Preview: The 2018 Ballard Jazz Festival

Clarence Penn.

The Ballard Jazz Festival returns with its 16th edition, May 16-19, in Seattle’s historic Ballard neighborhood. Clarence Penn & Penn Station will headline the festival’s Mainstage Concert, a New York ensemble that includes pianist Geoffrey Keezer, saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura. Swedish trumpeter Oskar Stenmark will open the concert, which in turn celebrates the Grand Opening of the brand new Nordic Museum Auditorium.

Penn in many ways typifies the approach of artistic directors John Bishop and Matt Jorgensen, bringing in an artist highly regarded in the jazz community, ready for discovery by the Seattle jazz audience. Penn has established himself as both a leader and sideman, paying his dues performing with iconic artists such as Betty Carter, Jimmy Smith, Dave Douglas, and Stanley Clark. Penn Station explores the eclectic world of the compositions of the great Thelonious Monk, with a very contemporary twist. Stenmark approaches jazz through the lens of traditional Swedish melodies, tempered by New York style post bop sensibility.

Taking place over four days in historic Ballard, this year’s event has taken on a few notable changes. The Mainstage Concert, normally the closing event on Saturday evening moves to Friday, while the ever popular Ballard Jazz Walk will be held on Saturday. This enables the expansion of the walk to the afternoon hours, beginning with the Saturday Jazz Picnic at Peddler Brewery, an all ages event that welcomes families, and under 21 jazz fans. Vibraphonist Susan Pascal with perform with a quintet that includes legendary tenor saxophonist, Pete Christlieb.

Promoted by Seattle based Origin Records, the event has maintained a true Seattle feel, presenting Seattle jazz fans with the opportunity to take in the best of the Seattle jazz scene, mixed with national and international artists. “I want to make sure it’s a local festival, so it sounds like Seattle,” Bishop has maintained throughout the festival’s remarkable 16 year run. The Seattle jazz scene’s annual rite of spring connects the city’s historic and colorful jazz past, with the modern progressive mindset of its vibrant present.

The festival commences on Wednesday, May 16 and Thursday, May 17 with two individual concerts at Conor Byrne Pub, formerly the historic Owl Cafe. Wednesday’s event dubbed “Celebration of the Drum,” features three bands led by drummers, including legendary drummer/drum tech Gregg Keplinger. Also featured are veteran drummer and educator Brian Kirk, 20 year old wunderkind, Xavier Lecouturier, and New York drummer Stefan Schatz. Kirk will feature his Nu Trio with legendary performers Phil Sparks (bass), and Nathan Breedlove (trumpet). Lecouturier enlists young bass phenom Ben Feldman, along with two rising young stars in guitarist Lucas Winter, and pianist Gus Cairns. Schatz, who recently relocated to Seattle, will in a true sense introduce himself to his new city, and its jazz audience.

Thursday brings the “Guitar Summit” to Conor Byrne, featuring bands led by guitarists Milo Petersen, John Stowell, Christian Eckert and Andy Coe, each bringing their unique tie into the jazz tradition. Stowell has a long history in live performance and recordings, most notably with bassist David Friesen and the trio Scenes, with Jeff Johnson and John Bishop. 7 string guitar ace Petersen has long been Seattle’s first call guitarist, honing his chops with luminaries Cedar Walton, Ernestine Anderson, and Elvin Jones to name but a few. Andy Coe has taken his progressive approach to guitar into the jazz genre, as well as the established jam band scene in the Pacific Northwest. He is known in Seattle for his work with Skerik’s Bandalabra, McTuff, and the jam ensemble, The Andy Coe Band.

The Mainstage Concert on Friday evening, May 18, features the aforementioned Penn, and Stenmark, housed in the brand new Nordic Museum facility at 2655 NW Market St. in Ballard. The facility will open on May 5, so this performance will be literally “groundbreaking.”  The new digs also provide a larger capacity, enabling more seats for this perennially sold out show.

The Ballard Jazz Walk on Saturday, May 19, features 21 bands in 10 venues strewn from the Ballard Bridge, down old Ballard Avenue, and up onto Market St. The event creates a Bourbon St. like atmosphere for one celebratory evening in old Ballard. It gives area jazz fans the opportunity to sample the amazing depth and quality of the Seattle jazz scene in one location, on one night. The walk upholds the long held Seattle tradition of pairing the best of the Seattle scene, with visiting jazz dignitaries. It is how the festival began in year one, and remains the one day of the festival that is an absolute “can’t miss” event on the Seattle music calendar.

The uncertainty of the completion date of the new museum, coupled with the loss of a few venues on Ballard Avenue raised some concern about the viability of the event going forward this year.  Bishop and Jorgensen had to come up with an alternative plan. “The biggest challenge was out of fear, just the fear of not being able to come up with something,” says Bishop. In the end, the facility became available, and provided the means to create an even more viable future for the festival. “This is a huge step up. We thought we were lost, but now we’re found. There’s lots of room to grow if we’re smart about it,” remarks Bishop, alluding to the myriad of possibilities the new facility presents.

The Ballard Jazz Festival is a mirror that reflects the current state of affairs out on the jazz scene in Seattle throughout the year. In many ways, it upholds the tradition one can experience year- round in clubs and concert halls throughout the city. It is four days that jazz aficionados, and those new to the genre, can witness  jazz played at the highest level in a way that tells our story here in Seattle.

-Paul Rauch

For a full schedule, see the festival website below.

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Featured Performances April 16-22

Lineup! with Dawn Clement & Mark Taylor- Tuesday April 17, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Dawn Clement and Mark Taylor collaborate each month at Tula’s, bringing a cross section of the Seattle jazz scene with them. Clement is receiving well deserved recognition for her recent Origin release, Tandem, and was recently featured in Downbeat. Blending a physical piano style, and a pitch perfect vocal style that is both lyrical and melodic, Clement has been a force on the Seattle scene for some time now. She is currently touring with Jane Ira Bloom, and teaches at Cornish College of the Arts.

Mark Taylor has been deeply involved in providing mentorship for the prodigious wave of great young musicians emanating from the high school band culture in Seattle that has gained national prominence. He has released two albums as a leader, and appreared on dozens of others as a sideman. Taylor is truly one of the titans of jazz saxophone in Seattle jazz history, beside Don Lanphere, Jabo Ward, Rick Mandyck, and Hans Teuber.

This month, they are joined by two gems in local jazz history in Seattle. Bassist Chuck Deardorf has been a first call bassist in this town going back to Jazz Alley in the U District. His impact begins with the plethora of touring stars he accompanied through the years, and extends to mentoring young musicians through his association with Cornish College of the Arts. Multi-reedist Hans Teuber has forged an innovative approach to improvisation on a variety of instruments, most prominently on tenor and alto saxophone. His presence on the scene for thirty years in Seattle has firmly established a musical identity that transcends genre, and is distinguished by its elegance. Young drummer Xavier Lecouturier has fast been gaining recognition as the drummer with the Thomas Marriott Quintet, and at 20 years old is a rising star on the scene. He will be appearing at the Ballard Jazz Festival during the annual “Celebration of the Drum” concert. Here, he helps create a cross generational ensemble, that in itself illustrates the passage of time in jazz culture.

http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

 

Roberto Fonseca- Monday April 16, Tuesday April 17, 7:30pm/ Jazz Alley

Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca comes from a rich tradition of Cuban forms that has manifested in his appearances with Buena Vista Social Club, and in performance with classic Cuban singers, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Omara Portuondo.

In 2009 Fonseca brought together Cuban and African musicians for his highly praised  recording and GRAMMY nominated Yo (in the category of Best Latin Jazz Album), a mix of acoustic and electric sounds the Times called “by turns folkloric and turbocharged.”

Fonseca comes to Jazz Alley with his trio featuring  Michel Castellanos on drums and Yandy Martínez on bass. The music comes with an ardent physicality, and pulsating Cuban rhythms.

https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=3893

 

Lionel Loueke Trio- Thursday April 19, 7& 9:30pm/Royal Room

Loueke’s music reflects his musical and life journey from West Africa to Europe and the Americas, personifying in many ways the globalization that jazz music has experienced for some 70 years now. While he may be described as adaptable, or versatile, those terms do not serve his prodigious talent accurately. Whether playing with Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Haden, or with his own trio, Loueke has an identifiable style only a journey such as his can claim. This gig is a great opportunity to see him in an intimate setting, and support a great jazz non-profit .

https://www.earshot.org/event/lionel-loueke-early/

 

Greta Matassa Quintet with Alexey Nikolaev- Friday April 20, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Greta Matassa is the most important jazz singer in Seattle since the days of the great Ernestine Anderson, and is as talented as any jazz vocalist, anytime, anywhere. She has consistently performed at a high level for decades, and has graced the stage at Tula’s Jazz Club before it was Tula’s! Matassa has taken on a lot of new material in recent times, including her brilliant arranging of the music of Pat Metheny. Bassist Clipper Anderson, pianist Darin Clendenin, and drummer Mark Ivester have been her musical collaborators for some time now, with saxophone ace Alexey Nikolaev a welcome more recent addition. Matassa’s approach is that of an instrumentalist, whether she is handling lyrics like nobody else, or improvising in scat form. Her gig at Tula’s is a Seattle classic and not to be missed.

http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

 

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra presents Duke Ellington’s “Such Sweet Thunder” – Saturday April 21, 7:30pm /Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall

Duke loved Shakespeare, and composed “Such Sweet Thunder Suite” as his homage to the Bard. Each movement will include local thespians, evoking favorite characters, quotes, and selections from the sonnets that inspired Ellington’s work. SRJO, and especially Clarence Acox, has always had a healthy attachment to the Ellington legacy, this being no exception.

With the Ellington Band in town last week at Benaroya, and now this inspired presentation, local jazz fans have had an opportunity to dive deeply into the Ellington legacy. Performances also in Kirkland on April 22 at 2pm, and in Edmonds April 23 at 7:30pm

https://www.srjo.org/2017-18-concert-season

 

Featured Performances April 9-15

Branford Marsalis Quartet- Tuesday, Wednesday April 10, 11, 7:30pm/ Triple Door

The Branford Marsalis Quartet may be the best working band of the 21st century. Heady claim, I know, but the iconic saxophonist has been teamed with pianist Joey Calderazzo, and bassist Eric Revis since the 90’s, developing an intuitive chemistry unmatched in modern jazz circles. Drummer Justin Faulkner took over for Jeff “Tain” Watts in 2009, without the quartet skipping a beat. Marsalis’ resume speaks for itself, from his early beginnings with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, to the historic quintet led by brother Wynton, to 30 years of the Branford Marsalis Quartet. This will be a true highlight of the jazz year in Seattle.

https://tickets.thetripledoor.net/eventperformances.asp?evt=1357

The Art of Jazz: Gail Pettis- Thursday April 12, 5:30pm/ SAM

Earshot presents the Art of Jazz series at the Seattle Art Museum, this month featuring jazz vocal stylist Gail Pettis. Pettis, an Origin recording artist, possesses a cadence and style that is very identifiable and unique. Steeped in the jazz and blues tradition, this performance coupled with the opportunity to explore the exhibits at SAM is a late week opportunity to settle in and nourish one’s soul with fine art.

https://www.earshot.org/event/art-jazz-gail-pettis/

 

Stafford Hunter and Continuum- Thursday April 12, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

How often can we say that the Ellington band is in town, and a few members are dropping in at Tula’s to perform? Trombonist Stafford Hunter has made his mark playing with Orrin Evans, Lester Bowie, McCoy Tyner as well as the Ellington band, and comes to town on the heels of his new album Continuum. Grammy winning saxophonist Mark Gross joins him, backed by the Seattle rhythm section of pianist Eric Verlinde, bassist Phil Sparks, and drummer Matt Jorgensen.

http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

 

Susan Pascal’s Soul Sauce- The Music of Cal Tjader- Saturday April 14, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Vibraphone master Susan Pascal in an homage to the latin jazz works of Cal Tjader, brings her Soul Sauce band to Tula’s. The band features Seattle jazz icons Jay Thomas, and Chuck Deardorf, along with Fred Hoadley, Mark Ivester and Tom Bergersen. Pascal has an intuitive sense about Tjader’s body of work, and judging by her past forays into the music, this should be a can’t miss opportunity for latin jazz fans. The presence of Thomas, a true Seattle jazz icon is a huge plus.

http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html

 

Duke Ellington Orchestra- Friday April 13, 8pm; Saturday April 14, 8pm; Sunday April 15, 2pm/ Benaroya Hall

The music of the master never grows old, ranging from classic works such as Mood Indigo and Take the The legendary Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Duke’s grandson, Paul Ellington, play Benaroya Hall as part of the Seattle Symphony Pops Series. The music of Ellington  from “Take The A Train,” and “Caravan,” to his orchestral works, encapsulates the American musical experience.

https://www.seattlesymphony.org/concerttickets/calendar/2017-2018/symphony/pops5

Featured Performances April 2-8

 

Each Sunday we introduce a listing of featured jazz performances for the upcoming week. The intent is to inspire Seattle jazz fans to experience the music at its spontaneous best, live. Here at seattlejazzscene.com, we encourage you to support the art of jazz by participating as an active listener. By supporting venues that present live jazz, you are enabling the art form to continue to blossom in our new century. We hope to see you out there!

Tim Kennedy Band with Hans Teuber, Evan Flory-Barnes & Brad Gibson- Tuesday April 3, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Tim Kennedy has been experiencing a bit of a personal renaissance in recent times. While he has always been a fine jazz pianist, many music fans around Seattle have come to know him through his pop and fusion adventures with bands such as Richie Aldente (his musical alter ego), and Happy Orchestra. 2018 has seen him settle in as the pianist for the Thomas Marriott Quintet, and establish a residency at Tula’s every first Tuesday of the month. Each month he changes things up a bit, playing trio with the likes of Jeff Johnson and Eric Eagle last month for example, and going quartet this month. In April he is joined by multi instrumentalist Hans Teuber, uber bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and drummer Brad Gibson. Teuber is a Seattle treasure, with a one of a kind approach to saxophone, flute, clarinet, and who knows what. Flory-Barnes, known for his work with the Seattle super band Industrial Revelation, is at his best in pure jazz situations with top tier musicians. His performance at Ballard Jazz Festival with saxophone icon Chico Freeman in 2017 introduced us to his ability to creatively enter any fray in the elite upper echelon of jazz, and perform inspirationally. Add the steady hand of drummer Brad Gibson, and you have a great evening of jazz in Seattle’s most intimate and iconic jazz setting, Tula’s.

http://tulas.com/index.html

 

Omara Portuondo- Wednesday April 4, 8pm/ Neptune Theatre

Not what you might specifically call jazz, but 87 year old Omara Portuondo gained notoriety in the jazz community as a member of the famed Cuban ensemble, Buena Vista Social Club. As both a singer and dancer, she blends Cuban son and bolero forms into a unique style that is all her own. Portuondo is the last surviving vocalist from Buena Vista, so the window is closing quickly in terms of opportunity to see the original members of this historic troupe.

https://www.stgpresents.org/tickets/alphabetical/eventdetail/3998/-/omara-portuondo

 

Eric Verlinde Trio with special guest Thomas Marriott- Wednesday April 4, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Pianist Eric Verlinde has made his mark on the Seattle jazz scene over the years, playing with the legendary Hadley Caliman, and manning the piano chair for just about every important jazz musician in the city. While he is entrenched as the house pianist at El Gaucho, Verlinde’s residency at Tula’s every first Wednesday of the month is quickly becoming the pianist’s creative outlet, as he welcomes the best players in town to join him and his trio with bassist Dean Schmidt, and drummer Jeff Busch. This month trumpeter Thomas Marriott, perhaps the most important and visible jazz musician in Seattle, appears as Verlinde’s special guest.

http://tulas.com/index.html

 

Alex Dugdale Fade Quartet- Friday April 6, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

Saxophonist and tap dancer extraordinaire Alex Dugdale is on somewhat of an upward ascent these days. His playing on tenor in recent times has established him as one of the top players in the city, worthy of a weekend slot at Tula’s. On top of that, he can utilize his tap skills to solo in rhythmic variations drenched in post bop modernism. New York pianist Dave Meder guests along with the 200 Trio with Cole Schuster, Greg Feingold, and Max Holmberg. 

http://tulas.com/index.html 

 

Kavita Shah & Francois Moutin Duo- Friday April 6, 7pm/ Royal Room

Earshot presents vocalist Kavita Shah and bassist Francois Moutin in a unique improvisational duo format at the Royal Room. The duo performs lyric driven and worldless pieces alike, coming to town following their new release on Dot Time Records, Interplay.

https://www.earshot.org/event/shah-moutin-duo/

 

Bill Anschell Quartet- Saturday April 7, 7:30pm/ Tula’s

When Mac Waldron opened Tula’s some 25 years ago, he sang many praises of pianist Bill Anschell, who had returned to his native Seattle from years touring, and living in Atlanta. He has been a mainstay at the Belltown jazz spot ever since, playing before a sold out house virtually every month. Whether it is with his Standards Trio, or his quartet, his performances are equally satisfying, blending sublime technique with pure musicality. His current quartet features guitarist Brian Monroney, whose approach to jazz guitar adds a sonic element to the quartet . Add bassist Chris Symer, perhaps the most underappreciated jazz musician in Seattle, and drummer Brad Boal, and the results are electrifying. Reservations recommended.

http://tulas.com/generalinfo.html