Featured Jazz Performances for May

Rather than follow the usual chronological order by date for this month’s features, I’m going to begin with two major annual jazz events- the 17th Annual Ballard Jazz Festival, and Thomas Marriott’s annual Miles Davis Birthday Celebration at Tula’s. Each year, these events provide some of the most memorable performances of the year. The rest of the month’s featured performances follow. Whatever events you choose to support, we invite you to try something new as always, and to support the music in terms of performances, venues that lend their support, and recordings generated by the many world class jazz performers we are fortunate to have in our community.

The 17th Annual Ballard Jazz Festival- May 29- June 1/ Ballard

Celebration of the Drum- Wed May 29, 8 PM/ Conor Byrne Pub

Each year the festival opens with bands fronted by drummers. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the festival’s founders are drummers themselves! This year features three of the area’s finest, beginning with D’Vonne Lewis’ Limited Edition. Lewis is a whirlwind, and seems to be everywhere on the Seattle scene. He has won a Stranger Genius award with his former band, Industrial Revelation, and two Earshot Golden Ear Awards for best instrumentalist in 2013 and 2018. He has contributed to ensembles led by Marina Albero, Bill Anschell, Marc Seales, and Johnaye Kendrick to name but a few. Seattle musician Steve Korn is a drummer’s drummer, always paying close attention to musical content and quality. His versatility has made him a favorite among Seattle jazz musicians. Audiences across the United States and Europe have celebrated his work, hearing him on several tours and recordings. Korn’s three recordings for Origin Records reflect his flair for inspired composition and world class musicianship. Drummer/percussionist Jeff Busch has traveled the world studying rhythm and acquiring indigenous instruments, applying his knowledge and talents to a variety of ensembles around Seattle including the internationally renowned Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto. He has the unique ability to apply global concepts to all forms of jazz expressionism.

The Guitar Summit- Thu May 30, 8 PM/ Conor Byrne Pub

This annual performance features bands led by guitarists, this year featuring two guitar virtuosos from polar opposite ends of the jazz spectrum. John Stowell first gained recognition for his 7 year association with David Friesen that resulted in 6 albums and numerous international tours. On this evening, he teams up with drummer John Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson, a trio that has recorded 5 albums for Origin as Scenes. The music is intuitive, with all three musicians contributing conversationally on equal terms. The vibe of the evening takes a sharp turn in terms of intensity when guitarist Kathy Moore takes the Conor Byrne stage with her band PIMP. With bassist Jeremy Lightfoot, and drummer Ruby Dunphy in tow, the music will reflect Moore’s wide variety of influences from rock, to jazz, to funk and country. Moore has performed with the likes of Mike McCready, Crystal Beth and the Boom Boom Band, Shawn Smith, Wayne Horvitz, and Stone Gossard. This performance will surely be a riveting fusion of musical influences.

BJF Mainstage Concert- Ernie Watts with New Stories/ Lage Lund Trio- Fri May 31, 8 PM/ Nordic Museum Auditorium

One of the greatest living saxophonists, two time Grammy winner Ernie Watts is one of the most prolific saxophonists in jazz history. He has been featured on over 500 recordings including those of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, Frank Zappa, and Cannonball Adderly. Watts will be performing with the Seattle trio New Stories, with whom he has an extensive performance and recording relationship. The album Speakin’ Out (Origin, 1999) is a true classic, exemplifying the marvelous chemistry between Watts and the trio. New Stories, featuring pianist Marc Seales, bassist Doug Miller, and drummer John Bishop, has a recording legacy on their own as well, with 5 albums to their credit on Origin Records.

Guitarist Lage Lund comes to Ballard from Norway by way of New York City, and is one of the great guitarists of his generation. His new album Terrible Animals (Criss-Cross, 2019) is gaining tremendous critical acclaim. Performing an array of original compositions and original interpretations of standards, Lund displays an astounding harmonic sophistication mixed with an intuitive approach to melodic improvisation. Lund will perform in trio with drummer Matt Jorgensen, and bassist Michael Glynn, a seemingly perfect fit. The trio will as well perform the following day at the Ballard Jazz Walk. Lund is a vital contributor to ensembles led by Maria Schneider, David Sanchez, Seamus Blake, and many more.

The Ballard Jazz Walk- Sat Jun 1, 6 PM/ 10 Venues Downtown Ballard

The Ballard Jazz Walk is in many ways the heart and creative soul of the Ballard Jazz Festival. After all, the now four day festival began as a jazz walk in 2001, as a one evening affair.

Resident Seattle jazz musicians mingle with visiting players from around the globe and jazz fans alike, creating a Bourbon St. vibe in celebration of the rich and vibrant jazz culture in our city. It upholds a sense of community, and enables jazz enthusiasts to experience the artists that perform in Seattle year round in one place, on one special evening.

The Ballard Jazz Walk features performances in 10 venues up and down Ballard Ave, and Market St. in historic Ballard. This year’s edition includes several new venues, including The Cathedral event space that now serves as the collective center of the walk. There you can buy tickets, pick up will call, explore festival merchandise, and enjoy live music. The venues on the walk will collectively be closer together, enabling festival goers to more easily transition from place to place. More importantly, it creates the vibe one has become accustomed to over the now 17 year history of the event.

Downstairs at The Cathedral, features check- in, tickets and merchandise, with a hip performance space upstairs. You can gather in front of the stage, or chill in the bar area that features a large window view onto Ballard Avenue. Riding the wave of her 2018 release Flying, vocal artist Johnaye Kendrick teams up with pianist Dawn Clement, for alternating sets featuring bassist Chris Symer, and drummer Byron Vannoy.                          Clement is as well enjoying critical acclaim for her new release of duo performances, Tandem (Origin, 2018).

Alternating sets with Kendrick and Clement will be the eclectic Nu Trio. This trio reunites long time musical collaborators Nathan Breedlove (trumpet), Phil Sparks (bass), and Brian Kirk (drums). Breedlove, who has a storied history on the New York loft scene, as well as with the legendary Ska band The Skatalites, has returned to his old form after a 15 year hiatus. The veterans Sparks and Kirk create a loose fitting harmonic canvas for Breedlove to color with his full, rich tonality, and abstract, angular passages.

Directly across Market St. from The Cathedral, we welcome Ballard Station to the BJF family. This cozy space with a real community vibe will display aptly the diverse array of sounds one will hear journeying from venue to venue. A trio featuring acoustic guitarist Istvan Rez, uber electric bassist Farko Dosumov, and percussionist Anil Prasad will explore the outer limits of variable forms centering around the flamenco music of southern Spain. Both Rez and Dosumov lend jazz improvisational intuition, while channeling sounds prominently attributable to artists such as Paco de Lucia, and Tomatito. Prasad’s main focus is on tablas, drums that originated from the Indian subcontinent. His work creates a mystic ambience that reflects the roots of the Gitano culture in southern Spain that traces its history back to India, and Eastern Europe.

Proceeding south on Ballard Ave. from The Cathedral, festival goers will first encounter another newcomer to the Jazz Walk, Skal, a traditional Viking beer and mead hall that recently opened its doors for business in March. The new venue truly carries the character of the Nordic community that originally settled the Ballard neighborhood. Saxophonist Brent Jensen will christen the new space with his original take on modern jazz, featuring a top shelf quartet. Drummer Stefan Schatz is fresh off a stint with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Guitarist Dave Peterson is a Seattle jazz  legend. Veteran bassist Michael Barnett is the pro’s pro, with performance and recording credits that include a long time association with Peter Nero.

Crossing Ballard Ave, on to the east side, we welcome once again our friends at Landmark, a senior community that has lent great support to the festival in recent years. It is wonderful to welcome Landmark residents and the public at large to this beautiful, comfortable space. The artful vocalist Gail Pettis will perform with pianist Tony Foster and his trio, bringing her original interpretations of jazz standards. Pettis’ style is deeply rooted in the blues, expressed eloquently on her two albums on OA2 Records, May I Come In, and Here In the Moment.

Kula Movement is yet another new venue on the walk this year, a beautiful room open to all ages, perfect for a quiet respite from the vibrant vibe in the clubs. This room is all about listening, and will feature an all-star quartet featuring some of the city’s finest international jazz artists. Trumpeter Thomas Marriott is the author of 11 albums on Origin Records, including his latest, Romance Language (Origin, 2019). Tenor saxophonist Rick Mandyck is a Seattle treasure, now two years into his comeback after a hiatus of 14 years. Bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop are long time musical collaborators, including their participation in the eclectic trios of pianists Hal Galper and Chano Dominguez. In this chord-less quartet, they provide a polyrhythmic foundation for the melodic improvisation expressed by Marriott and Mandyck. They as well are skilled soloists, making this convergence of musical spirits a special place to be.

The Ballard Eagles Club houses two event venues, upstairs and downstairs. While these stages are in the same building, they reside in different musical galaxies. Downstairs, Seattle jazz legend Jay Thomas performs music from his new release, I Always Knew (Origin, 2018). Thomas will perform with the Oliver Groenewald Newnet, featuring Groenewald’s lush arrangements. Thomas is the featured soloist on both saxophone and trumpet, and seems to be producing his finest work at this stage of a career that spans half a century.

Upstairs is occupied by Table & Chairs, a Seattle based organization devoted to the creation of new music. They focus on music, and experiences outside of mainstream distribution. A visit to this venue enriches the Jazz Walk experience, as one can experience jazz expressionism on a completely different wavelength. Broaden your perspective on what “jazz is” in this adventuresome environment.

Up on Market St., Egan’s Ballard Jam House has for more than a decade provided a space for a plethora of jazz events ranging from world class jazz adventurers, to student showcases. In the true spirit of community, pianists Brittany Anjou, and Overton Berry alternate sets that cross three generations. In essence, the venue demonstrates why jazz is indifferent to age and all aspects of the human condition that inspire separation of spirit.

Berry is a Northwest jazz icon, and the last remaining active musician who frequented the integrated Jackson St. scene in the 1950’s. He was music director for much of the entertainment at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, and has since performed regularly in  the area. He is living, walking history of the remarkable timeline of jazz music in Seattle.

Anjou, who hails from Seattle, is a Brooklyn based pianist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who has shared a stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry and Elysian Fields. Her jazz perceptions incorporate her interest in many experimental forms. Riding the wave of her well received new release Enamiĝo Reciprokataj (Origin, 2019), she will perform in trio with innovative bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and Portland based drummer Todd Bishop.

Walking south along Ballard Ave., festival goers will encounter two venues that have been huge supporters of the Ballard Jazz Festival over the years. The historic Conor Byrne Pub operated from 1905- 1992 as the Owl Cafe, or Owl Saloon. It has a colorful history of music performances, and has been the mainstay of the Jazz Walk and the two opening events at the festival- Celebration of the Drum, and the Guitar Summit. Bad Albert’s has been an enthusiastic supporter of the festival as a venue, and this year, represents the southernmost reach of the Jazz Walk along Ballard Ave.

One of the festival’s honored guests, Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund will perform at Conor Byrne in trio with Seattle stalwarts Matt Jorgensen (drums), and Michael Glynn (bass). After a series of three releases featuring bassist Ben Street and drummer Bill Stewart, 2019 has seen the release of Terrible Animals (Criss-Cross, 2019). It represents the most compositionally ambitious and daringly performed work to date for Lund on Criss-Cross. Jorgensen is a noted composer and recording artist himself, including the brilliant release Tattooed By Passion (Origin, 2010). Glynn’s virtuosic talents have been applied to many projects locally and abroad, and is a first call musician in Seattle.

Drummer/composer Xavier Lecouturier, and pianist/composer/arranger Dylan Hayes represent the finest of a new generation of jazz artists gaining prominence on the Seattle scene. They will bring their DX-Tet to the Conor Byrne stage featuring saxophonists Santosh Sharma and Willie Bays. Seattle’s Ben Feldman returns from New York to handle the bass duties. This quintet reflects the amazing talent rising from a new generation of jazz musicians in Seattle.

Vocal artist Jacqueline Tabor recently won a Golden Ear Award through Earshot Jazz as “Jazz Vocalist of the Year.” Her blues drenched, soulful approach should work well at Bad Albert’s. Tabor will be joined by ace guitarist Cole Schuster, bassist Geoff Harper, and drummer Max Holmberg. Tabor as well has a new release to her credit entitled, The Lady in the Gown (Self Produced, 2018). A regular voice on the Seattle jazz scene, Tabor’s performances at venues such as Tula’s are top notch. 2019 represents her debut at the festival.

While the Ballard Jazz Walk year to year always features world-class artists, and a wide variety of jazz forms, the 17th edition brings new promise. The venues are closer together, and dedicated to the music. The special event atmosphere so vital and evident over the years continues. The vibe is back!http://ballardjazzfestival.com/index.php

Miles Davis Birthday Celebration with Thomas Marriott, Orrin Evans, Eric Revis, Kassa Overall & Rick Mandyck- Fri & Sat May 24, 25, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Each year Seattle based trumpeter Thomas Marriott finds a new and original way to express the music of Miles Davis in celebration. This year’s edition promises to be the best ever, with a superb cast of participants. Pianist Orrin Evans is a friend of the Seattle scene, and arrives on quite a roll. The past year has seen him taking over the piano chair in the uber jazz trio, the Bad Plus, as well as receive a Grammy nomination for his album Presence (Smoke Sessions, 2018) with his Captain Black Big Band. Bassist Eric Revis is a known quantity to most jazz fans as the long-time bassist for the Branford Marsalis Quartet. His innovative solo work is best on display on his three most recent recordings In Memory of Things Unseen, Crowded Solitudes, and Sing Me Some Cry. These albums display Revis’ willingness to explore the farthest reaches of the jazz universe, utilizing the bass as a lead voice. Drummer/ composer Kassa Overall is riding the wave of his debut release, Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz. The New York Times stated, “Kassa Overall’s new album…attests to the diverse musical identity of this drummer, producer and rapper. It’s one of the few genuine-sounding, full-scope amalgams of contemporary hip-hop and jazz to surface in recent years.” Seattle-born, and New York-based, Overall has taken a musical duality from his youth and created an original fusion of his life-long creative pursuits. “I’d make beats and write raps and hang out with friends in my basement, then take jazz lessons and drums,” he says. “It was two very separate worlds.”  His jazz identity led him to studies with luminaries such as Billy Hart. The results one suspects, are just scratching the surface of what is to come.

The Miles Davis Birthday Celebration was created by Seattle trumpet ace Thomas Marriott. His latest release Romance Language (Origin, 2018) is his eleventh as a leader. Marriott has created an international resume of recording and performance credits, and has served as a lead voice on the Seattle jazz scene. His fluid trumpet style, exquisite tone, and stunning facility places him among the finest players of the genre. Saxophonist Rick Mandyck has been on the comeback trail the past 2 years, after health issues prompted a hiatus from the saxophone for 14 years. Simply one of the finest and most influential of Seattle practitioners of the instrument, Mandyck forges his way through a set of changes with a dynamic arc of innovative melodicism. Hearing him play alongside Evans and Revis will be something to behold.

Attending one or both of these performances is  an absolute MUST for Seattle jazz fans. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Rex Gregory Quartet- Thu May 2, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Saxophonist Rex Gregory is one of many New Orleans musicians to leave The Big Easy since Katrina. Seattle is the fortunate recipient of his move, and in his year and a half here, he has made a significant mark on the scene. Gregory has a composer’s mind when soloing, seemingly creating melody after melody, with a large, yet subtle voice. His new working quartet features pianist Bill Anschell,  bassist Paul Gabrielson, and Xavier Lecouturier on drums. A fine way to spend a Thursday evening in Belltown with four of the city’s finest.  http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto- Fri May 3, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

I feature this Tula’s performance each month without fail, and for good reason. Jovino’s long time quintet blends Brazilian and jazz sensibility, delivered with his original compositions and those of his mentor, the legendary Hermeto Pascoal. The band features first call bassist Chuck Deardorf, vibraphonist Ben Thomas, drummer Mark Ivester, and percussionist  Jeff Busch. Listeners walk away from their performances with an elevated heartbeat and upbeat feeling. In terms of composition and execution, there is not a finer ensemble in town. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Bill Anschell Quartet- Sat May 4, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Dubbed the “Rumbler Quartet” after Anschell’s album of the same name, this quartet interprets the the composition of the veteran pianist in a unique and original way. Guitarist Brian Monroney is a veteran of the road with such artists as Tom Jones. Bassist Chris Symer is a fine, precise player with a broad sense of musicality. Drummer Brad Boal has a way of expressing himself completely without ever getting in the way. This band brings out a special quality in Anschell, one of the truly transcendent musicians in Seattle’s historic jazz legacy. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet- Tue May 7, 6:30 PM/ Triple Door

One of the great pianists of the modern era, Palmieri effectively blends the music of his Puerto Rican heritage with jazz pianists such as Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner. There is no finer way to acquaint oneself with Latin jazz than to attend a Palmieri performance. Luques Curtis will be on bass, reason enough to attend!http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Tim Kennedy Trio with Tarik Abouzied and Paul Gabrielson- Tue May 7, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Tim Kennedy is underappreciated. Unequivocally underappreciated. His approach as a jazz pianist is an amalgam of all the greats that preceded his stay in the genre, yet his own personality comes through loud and clear in his playing. In the trio format, his voice is most easily heard. On this evening, he convenes a trio with drummer Tarik Abouzied and bassist Paul Gabrielson, an eclectic collection of musical adventurers. To be frank, Kennedy’s Tula’s residency of which this performance is a part, has not been supported well in terms of attendance, and that is a shame. His performances are always at the top of the heap each month, brilliantly conceived and executed in a transformative light. You owe it to yourself to support this event and the marvelous artists Kennedy brings in each month.  http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Earshot Presents The Art of Jazz with LaVon Hardison- Thu May 9, 5:30 Pm/ Seattle Art Museum

Earshot presents its monthly convergence of music and art, this month featuring vocalist LaVon Hardison. Hardison’s art is strongly influenced by the blues, and accentuated by her time performing in musical theatre. The latter is evident in the audience, as it feels as though she is singing directly to each audience member. Singers of her quality are a rarity on the Seattle jazz scene. Hardison approaches the standard set by Ernestine Anderson, Greta Matassa, and Johnaye Kendrick, though she doesn’t perform all that often. This is a great way to introduce yourself to her talents. https://www.earshot.org/event/art-of-jazz-lavon-hardison/

Richard Cole Quartet with Chuck Deardorf, Bill Anschell, & Brad Boal- Sun May 12, 7:30 PM

Sunday’s have become a bit of a thing at Tula’s, a night that saw big bands onstage at the storied Belltown club for many years. Eclectic tenor saxophonist Richard Cole always brings a sense of adventure to the proceedings. He has assembled an able crew to do so for this gig, bringing in a pair of Seattle legends in bassist Chuck Deardorf and pianist Bill Anschell. Drummer Brad Boal is the tie that binds here, furthering his continuing ascendence on the scene. A great way to end the weekend with great music, craft cocktails, or a fine wine. One of the best “hang” gigs of the month. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Bruce Phares Reunion Quartet with John Bishop, Bill Anschell & Jay Thomas- Thu May 16, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Bassist Bruce Phares calls in some old friends for an evening not soon to be forgotten. Jay Thomas is a Seattle jazz icon, bringing it on both trumpet and saxophone. Drummer John Bishop is one of the best in the business, known for his work with New Stories, Hal Galper, Scenes, and Chano Dominguez. Anschell is a prolific performer both in his recordings and live performances as a leader. This quartet of players have decades of history together, and with it, an uncommon chemistry. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Randy Halberstadt Quartet- Sun May 19, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Pianist Randy Halberstadt has always been a great player, it’s just that since his retirement from Cornish, we’ve had more opportunities to see him perform. His recent release Open Heart (Origin, 2018) is a combination of septet and trio settings, and has received fine reviews, and ample radio play. This engagement is a quartet, with vibraphonist Ben Thomas holding down the front line. Halberstadt is joined by bassist Chuck Deardorf, and drummer Adam Kessler in the rhythm section. This gig should provide a more intimate glimpse into his creative tendencies, with the listening environment at Tula’s providing the perfect ambience to deliver it. Sunday’s at Tula’s have turned into a great hang, with top artists such as Halberstadt replacing the traditional big band Sundays at the Belltown club.http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

Jared Hall Quintet- Thu May 23, 7:30 PM/ Tula’s

Trumpeter Jared Hall continues his residency at Tula’s fronting a memorable quintet. Drummer/composer Matt Jorgensen, and bassist Ben Feldman are a notable tandem, joined by pianist Dylan Hayes and saxophonist Rex Gregory. Gregory has a beautiful sound and composer’s mind as an improviser. Hayes and Feldman are two bright young stars that have established themselves as top shelf players. Jorgensen is as much of a sure thing as there is in Seattle, and Hall himself has become one of the best live attractions on the Seattle scene. http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html