, and wish him a happy 60th birthday!


Brad-Mehldau-Trio_courtesy-IMNBrad Mehldau Trio: November 13 Town Hall


Lyrical, yet complex, pianist Brad Mehldau has been favorably compared to Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans since his career began in earnest about 25 years ago. These days, his name is the one young pianists want to hear when critics talk about them. His current trio includes Larry Grenadier on bass, a musical partner since the mid-90s, and drummer Jeff Ballard, with Brad for “only” 10 years; the time has paid increasing dividends. More than three top musicians, this is a solid trio with six arms (and feet) working as one. Bonus? I’ll be there to introduce the show!



sara-gazarek-courtesySara Gazarek w/New West Guitar Group: November 16 Triple Door


I first met the New West Guitar Group (Perry Smith, John Storie, Will Brahm) when they performed live in the KPLU studios in February, and they knocked my socks off. Passing lead and rhythm parts between them like jugglers at Folk Life, playing with melodies from jazz, classical, folk and pop music, and blending acoustic and electric elements of their instruments, they make the difficult seem commonplace. They were excited to tell me about their latest project, adding singers to their mix, and I wasn’t sure they could pull it off. However, singer (and Seattle native) Sara Gazarek is the perfect match. Strong enough to hold her own with the NWGG’s complex guitar blends, and smart enough to settle into the band as a fourth member. This is fresh music with a comforting, folksy familiarity.

Check out the Sara Gazarek live Studio Session:

Check out the New West Guitar Group live Studio Session:

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