THE JAZZ HANG by Katy Bourne
Editor note: Check out the J & J Music Showcase at Jazz Alley this Thursday night.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 31
2033 6th Avenue
J & J Music isn’t just a booking agency. It’s not exactly a production company or a publicity firm. It’s not a record label either. Any of these descriptions would be too limiting. Instead “J & J Music” is a labor of love, formed to get bands working, create cohesion among musicians and to better the music community at large. The “J’s” behind J & J Music are pianist, Josh Rawlings, and trumpeter, Jason Parker. I recently met Josh and Jason over breakfast at Seattle’s B & O Espresso. I found myself sitting across the table from two very bright, articulate artists with loads of energy and lots of big ideas.
Trumpeter Jason Parker
Josh and Jason are working musicians on the Seattle jazz scene. Both are extremely busy players and juggle a multitude of projects. Jason’s band, The Jason Parker Quartet, plays at many venues throughout the northwest and also keeps busy with a heavy casual business. In addition, Jason plays with the funk group, Water Babies, and in duos with many fine Seattle Musicians, including pianist Ty Bailie, guitarists Jamie Baumgart and George Stone, and others. Josh also has a long list of projects, which includes the bands Soul Kata, Industrial Revelation, The Teaching, Water Babies, Pocket Change, the Flora MacGill Band, the Jason Parker Quartet and, of course, the Josh Rawlings Trio. Josh and Jason also perform together as a duo. Although their backgrounds are quite different, their life experiences and passion for jazz led them to each other and ultimately, to J & J Music.
Josh Rawlings had a deep connection to music, even before birth. “My Mom said it felt like I was playing drums in her womb.” He was born in St. Croix, Wisconsin and spent a good part of his childhood in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Around 5 years of age or so, Josh began taking piano lessons from a classical teacher and would study with many teachers over the years. By his own admission, however, Josh wasn’t particularly engaged by the necessities of theory or reading music. He just wanted to improvise, explore and enjoy the music. His greatest inspiration was Billy Joel. “I wanted to be the piano man. I wanted to be Billy Joel”, he recalls, unabashed. When Josh was 14, his family moved to Issaquah, Washington. Here Josh found himself playing piano at church and also singing and playing with his high school jazz choir. This was his first taste of jazz piano, mostly just playing chord changes. After high school, Josh enrolled in the jazz program at Cornish College. Josh’s first year at Cornish was sobering. He realized that he did not know as much about jazz piano as he’d thought. He lacked a firm foundation in “the fundamentals” and his first year at Cornish was spent “trying to keep up.” Josh almost dropped out of the jazz program after the first year. However, the support of fellow students and encouragement from mentor and Cornish faculty member, Randy Halberstadt, kept him going. “Randy is a great jazz pianist. He was doing what I wanted to do. He was very encouraging. Randy replaced Billy Joel.” Josh stuck it out, completed the program and graduated from Cornish. He’s been working as a professional pianist ever since.