From Hugo Kugiya’s story in The Seattle Times:
The outdoor stage upon which tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman and his group will play Sunday at the Bumbershoot music and arts festival is among the more intimate at the event, a cozy nook with room for about 800, surrounded by exhibit rooms, sheltered from the rock-thirsty crowds the event is known for.
One of the oldest and most revered performers at the festival, the semiretired Caliman, 76, is among a relative handful of acts that comprise jazz at Bumbershoot this year. Most, if not all, of them (depending on your definition of jazz) will perform Sunday on the Wells Fargo Stage in the Northwest Court, the traditional venue for jazz at Bumbershoot.
While jazz is not the main reason that thousands mob the Seattle Center every Labor Day weekend, Caliman and musicians like him are what make Bumbershoot the unique event that it is, a true mix of forms, genres and interpretations.
Opportunities to hear Caliman play live are precious and becoming more so in the autumn of his career. His local shows, like those at Tula’s, typically sell out. He is about as old as the art form itself, coming of age in the era of big bands, when jazz music was the popular music of its time.
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Los Angeles, he studied with Dexter Gordon (Caliman’s nickname was “Little Dex”), and played with Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Gerald Wilson, Joe Henderson, Nancy Wilson and Earl Hines, with whom he last played as a touring musician. He spent his 50s and 60s teaching at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts before retiring in 2000.
For the first time in decades, he said, “I could devote time to my own music.”
Earlier this year, he released his first album in more than 30 years, “Gratitude,” the fruit of what he called his “second career,” playing with musicians a generation younger. Some of the songs on the album, “Kickin’ on the Inside” and “Comencio,” he also recorded when he was a young musician.
So which versions does Caliman prefer? He put it this way: “It’s a work in progress the whole time. There are moments I’m very satisfied with myself, and moments that I’m not. But I know it’s something that I know I can do.”
The traditional jazz offerings at Bumbershoot are few: Caliman’s quintet, featuring trumpeter Thomas Marriott and bassist Phil Sparks, who both played on Caliman’s album; drummer Matt Jorgensen and his group, 451; and a faculty band from Washington State University.
“Some years we see more jazz than others,” said Michele Scoleri, Bumbershoot’s executive and artistic director. “We keep evolving.”
In past years, jazz musicians have played the Northwest Court from nearly dawn until dusk, often doubling or tripling up by playing several sets over the weekend. This year, the Northwest Court is filled with musicians who do not strictly qualify as jazz.
Groups like Das Vibenbass (tending toward experimental rock), the Tiptons Sax Quartet (instrumental funk) and Pacifika were put on the schedule. The three members of Pacifika are from Canada, Peru and Barbados, a true Pan-American effort.
“Pacifika is a new discovery to us this year,” Scoleri said of the Vancouver, B.C.-based group. “They kind of push that fusion sound between global and jazz and Latin.”