On the Scene: Featured Performances in February

Kandace Springs- Tue Feb 18, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

“Citing Nina Simone as her inspiration, Springs evinces a similarly powerful beauty, a satin ‘n sinew verve, though her soul-infused sound more strongly suggests Cassandra Wilson by way of Whitney Houston.” ~ JazzTimes

 Blue Note / Capitol recording artist Kandace Spring’s lands at Jazz Alley with a new album in tow. Entitled The Women Who Raised Me, it is her homage to the great female singers who inspired her to begin her journey. The performance will feature interpretations of songs from such icons as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Carmen McRae and Nina Simone.  https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=5141

SIFF Presents: Bird- Thu Feb 20, 6:30 PM/ SIFF Uptown

Clint Eastwood’s highly acclaimed biopic of the legendary Charlie Parker features a soundtrack utilizing Bird’s saxophone tracks surrounded by modern re-recordings of his bandmates. Forrest Whitaker’s mesmerizing performance and characterization of the bebop pioneer is first-class. If you have not had the opportunity to see this film, now is the time. The presenting vibe at SIFF and the classic Uptown digs should add a marvelous ambience to the viewing. There is a pre-viewing discussion with Jim Wilke beginning at 6:30 PMhttps://www.siff.net/year-round-cinema/bird

Branford Marsalis Quartet- Thu-Sat Feb 20-22, 7PM, 7:30 PM, 10 PM/ Triple Door

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis takes the stage at the Triple Door with his superb, long-time quartet for a two night, three set swing. 

The quartet is fresh off a Grammy nomination for their 2019 release, The Space Between the Shadow and the Soul. The music represents the latest evolution of a group of musical souls whose personal intuition has provoked musical conversation of intimate terms.

Between the genius of pianist Joey Calderazzo, the in motion artistry of drummer Justin Faulkner and the rhythmic pull off bassist Eric Revis, Marsalis has the perfect vehicle to maneuver. His melodic sense is steeped in the sounds of his native New Orleans but refined by his musical adventures as both a leader, and sideman for his brother Wynton, Sting, and the Grateful Dead to name a few.

For aficionados of unabashed Post-Bop modern jazz, this three show stretch has major marquee value. The sound, and visionary approach to the music is a welcome repose free of narrative attachment, and mindless electronic meandering.  https://tickets.thetripledoor.net/eventperformances.asp?evt=1357

KNKX Presents Northwest Music Mondays with the Marc Seales Quintet- Mon Feb 24, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

When Tula’s closed in September, it removed the monthly residency of iconic Seattle pianist Marc Seales from the local jazz calendar. It is only just that he land on the most esteemed stage in the city at Jazz Alley. 

Seales will be joined by trumpeter Thomas Marriott, bassist Chuck Deardorf, drummer Moyes Lucas, Jr., and his brother, guitarist Jesse Seales. This is the February installment of Northwest Music Mondays, presented by KNKX. Bravo to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley for featuring the best of Seattle jazz. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=5167

Greta Matassa Quintet- Mon Feb 24, 7:30 PM/ Block 41

Brazilian vocalist/promoter Adriana Giordano and Giordano Productions continue the monthly Monday night sessions at Block 41 Event Space, this time featuring Seattle jazz icon Greta Matassa and her quintet. Mondays at the Block is a joint effort between Giordano and Block 41 proprietor Dan Temkin. Temkin took Giordano’s vision, and turned it into a non-profit organization whose primary goal is in support of the city’s vibrant music scene, and the musicians themselves.

Matassa is the most important singer to rise out of Seattle since the great Ernestine Anderson, continuing to break new ground with her approach to melodic improvisation. The vibe of the neighborhood should feel familiar to her, after performing across Second Avenue at the legendary Belltown jazz spot, Tula’s, for the entirety of its 26 year run. The same goes for her long-time band, featuring saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev. Pianist Darin Clendenin is the perfect foil for Matassa, with bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Mark Ivester filling out a formidable rhythm section. Anderson is a knockout soloist as well, highlighting another aspect of a Matassa performance you can rely on- she has a great band and she lets the cats play. 

Seattle jazz fans are encouraged to support Mondays at the Block as well as the monthly Monday series at Jazz Alley.  The closing of Tula’s has left a gigantic void in the Seattle jazz calendar. Efforts such as this provide a place for top tier performers to be heard and be compensated justly. It provides a space where we can congregate in celebration of the vibrant scene in our city. Kudos to Adriana Giordano and Dan Temkin for their vision and hard work. https://www.facebook.com/events/168861297719569/

Miguel Zenon Quartet- Sat Feb 29, 8 PM/ The Forum Town Hall

Alto saxophonist/composer Miguel Zenon has been a widely influential force in jazz for the past decade. For his date at Town Hall, Zenón celebrates his traditional quartet featuring pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole.  The quartet plays jazz on the cutting edge of Latin roots and post-bop modernism. Make no mistake- this is not music rising from Afro-Carribean Latin jazz forms. The compositions Zenón writes for this eclectic ensemble venture into a very modern aesthetic of jazz. Every performance is a reflection of what Zenón has referred to as a “reflection of friendship, creativity and purpose.” A can’t miss date on the 2020 Seattle jazz calendar. https://townhallseattle.org/event/miguel-zenon-quartet/

Live Review: Xavier Lecouturier Quintet/ Noah Halpern Trio- Jan 7/ Royal Room

Jazz music continually renews itself generationally with young and inspired talent, presenting an evolving and original approach to the art. The vibrant jazz scene in and around the city of Seattle is a recipient of that renewal at an accelerated pace. The city’s nationally acclaimed high school and university programs continue to churn out accomplished practitioners of the art, in some cases revealing game-changing talent that either remains in the area, or journeys to jazz meccas such as New York. Certainly, drummer/composer Xavier Lecouturier, and trumpeter/composer Noah Halpern fall into that category.

On a crisp Tuesday evening on January 7, the eclectic pair appeared in Columbia City at the Royal Room for two sets featuring their original compositions. Lecouturier’s quintet, and Halpern’s trio as well featured young trailblazing bassist/composer Ben Feldman, pianist/composer Dylan Hayes, saxophonist Rex Gregory and guitarist Ari Joshua. 

Xavier Lecouturier

To be fair, the time to refer to Lecouturier, Halpern, Feldman and Hayes as “young talent” has run its course. While Halpern would be the senior contributor of the bunch at age 23, the accomplishments of these four young men both on stage and in the studio more alludes to veteran accomplishment. Lecouturier released an album of original compositions on the respected Origin label this year titled Carrier (Origin, 2019). As well, he spent a year behind the kit for the Thomas Marriott Quintet while still a student at Cornish. All six musicians have been wise beyond their years in terms of getting real life education on the bandstand, outside of the clutches of academia. 

Rex Gregory

The first set featured Lecouturier’s quintet with Halpern being the lone non-participant. The opening salvo was Lecouturier’s composition “Aube,” a piece that well personifies his work as a composer. Each movement featured a melody built through a thick harmonic structure traversed by each soloist. Gregory’s work was especially insightful, with angular lines gaining ground through the dense ground laid before him by his bandmates. For those who have witnessed this music being performed live over the past year, it became immediately evident that the musicians were freer within the flow, Gregory’s solo personifying this new found comfort zone. Lecouturier’s polyrhythmic work behind the kit clearly pushed the music forward, acting as a de facto conductor.

Ben Feldman

The band’s interpretation of Lecouturier’s “Tempest” definitively stated that this music is finding a true identity as it is played, and played again by a contingent of players now familiar with the nuances of the work. As the piece began to swing, a deeper connection with the blues and jazz tradition evolved, creating space for off the rails solos by Gregory, Feldman, and Hayes.

Dylan Hayes

Ari Joshua

Set two featured Halpern in trio with Feldman and Lecouturier. The Seattle born trumpeter is now a New York resident, as is Feldman. Halpern performed seated, playing Wurlitzer electric piano along with his horn. Aside from a brief electronic repose, and an even briefer vocal daliance, the three long time friends demonstrated a warmth and familiarity throughout the set that spoke well to a sizeable crowd at the Columbia City nightspot. 

While Halpern offered finely tuned compositions, a three tune swing through brilliantly interpreted standards stood out above the fray, providing the audience with their most energetic support of the evening. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Dizzy Atmosphere” became a vehicle for Halpern to express his deep, rich voice, spoken freely with a vivid imagination, at one point referencing classic Gillespie. Feldman as well chimed in with a solo that included tonal clusters interspersed with agile melodic runs. He once again made the impression on the audience that they were witnessing something special from this young bassist not yet of legal age. 

Noah Halpern

An interpretation of “Body and Soul” followed, with Halpern offering in ballad mode, weaving in and around the melody. If you are of the school that believes a jazz musician truly shows their worth when interpreting a ballad- and I am- Halpern’s stark tonality, and Lecouturier’s deft brushwork spoke volumes to you. 

The highlight of the evening was Duke Pearson’s classic, “Gaslight,” adding another Seattle born musician currently making his residence in Gotham- tenor saxophonist Santosh Sharma. Sharma came out of the gate unhinged, playing an unrelenting solo in this chordless quartet format. Feldman and Lecouturier managed to lay down the foundation for the piece, while at the same time dodging in and out of Lecouturier’s polyrhythms. In all, it was a fine example of modern, forward thinking playing within the hard bop tradition. Hayes, whose reputation is more centered around his brilliant composing and arranging skills, comped and soloed on this piece sounding like a young McCoy Tyner. His star in Seattle continues to rise as a pianist aside from his compositional prowess. 

Santosh Sharma

It is an ongoing story in the history of Seattle jazz, that our young musicians take residence in New York City, the center of international jazz. We can look back generations, then moving forward and see that nothing in this fashion has changed. Many, or most, return. This evening represented a homecoming for these fine young players, performing on a respected stage in front of an engaged audience. As I stated earlier, the time to refer to Halpern, Lecouturier, Feldman, Santosh and Hayes as “generation next,” or “young guns” has past. Give these cats their due.