By Cynthia Mullis

Whew! What a month! My head is spinning with jazz, concerts and thoughts about jazz concerts. Not to mention that I think I hurt something during my recent infatuation with playing tunes in concert E major…on the alto sax. My head is throbbing and I’ll be happy when the Aerosmith and Emmy Lou Harris tunes come up on my iPod during my walk later on today! As I start to catch up, I’ll send in a few more reviews of concerts that I’ve attended recently.

On October 22nd I heard drummer Dafnis Prieto and his group Absolute Quintet at the Triple Door. I loved the group from the first note and was thoroughly absorbed in the music, despite being very tired and hungry when I arrived for the second set. I’ll leave the deeper analysis of that concert to the true Afro-Cuban aficionados in the audience (I personally saw Fred Hoadly, Chris Stover, Ann Reynolds, Lillian Woo, Susan Pascal, Carolyn Caster, Ron Barrow, Cindy Hughen…that was just the second set). The New York Times has been raving about this guy for awhile but I’d never had a chance to hear him—check out his website at for more information. My impression of the drummer was that he was a hurricane of poly-rhythms, intricate rhythmic melodies, freakish eight-limbed independence and true-blooded Cuban musical tradition. I enjoyed that the ensemble had a different instrumentation than usual, with the cello player straddling the line between acting as a bass player and being another melodic voice (in addition to doubling on trombone). To my ears, the violinist (whose name I didn’t catch) and the cellist gave the group a bit of a folk oriented sound while remaining completely modern. Yosvany Terry was on alto sax, soprano and shekere and was much more thoughtful and musical that when I heard him a few years ago: great alto sound, great technique and not overpowering of the ensemble. Jason Linder rounded out the group on keyboards. The music was metrically complex—I didn’t bother to attempt figuring out the time signatures—but I really appreciated was how deeply rooted in the Afro-Cuban tradition the music was without being overwhelmed by the clavé, montunos, and other aspects of this style of music. It was an exciting and fresh evening of music—I’m glad I took the opportunity to check it out and I’ll be curious to see what other people’s reaction was to this concert.

Now a little rant: as much as I love going to shows at the Triple Door, I was bummed that they raised the prices on their food and that it wasn’t as good as it has been on previous visits. Plus I know the wait staff is just doing their job, but it seemed like every time I closed my eyes to lose myself in the music, someone was tapping me on the shoulder to see if I needed anything else. Also, I’ve been a little bummed about how lately the sound at the TD tends to be boomy and washed out. I would like to hear more definition in the instruments without having to concentrate so hard. Maybe the sound issues are necessary to drown out the racket of ceaseless conversation that seems to be the norm at concerts these days, along with the commotion that comes with the enterprise of selling food and drinks. I luv ya, Triple Door, but for the number of concerts I’ve seen there recently, I’m entitled to vent a little.

Earshot Jazz Festival, Live Jazz, Review, Triple Door

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. […] Henrik wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMy head is spinning with jazz, concerts and thoughts about jazz concerts. Not to mention that I think I hurt something during my recent infatuation with playing tunes in concert E major…on the alto sax. My head is throbbing and I’ll be … […]

  2. Great review, my only comment is about the “rant” at the end. The complaints I read here seem to be complaints I hear a lot of these days, and I can’t figure out what all the fuss is about? Maybe this is my own little rant, but what has happened to all of us as musicians and as an audience?

    We have all lost a bit of the old school mentality of where jazz came from. Yes, Jazz is an art music, and can be enjoyed as such, in certain settings. But when we go out to a club to hear music what are we expecting as performers, or as an audience? Yes, there will be bad sound quality at times. Yes, people will talk through solos. Yes, there certainly will be bad food.

    The last time I was out to hear a group play I talked to a friend of mine during the set, in the back of the room, out of earshot of other audience members. You would think this is a cardinal sin with the sneers and dirty looks people shot at me. Then another audience member got up to use the restroom during a solo, and walked in front of the stage-the only access to the restroom. She was also glared at. Another patron was extremely rude to a waiter when he came to refill their water during a set.

    As musicians and fans we complain about a dwindling audience for Jazz music. Our elitist attitude is not helping to draw people back to a music that is important to our culture and history, yet seems exclusive and intimidating to the general listener. As a community of musicians and fans we should embrace the atmosphere of the clubs. They may be loud and distracting at points, but they are not intended to be concert halls.

    Maybe it is time we all accept that jazz can be fun again….we can enjoy ourselves when we are out playing and listening to this music and quit taking ourselves so seriously….we might even hear something we would have missed by focusing on all those “distractions.”

  3. This is just my opinion and not my intention to start a blog war:

    I don’t agree about embracing the atmosphere of the clubs when a venue is trying to be a concert hall, charging $20-40 for the music and serving food that is billed as “exceptional” at exceptional prices. I believe that audience members of any genre have a right to comment if expectations are not met. What’s frustrating is that when I go to a high end jazz club, it’s common that I’ll put up with disappointments that I would never tolerate at any other restaurant or venue, especially when I’m spending the kind of money that one spends at these clubs.

    It always makes me think twice about how badly I want to hear the band. In addition to the fans supporting these places, it’s up to the venue to make the fans want to be there and come back.

    However when I go to a place like Tula’s, that’s more of a club atmosphere, and yes, the elitism is pointless. That’s an old school club and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. I expect my steak fries to be greasy and for drunks to yakking through the piano solos. I’m never surprised and I’m never disappointed and the experience usually costs me less than $30. I’m quite loyal to that club as a result.

    At a music club like Triple Door with a state of the art sound system, the sound should be impeccable, much like it generally is at Jazz Alley. Plus, I don’t pay the music charge to listen to the guy in the booth next to me explain the history of jazz guitar to his girlfriend. As in, “I’m sorry, is this music disturbing your conversation?”

    Besides, I think the rudeness of conversations during concerts is indicative of a tendency towards rudeness and inconsideration in society at large. It’s the same syndrome of what I experienced last time I went to the Symphony so it’s not just limited to jazz.

    I’ll gladly go to a dive where I feel welcome to hear music long before going to an upscale place where I feel disappointed. I’m a die-hard music fan and concert goer but, as much as anybody, I want to have fun when I get out to hear music.

  4. No blog war here, but spirited conversation is welcome on this front. I am sorry if my comments are misconstrued by anyone, but I would like to get musicians and fans thinking, and acting, rather than just talking.

    I agree, if a club is trying to be a concert venue then the atmospnere should reflect that. Turn off the cell phone, shut up, and listen……..And dont bug me…if I want another drink I’ll ask. You look at a true “Jazz Club” (like the Vanguard) and that’s how it works.

    I also agree, our society is rude in general. People let me know about their family problems and indescretions during cell phone conversations on the street or on the bus…this is a problem, especially when I am trying to enjoy a concert.

    I guess my main problem with all of this stems from the musicians (myself inculded) who have let all of this happen. I read this review and became angry-not at the audience or the club-but at the musicians in general….and please DO NOT think I am defending clubs or club owners, they are to blame as well.

    Musicians (again, myself included) have let this happen by letting our guard down. What happened to the musicians union? We don’t protect our own. Clubs pay musicians terrible wage (a door charge most places) and expect these guys to smile and thank them for letting them play. Musicians also have very little choice where to play, or what conditions they work under.

    It all boils down to this….Let’s all stop complaining and do something about all of this! (Again, my issue is more about all the whining and NO ACTION)! How many musicians are part of the Union in this city? How many UW, BCC, or Cornish Student musicians steeling work because they play for dinner or FREE for the experience? How many nights have you been to Tula’s, seen a big band, and seen the musicians play for tips on a Sunday night (Only so they can walk away with $10 each)?

    I lay out the challenge to Seattle Jazz Musicians to get together and make this scene better, discuss the issues as a group, and fix the problems with the clubs and working environment. If we can all get together to take a picture and call it “A Great Day in Seattle,” maybe we can all get together and fix the problems with this industry. Talk is cheap, let’s act.

  5. Hmmm, interesting comments on both sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a concert atmosphere, on the other the music did start in speakeasies and houses of ill repute and even the great bebop players played in loud noisy clubs as evidenced by recordings.

    The biggest problem with most musicians is they take themselves too seriously without taking the music seriously. Also, having worked with some great musicians who came up through the “golden age” of jazz, the modern jazz musician has forgotten how to be an entertainer, an educator, a diplomat, and a human being.

    Great players of the history of the music always seemed to connect with their audience somehow. Even Miles Davis in his “ignorance” of the audience was playing the audience with his vibe. I feel fortunate to have played with great musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Terry Gibbs, Eddie Daniels, James Moody, Frank Wess, etc. who all understood that playing and entertaining doesn’t have to be pandering or clowning the audience. Just be yourself, play great and have fun, it is possible to do this.

    I’m continually amazed at how many musicians complain that people aren’t listening to them on a restaurant gig and when they get into a heavy concert setting on a nice stage where people are listening intently, they choke and stumble on the gig. It’s about the music, not about us.

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