“Our mission is to build community, provide access to the mentorship cycle, incentivize excellence and to lower the barriers to access jazz for both performers and listeners.”
This quote from the original mission statement of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship states in no uncertain terms, the focus of the Seattle 401(c) 3 non-profit that has guided its journey from its point of inception in October 2021. This was when the fellowship initiated its “Fellowship Wednesdays” weekly affair at Vermillion Art Bar on Capitol Hill. While the non-profit has engaged in a variety of special events, the Wednesday series has presented live jazz featuring Seattle resident musicians with occasional out of town guests now for more than two years. It has provided a stage for Seattle jazz musicians to perform original music for an appreciative listening audience and be paid respectfully. While only one night a week, it has been a beacon of hope for the Seattle jazz scene that has lost its collective mainstages largely due to gentrification. The business model that guided jazz dinner clubs like the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square and the iconic Tula’s Jazz Club in Belltown became obsolete. The price tag for the consumer became sky high, while the numbers needed to manage a successful business became impossible. An alternative was needed if the resident jazz scene in Seattle was to survive.
On Tuesday November 21, SJF founder Thomas Marriott announced that the December 6 edition of Fellowship Wednesdays would be the last staged at Vermillion, as the fellowship would be moving into its own space in Pioneer Square beginning in late January of 2024. The venue will be a pop-up affair in the historic Globe building near the intersection of First Avenue and Main St., smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood that not long ago was the heartbeat of Seattle nightlife. Programming will increase to “several” nights a week according to Marriott, increasing employment opportunities for musicians, and live jazz access for listeners. The non-profit’s logical next step is a large one, and will require a significant increase in support from the Seattle music community at large. Most importantly, it will require an “all in” support network from Seattle jazz musicians themselves. In an interview I conducted with Marriott that culminated in an All About Jazz article in February 2022, he stated, “It takes everybody showing up. It takes people getting off the bench and off the sidelines and saying,’I’m going to show up to this person’s gig because it’s good for all of us.’”
In essence, this is a calling to step up to the plate and hit it out of the park. The time is NOW. What is required is not a burden, but an act of love and respect for jazz music in Seattle, and the artists that provide the sounds. It is a call to the jazz audience to not only support the music with your dollars, but to show up and join in the fellowship and broad sense of community this music provides.
You can purchase a membership using the link below. If your personal income allows you to make a donation beyond standard membership, now is the time to do so. If your working life puts you in contact with personal and/or corporate entities that are possibly willing to support this venture, now is the time to begin that conversation. We can create something beautiful and long-lasting if we so wish–it’s up to us as a community. Do we want local, fair paying gigs in an inclusive environment that welcomes the public without typical financial barriers to access? The answer is definitely yes. It is now officially in our hands.
Buy a membership, volunteer your time, make a donation, show up–this is what is required of you. The exploding moment we have all been waiting for is here. Nobody is going to show up and be the savior of the local Seattle jazz scene–we are collectively just that. Marriott has set the foundation. It’s “go time” to take it from there and build our community. https://seattlejazzfellowship.org/membership
As the holiday season gets thick, the gigs tend to get a little thin. That doesn’t mean there aren’t great choices out there–there are. Outside of the SRJO performance of the Sacred Music of Duke Ellington, there is no holiday fare here. I’m not going to list the annual selection of Christmas programs, they simply do not need help filling seats. I’m focusing on the seams, on real jazz taking place in the month of December. I’m still searching for New Year’s Eve dates, with a non-jazz show at Jazz Alley and Tula’s a thing of the past. In December, Jazz Alley brings us “Heavy Hitters,” Thomas Marriott plays a set at the Seattle Jazz Fellowship and Miles alumnus Mike Stern turns up the heat, with a fusion barn burner at Jazz Alley and much more!
Thomas Marriott Quartet
Wed Dec 6, 7:30 PM/ Seattle Jazz Fellowship at Vermillion
Seattle trumpeter Thomas Marriott is an internationally acclaimed jazz artist that is the author of fourteen albums as a leader. His most recent Seattle appearance saw him perform at Town Hall with bassist Eric Revis, legendary drummer Roy McCurdy and pianist George Colligan, as part of the 2023 Earshot Jazz Festival. In the final Wednesday session before a brief holiday hiatus, Marriott settles in with his Seattle quartet. Pianist Tim Kennedy and drummer Xavier Lecouturier are familiar faces on the Seattle scene as leaders, and have been performing with Marriott frequently over the past six years. Trevor Ford is a relative newcomer by comparison, while quickly making his mark as a top shelf addition on double bass. To see a quartet of this quality in the intimate digs at Vermillion is quite something and not to be missed. This date is highly recommended, and represents the last SJF gig of the year.
Tenor saxophonist Evan Smith last played the Racer Sessions at the real Cafe Racer in the U district. With the latest incarnation of Racer on Capitol Hill shuttered, the legendary sessions have moved on to Gallery 1412, a tiny space in the Central District. Smith describes his relationship to jazz as “free improvisation,” a vague notion that often leaves listeners shaking their heads. What does that actually mean? Free from the incumbrances of harmony and linear rhythm? You get into the gig free? The truth is, great players can play free in and out of traditional forms, in which case, the definition of free improvisation is playing at a high level of artistry. Smith generally plays trio with bass and drums, beyond the restraint of chordal instruments. It’s an odd thing really, as Smith is known as a classical saxophonist that is meticulous in his time consuming preparation for his projects. That rubs against the grain of the tradition practiced at the Racer Sessions. In essence, Smith rips off the band-aid and leaves himself completely vulnerable to the impulse of his talents, his technical explorations and the interrelationship with his audience.
If you are a straight ahead jazz fan, you owe it to yourself to get out and check out this long running tradition in Seattle. The Racer Sessions may take you out of your comfort zone, but then again, it may take you somewhere you never dreamed of being to your delight. Smith should provide a session that would suit your test run! https://www.racersessions.com/
Mike Stern Band featuring Dennis Chambers, Jimmy Haslip, Bob Franceschini, and Leni Stern
Tue Dec 5 – Wed Dec 6, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley
Guitarist Mike Stern is best known for his time with Miles Davis in the 1980’s, but his legend as a fusion musician is based on the forty years since that turbulent decade in his life. Stern can play straight up jazz guitar, or hang out on the edge of hard prog rock, the very definition of the oft-used term “fusion.” He leads a band of fusion well-knowns including bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Dennis Chambers. Guitarist Leni Stern adds a twist to things as a second guitar voice in the band, and a notable one at that. SaxophonistBob Franceschini rounds out the band tonally. A must see semi- annual event at Jazz Alley for fusions fans. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=7414
Sat Dec 9, 7 PM/ Frederick Holmes & Company Gallery
Barcelona born and raised pianist Marina Albero has been in Seattle for close to a decade, and in that time, has developed a large following. Her extremely versatile virtuosity allows her to present wide-ranging performances that bring to light her musical world that includes jazz, flamenco, classical and folk incluences. In the end, it’s Marina, a truly original voice on our scene here in the Pacific NW. In this instance, she brings her music to Occidental Square, as part of this intimate series at Frederick Holmes Gallery.
Albero’s lifetime of musical experience allows her to interact fluently with a wide ranging variety of musicians. For this performance, drummer Xavier Lecouturier and bassist Kelsey Mines are the core of the band, as they often are with the fleet minded pianist. Young tenor saxophonist Jackson Cotugno has been making his mark on the Seattle scene, and serves as an interesting choice here. Trumpeter Marissa Kall has been playing around the edges of the Seattle jazz scene, making this a bit of a coming out on the scene with one of its major stars. https://www.earshot.org/venue/frederickholmes-and-company-gallery/
The Heavy Hitters ft. Mike LeDonne, Eric Alexander, Jeremy Pelt, Vincent Herring, Kenny Washington & Alexander Claffy
Tue Dec 12 – Wed Dec 13, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley
With the myriad of musical forms that seem to surround jazz, it’s nice to have an evening of hard hitting, top tier musicians swinging madly with abandon. While an all-star assemblage as this may in itself seem like another “project” gig, the opposite is actually true. The band can put full focus into playing tunes without the constraint of vigorous arrangements, or the singular touch of a notable leader–these cats are all leaders.
Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt returns after appearing at Jazz Alley in October with his quintet. He is joined on the front line by alto legend Vincent Herring and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. Alexander has Seattle roots, and plays with an embracing warmth that balances Herring’s rapid fire approach. He co-leads the band with pianist Mike LeDonne. The in demand keyboardist is a top Hammond B-3 organist as well as a master jazz pianist. Bassist Alexander Claffy teams with legendary drummer Kenny Washington holding down the rhythm section. To many, Washington is the standard for modern jazz drumming. Horn players in particular tend to sing his praises, which bodes well for this evening of modern jazz.
South Hudson Music Project: New Music Mondays and Monday Night Jazz Jam with Thomas Marriott
Monday Dec 4, 11, 18- Set at 7:30, jam at 9 PM/ Royal Room
Special Note: Mon Dec 18, 7PM
Trombonist/composer/arranger David Marriott celebrates his 50th birthday for the early set, working its way towards the 9PM jam. Marriott as well will celebrate thirty years of perfroming in Seattle. Performances by the Marriott Brothers Revival plus special guests for an all-star band, The Spirits of ’73.
Mondays are traditionally community days in jazz culture, and so they are in Columbia City with the now well established “New Music Mondays.” The set up is the same each week. At 7:30, Wayne Horvitz exacts his unique form of conduction upon a revolving cast big band, performing his compositions and those of bebop pioneer, Thelonious Monk. Horvitz loves to throw in a piece by Robin Holcomb, Bill Frisell or Gerschwin, utilizing a conducting methodology that includes direction towards improvisation. In mentioning a revolving cast in the band, the main core of the band is consistent, including Seattle stalwarts Geoff Harper, Ryan Burns,James Falzone and David Marriott, Jr. In any case, the talent level is high, the compositions brilliant and swinging and the energy level through the roof.
At 9 PM, Thomas Marriott curates an open, all ages jam session. There is a sign up sheet, guaranteeing everyone gets to play. Marriott keeps a keen eye on the matchups, supporting the mentorship cycle and giving younger musicians the opportunity to play with more experienced professionals. The trumpeter starts things off with a select quartet for two or three tunes and then opens up the session. While the Monday night affair doesn’t have the historic status of the Tuesday night jam at the Owl, it has several advantages. Most notably, it is all ages, allowing jazz students an outlet outside of the academic world. Secondly, The Royal Room offers a superb backline, with a Steinway B on stage right, a solid drum kit, bass amp and guitar amp to boot. As a added advantage, many members of the RRCME hang and participate in the jam. Typically, more people attend the jam than the RRCME set, something one hopes will change. I believe if more RRCME members stayed for the jam, more fans would appear for the first set.
Tuesday Night Jam at The Owl
Tuesday nights at 9:45 PM/ Owl ‘n Thistle Pub
The Tuesday night jam at the Owl has been a Seattle tradition since 1996, and is as funky as ever. After all, this is a jazz jam in an Irish dive bar. There is no house piano, or a back line to speak of, but somehow the musicians get it done. Pianist Eric Verlinde is the constant here, with a new house set each week at 9:45 PM, and an open jam to follow until closing. Touring bands passing through town have a habit of dropping in. More importantly, it is a potent spot for musicians to gather and play and a weekly opportunity to enjoy community! The Owl has a vibe, one you have to experience to understand, and they know the proper way to serve you a Guinness.
SRJO: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music
Sat Dec 30, 7:30 PM/ Town Hall
SRJO’s annual performance of Ellington’s 1960’s masterpiece that proposes a union of all faiths within one musical performance. Who will play Cootie Williams’ famed trumpet part, and who will be featured on tap? Will SRJO utilize a full choral group as it once did? These are all questions going in, with all possible answers being just fine–the music is worth experiencing as a source of spiritual revival no matter the approach to presenting it. SRJO founder Clarence Acox felt strongly that the piece be performed in a church, as is the case at Town Hall. No religious agenda or commercial holiday vibe here–Duke had the right idea, a revelation late in his career.
The Seattle based trumpeter hits hard with George Colligan, Eric Revis and Roy McCurdy
Photographs from Jim Levitt
Seattle trumpet star Thomas Marriott made his return to the Earshot Jazz Festival in 2023, clearly on his own terms. While the festival focused mainly on artists outside of the mainstream of modern jazz, Marriott layed it down on no uncertain terms that this evening would be innovative within form, a post-bop adventure featuring some of the hardest hitting jazz artists on the national scene.
While I cannot provide the sounds of the eighty minute set for you, I can present the beautiful work of veteran jazz photographer Jim Levitt to provide a context of the energy emanating from the stage at The Forum at Town Hall Seattle on the evening of October 12, 2023. I have chosen not to review the concert in words, which as you can imagine would include accolade after accolade. The images describe the essence of the powerful performance in ways that words simply cannot.
The band Marriott put together for this performance is emblematic of the work he has done over the past few years. Bassist Eric Revis appeared on his 2022 release, Live From the Heatdome, and perfectly fits into the paradigm of the trumpeter’s current “musical state of mind.” With a quarter century behind him with the Branford Marsalis Quartet and a long history as a composer/bandleader, Revis shares a common vision with Marriott of musical adventurism within the context of modern jazz. Pianist George Colligan is known on an international scale as the pianist of ensembles led by Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, John Scofield and others. The Portland based musician has been a frequent visitor to the Seattle scene in general, including several other iterations of Marriott’s quartet/quintet projects. Drummer Roy McCurdy has spent extended periods of time touring and recording with Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Rollins and a slew of historic others. At eighty six years of age he is a wonder, engaged fully in his hard driving, swinging style that can explode in the moment, or drift into sublime subtlety. The quartet brought to light Marriott’s artistry, both in terms of creative spirit and ardent virtuosity. Enjoy these images and allow them to serve as motivation to not only witness live jazz, but to be an active participant in the energy, power and spirit of the music!
Many thanks to the uber talented, uber dedicated Jim Levitt. His images continue to bring to life the grace and fire of the Seattle jazz scene!
For some people, the whole notion of an east-west summit of anything in jazz brings up the perceived differences over time between American west coast jazz and its east coast counterpart. The basic premise is that jazz on the American west coast is a cousin to the cool jazz movement, a calmer, less soulful part of the tradition that relies more on composition and arrangement than the playing of individual improvisers. East coast jazz is seen more as hard driving, soulful and rooted deeply in the blues. All of these perceptions have been eclipsed in great part by among other aspects of modern living, the internet and efficient commercial air travel. Follow link to All About Jazz to continue https://www.allaboutjazz.com/coast-to-coast-ray-vega-and-thomas-marriott-east-west-trumpet-summit-origin-records
Album Review: Jeff Johnson- “My Heart”
What could possibly be so interesting about a thirty-two-year old session of first takes, recorded live to 2-track DAT by a quartet led by a Seattle- based bassist who is not exactly a household name? A quick answer would include superlatives such as “masterful,” or “historic.” A brief history of bassist and composer Jeff Johnson creates a better sense of understanding. Johnson is perhaps best known as a pioneering member of pianist Hal Galper’s revolutionary rubato trio of the ’90’s, and ’00’s. His education in music was not from an institution of higher education, but from the fertile jazz scene of the early ’70’s in his native Minneapolis. His original sound would later be nuanced by time spent in Texas and Oklahoma, and by time spent alongside masters, including such greats as Philly Joe Jones, during a brief tenure in New York. Follow link to All About Jazz to continuehttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/my-heart-jeff-johnson-origin-records
When the Covid-10 pandemic shut down the world as we know it in the spring of 2020, the jazz scene in Seattle retreated into isolation, including dates that would have seen top touring bands appear in the city. Perhaps most notable of these missing dates was the Earshot Jazz presentation of the seven time Grammy winning Maria Schneider Orchestra, slated to appear in the Great Hall at Town Hall Seattle. It served then, as a large measure of social healing when the orchestra at last appeared in the historic hall on February 28, 2023, some three years delayed by the hundred year pandemic. An enthusiastic house of seven hundred patrons greeted the full New York ensemble, led by NEA Jazz Master, Maria Schneider, herself.
While hosting jazz legend is not a foreign entity to the city of Seattle, the receivership of the entirety of an eighteen member ensemble such as this is a rarity indeed. The price tag for a national tour of a large ensemble of this magnitude is indeed high, making such a phenomena practically non-existent. With Earshot picking up the tab, the Seattle audience needed to do its share by purchasing tickets, which in fact, it did. The stage was set for a historic evening that seemed to arrive at the perfect time, hastening our recovery from post-pandemic lethargy.
Schneider led the band through her highly visual compositions, including those on her Pulitzer nominated most recent release, Data Lords, and her pastoral masterpiece, The Thompson Fields. The band roster was full of some of the genre’s most notable stars, most of whom have been constants in Schneider’s band for more than a decade. The band in full: Saxophones: Rich Perry (tenor), Dave Pietro (alto), Steve Wilson (alto), Donny McCaslin (tenor), Scott Robinson (bari); Trombones: Ryan Keberle, Keigth O’Quinn, Marshall Gilges, George Flynn (bass); Trumpets: Mike Rodriguez, Greg Gisbert, Michael Dudley, Nadje Noordhuis; Accordion: Julien Labro; Guitar: Ben Monder; Piano: Gary Versace; Bass: Jay Anderson; Drums: Johnathan Blake; Sound Engineer: Fred Vogler.
Captured vividly by ace stage photogs Jim Levitt and Lisa Hagen Glynn, one can almost hear Schneider’s highly visual melodies emanating from the images. Many thanks to Jim and Lisa for generously and graciously lending us their time and talents. While many decades of Seattle’s vibrant jazz history is shrouded in mystery in lacking photographic documentation, the current era of Seattle jazz bears no such distinction. Jim and Lisa seem to be everywhere, and at the same time, respectfully hidden in the shadows of a performance. They have perfected the art of non-intrusion as far as the audience is concerned. Their colorful and emotive images add a dimension to written documentation of the scene that brings the events and characters of subject to vivid life. If you attended the concert, allow these images to refresh your memory. If unable to attend, witness some of the energy and beauty that filled the Great Hall on this one, very special evening.
Scenes’ first album dates back to 2001, but the origins of the band dates back to the early 1990s, when saxophonist Rick Mandyck, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop initiated a trio gig. On occasion guitarist John Stowell would drop in if he was off the road and in Seattle. The band that began as a trio reverted back to that format after that inaugural recording, this time Stowell in tow as Mandyck slipped into a decade-long hiatus from the saxophone due to injury.
The Thomas Marriott Quartet featuring Orrin Evans, Essiet Essiet and Mark Whitfield, Jr. play to a full house at Jazz Alley
Night after night, week after week, jazz performances take place in the city of Seattle that inspire the local jazz community. They take place in clubs, dive bars, theaters and concert halls, featuring national and international jazz artists as well as prominent resident artists from the dynamic Seattle jazz scene. On occasion, an individual jazz performance serves as a signpost of things to come. The September 26 performance of the Thomas Marriott Quartet at Jazz Alley was all of the above. Marriott had assembled a stellar quartet to celebrate the release of his fourteenth album as a leader, Live From the Heatdome (Imani, 2022).
The stage at Jazz Alley has seen the best of the best since its opening in 1980 as an intimate bistro in the University District. For the first six years of the club, it was common to see an artist of international prominence perform with a supporting cast of Seattle jazzers such as Chuck Deardorf,Dean Hodges, Marc Seales and Jerry Granelli among others. After moving to its more spacious digs downtown in 1986, full touring bands were and are featured, with Seattle based performances becoming less common. Over the years, there have been periods when Monday nights were reserved for the local scene, either in the form of an individual artist’s show, or a jam session that featured top Seattle players such as Hadley Caliman and Don Lanphere. Taking on Marriott’s album release was a rarity that needed support from the Seattle jazz community. That support was received in abundance with the club nearly full house.
Marriott has had a musical connection with Philadelphia based pianist Orrin Evans since a chance meeting at a jazz festival in Idaho over a decade ago. Live From the Heat Dome is the fourth release from the trumpeter that features Evans. His appearance, along with legendary bassist Essiet Essiet and sensational drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr., gave the performance a huge kickstart, with Marriott delivering a top flight performance of original tunes and a triad of well chosen standards.
The quartet started with Marriott’s “Tale of Debauchery,” extracted from his Urban Folklore (Origin, 2014) album that featured Evans on piano. On this evening, it served as a vehicle for Marriott to find his sound and cadence, serving up a long solo that began with longer tones and finished with a flurry of rapid fire runs. Evans, Essiet and Whitfield were immediately playful with the tune, something that would continue throughout the ninety minute set in plenitud.
“Front Row Family,” an ode to Marriott’s uber-supportive family over the years, was a mood changer that featured his ultra refined trumpet tonality that served as a warm invite for the audience to join in the intimacy of the moment. Essiet’s solo was a telltale sign of his unique artistry, his exquisite sound framing intricate passages and chordal brilliance. Marriott for his part appeared to be just getting started, not quite unleashing the hounds, so to speak.
“Mo-Joe,” Marriott’s homage to vibraphonist Joe Locke pushed the set forward into an uptempo, swinging foray into his post-bop, modernist leanings. His solo and that of Evans were telltale statements of their deep connection to the blues and the swing rhythm that defines the Black American art form they so ably express. Just as strongly, Evans launched into a quiet, beautifully harmonic intro to Marriott’s “Chick’s Lullaby,” serving as a beautiful interlude of quiet focus and meditative thought. In a tune dedicated to his wife, Marriott’s muted soliloquy was embracingly romantic and had a magical impact on the audience, roping them into the emotional aspect of the performance.
Essiet’s thunderous intro to Wayne Shorter’s “General Assembly,” served as a passageway to melodic freedom for the quartet, with Marriott’s searing solo setting the bar high for his positively respondent bandmates. Evans has always had a percussive aspect to his playing that has supplied a degree of separation between him and the majority of pianists in modern jazz. His solo seemed to ignite Whitfield on drums, whose focused intensity and supportive dynamics were unabashedly a highlight of the entire performance. In essence, Shorter’s thunderous composition seemed to light the fuse for the next few tunes. Easing into Vernon Duke’s classic, “I Can’t Get Started,” the quartet seemed to settle into a comfortable place with Evan’s playfully daring solo and Essiet’s beautifully pensive offering leading the way.
“The Joint Chiefs,” which appears on Live From the Heatdome, and “Both Sides of the Fence,” the title track from Marriott’s 2007 release, operated at an elevated degree of intensity and featured Whitfield’s spirited playing. Marriott and Evans exchanged glancing blows back and forth with the young drummer, the spirited response of the near capacity crowd seemingly lifting the roof off the place. The finale, Duke Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” was a fitting ending for the band, wrapping up their fourth consecutive night on a high. The foursome had spent two nights at Frankie’s in Vancouver, followed by a night in Bellingham. They had earned their repose.
Jazz Alley has never been much of a “hang” spot after a gig since the U District days when it was all of that. This evening was an exception, with an audience that represented a broad cross-section of the Seattle jazz community. It seemed everyone wanted a piece of the trumpeter, a prime indicator of the love and respect that Marriott inspires in his home town. With community elders like Julian Priester, Jim Wilkie and Marvin Thomas in the room and many of the city’s prominent jazz musicians as well, the respect factor was plainly evident. As far as the love factor, that was something felt upon entering the room, was elevated by the performance, and expressed with warm embraces post-show. For anyone that has spent any amount of time on the Seattle jazz scene, and at Jazz Alley in particular, this was a beautiful and welcoming sight. Let’s hope it portends to a re-ignited relationship between Seattle’s best jazz musicians, and its city’s most renowned stage.
“While the nonprofit has been acknowledged for providing a place for the resident Seattle jazz to thrive, it is equally important to note the Fellowship’s work in caring for the music itself.”
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by trumpeter Thomas Marriott, was created in response to the loss of viable jazz stages showcasing the vibrant resident jazz scene in Seattle. While local jazz musicians and fans alike mourned the downfall of longtime resident haunts such as the New Orleans club and Tula’s Jazz Club, Marriott and a supportive group of like-minded community members sought an alternative to the traditional jazz supper club personified by the aforementioned institutions. Gentrification of the downtown core of the city had driven rents to such a level that sustaining a club that could also serve as a community hub had become difficult at best. Food and liquor sales became the life blood of these attempts, driving up the price of access to jazz fans, while wages for musicians hung at early 1980’s levels. Worse yet, musicians had to rely on the door or ticket receipts to be paid at all. Like many jazz scenes around the country not based in New York City, the best musicians had to leave town to have any hope of earning a living as a professional jazz musician. The story of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship (SJF) and its guiding principles first appeared in All About Jazz in February, 2022, in the article Seattle Jazz Fellowship: A New Beginning For Live Resident Jazz. To continue reading, click here https://www.allaboutjazz.com/seattle-jazz-fellowship-presents-orrin-evans-and-the-captain-black-big-band-captain-black-big-band
The jazz non-profit hits it out of the park presenting piano great George Cables and his trio, with the Fellowship ‘Ceptet
Trumpeter and Seattle Jazz Fellowship founder Thomas Marriott is always on the lookout to bring to life ideas that further the goals of the Fellowship. The principle of lowering barriers to access was practiced in booking The George Cables Trio alongside the non-profit’s Fellowship ‘Ceptet for a 1 PM jazz matinee, a promotional risk of sorts. The Saturday tilt would allow more students to attend, as well as families. Then there are those that are reticent about venturing out at night, when most of the music takes place on the Seattle jazz scene, or for that matter, any local jazz scene.
The show was made possible by a generous donation from Bob and Sue Frause, friends of Marriott’s late parents David and Helen Marriott. The Marriotts were hugely influential in their support for jazz in Seattle, and the Frause family wanted to both support the Fellowship and memorialize David and Helen in some way. Cables was a favorite of theirs, and a dear friend. There was never any doubt as to who their son wanted to bring in to perform. Cables would add drummer Jerome Jennings from New York, and Seattle jazz legend Chuck Deardorf on bass, a long-time friend. Marriott decided to include a key mentorship project of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship in the billing–the Marriott led Fellowship ‘Ceptet.
“We decided to include the ‘Ceptet in the event and to keep the price of the ticket down (and make it early) so we could use the event to further our goals of building community, increasing mentorship, incentivizing excellence and lowering barriers to access,” says Marriott.
The 1 PM start turned out to be agreeable to the Seattle jazz public, as the room filled to capacity in anticipation of two superb sets. The sun washed through the club’s windows looking out onto Rainier Ave, shadows cast across the room seldom seen before by patrons more accustomed to the club’s typical late night persona. The crowd was decidedly cross-generational, with families and students not normally associated with evening sessions at the club in attendance. They came for the music, as the Royal Room itself was not quite accustomed to an afternoon happening. The kitchen was closed, and one bartender was left to attend to the needs of a full house.
The Fellowship “Ceptet opened, featuring a line-up that spoke well to the non-profit’s premise. Marriott, along with drummer John Bishop, pianist Marc Seales and alto saxophonist Mark Taylor are four of the finest jazz musicians to emerge from the Seattle scene historically. Tenor saxophonist Jackson Cotugno, trombonist Beserat Tafesse and bassist Grace Kaste represented the new wave of jazz artistry in the city, with Kaste still a senior at Roosevelt HIgh School. All three would demonstrate to the audience that their inclusion was merited in terms of artistic facility.
The band played a selection of Marriott originals, and a cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now.” Throughout the seven tunes selected, the band offered crisp arrangements and imaginative soloing. Immediately noticeable was the rhythm section, with Seattle stalwarts Bishop and Seales working seamlessly with Kaste. Kaste performed with the refinement and elegance of a veteran, much to the delight of Deardorf, her mentor since the age of thirteen in attendance. The front line responded to the strong vibe in the room with fire, queued by Marriott’s leadership, and most importantly his brilliant solo work. Taylor, who has been somewhat invisible the past few years from live performance in Seattle, played beautifully, with his trademark, original style on alto. Cotugno continued a somewhat meteoric visibility on the Seattle scene offering a modern approach, with a pre-bop sound that speaks to Ben Webster. Tafesse, who has been ever-present post-pandemic at area jam sessions, was in a way introduced to the jazz public at large, providing harmonic depth and spirited soloing.
The set had a dynamic arc from start to finish. opening with “Fellowship Blues,” and delving into Marriott’s “Human Spirit,” and O.D.A.A.T (One Day at a Time). The Monk interlude was lush and spacious. It stood out in terms of arrangement, featuring a commonality between Marriott and his saxophone counterparts in Taylor and Cotugno–all three produce a rich tonality that fares well in moments of intensity, or those of melancholy. By the time the band arrived at Marriott’s “Stupor in D,” and “The Tale of Debauchery,” they had found a connective spirit that resonated well with an audience that was pleasingly dialed in.
Pianist Cables at 78 years of age, still not only performs at a high and inspired level, but maintains the prowess he has demonstrated throughout his career without any signs of slowing down. His playing is crisp, brilliantly articulated and radiating with the joy that is an integral part of his personality both on and off the bandstand.
The trio offered in depth interpretations of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” and Bill Strayhorn’s gorgeous “Lotus Flower,” with Cable’s playing accented perfectly by Deardorf’s seemingly effortless style. Jennings played as though delighted to be in the presence of the two jazz elders he would converse with over the ninety minute set.
The standards “Too Close For Comfort,” and “Who Can I Turn Too” brought the audience to Cables’ romantic side, perhaps prepping them emotionally for his two originals he silently dedicated to his late wife. “Song For Helen,” and “My Muse” brought more than melancholy to the audience. Cables’ lush harmonies and sweeping, melodic runs spoke to fond remembrance, joy and gratitude. It reminded the attentive audience that they were in the company of one of the true giants of jazz music. The elders in the audience could think back to seeing the master as a sideman with the likes of Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper. With that, came the realization that Cables had joined the two saxophone icons as a true master of the form. His graciousness and humility was a true gift to the younger members of the audience, many of them musicians themselves. As young bassist Kaste learned on the bandstand, and many of her contemporaries witnessed in the audience, true mentorship and the process of paying dues in this music is done in the presence of the masters of the form. For this one afternoon, those lessons were communicated with unusual clarity.
The matinee portends good things for SJF, for what is to come down the road. With their weekly “Fellowship Wednesdays” commencing on April 20, the non-profit moves front and center in support of the resident jazz scene in Seattle.
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship, the city’s 501 (c) (3) jazz non-profit, has taken a hiatus from their weekly dates at Vermillion until April 20, when the Wednesday night program will re-ignite for another six week run. In the meantime, the organization founded by Thomas Marriott has turned its focus to presenting performances featuring the Fellowship ‘Ceptet, a rotating gathering of the best of the Seattle jazz scene. The seven piece ensemble opened for New York based bassist Alex Claffy and his quintet on Tuesday, February 8 at the Royal Room in Columbia City.
The ‘Ceptet performed compositions by trumpeter Marriott, along with a Thelonious Monk classic. Marriott was joined by a front line of altoist Alex Dugdale, tenorist Jackson Cotugno and trombonist David Marriott, Jr.. Pianist Marina Albero, bassist Trevor Ford and drummer D’Vonne Lewis held down the rhythm section.
Claffy’s quintet featured Portland born and raised tenorist Nicole Glover, and trumpeter Benny Benack III. The New York based band was all in on the hang in Seattle as well, attending both the Monday night jam at the Royal Room, and the Tuesday night jam at the Owl ‘n Thistle.
Photographers Jim Levitt and Lisa Hagen Glynn were there to document the event with their stellar photographic skill sets. Enjoy the results! To further explore the goings on with the Seattle Jazz Fellowship, visit their website at https://seattlejazzfellowship.org/
It was 5 PM on a crisp Wednesday afternoon on December 1, and thirty people sat casually in the brick lined digs of Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar on Capitol Hill, intently listening to the soft spoken musings of jazz legend, Julian Priester. The historic trombonist was playing selections from his storied career that continually over the course of seven decades has stood at the progressive forefront of the music. This afternoon it was his work with Dave Holland and Herbie Hancock that was featured. His historical and cultural anecdotes were thrilling to hear, providing weekly attendees a unique perspective on the music that they had become passionate about.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy jazz music performed at its highest level of artistry in Seattle. Many of those options include a cover and a high end price tag for dinner and drinks. Those venues tend to lack a major component of jazz culture- the hang. It is during that time before, between and after sets that cultivates community and enables fellowship.
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship weekly offers Priester’s free listening session, and two sets featuring two separate ensembles of the finest resident jazz musicians in Seattle for a reasonable cover. Vermillion serves fine drinks at a very reasonable price. If you need to eat, you can pop over to Mario’s for a slice, or head around the corner to grab a burrito. The music is the focus, and because of the organization’s non-profit status, it can book and curate music that is not ruled by the age old “butts in the seats” mentality, but with the idea of artistry in music first and foremost. At the front door, vaccination status is checked, and a twenty dollar cover charged. Fellowship founder Thomas Marriott remarked at one point, “It’s a twenty dollar cover, if you can swing it.” The important thing to Marriott and the Fellowship, is that you are there in the first place, that the evening is treated as a sacred place of music for the entire community.
The seventh edition of “Fellowship Wednesdays at Vermillion” featured young pianist/arranger Dylan Hayes performing a set of his quartet arrangements of the music of recently departed composer Jim Knapp, followed by the Nathan Breedlove Quartet. Hayes was joined by Seattle jazz icon and Knapp associate, Jay Thomas, first-call bassist Michael Glynn and drummer Xavier Lecouturier. Thomas, a 55 year veteran of the Seattle scene, played brilliantly, putting a shine on Hayes’ perfect arrangements. The focus and drive of the band revealed what has been a commonality with all fourteen sets presented thus far by the SJF–that the musicians bring their “A” game to the set, that the vibe of the room was one that invites and appreciates artistry.
Between sets, the hang was thick, with many of the city’s top musicians present, as well as a jazz audience that spanned generations. New players on the scene, now especially unknown due to the pandemic, emerge and become acquainted with their new community. Younger players are mentored by the more experienced players. The audience is able to interact with the musicians in a meaningful way. They are truly a part of the performance, of the evening’s activities. The room itself has a warm glow, an intimate, welcoming vibe. The all ages policy invites younger players and fans, and allows parents to share the music with their children.
Just before hitting the stage for his set, veteran trumpeter Nathan Breedlove informed us that Delfeayo Marsalis would be dropping by. Indeed he did, playing most of the set with this assemblage of veterans that included pianist Ron Perrillo, bassist Phil Sparks and drummer Brian Kirk. Marsalis and Perrillo played both dynamically and melodically, with the live nature of the room projecting the sound through the narrow gallery to the rear of the club, through the doors, and out into the Capitol Hill night. Marsalis’ presence brought the striking realization that in only seven total nights of operation, the hang at Vermillion was gaining significant notoriety for all the right reasons.
With the playing of the last note of the evening, the room was electric, the vibration of the music still stirring in the room and in the souls of all those that attended. Old friends and new acquaintances were united in fellowship, which of course, is the point. SJF wants you to be there, to help create a sacred place for the music. One departs the room with an overwhelming sense of community, a true feeling of belonging to something sacred, historic and sustainable. With current economnic times in direct conflict with the proliferation of art, the model presented by Marriot and the SJF is proving to be one that promotes artistry and accessibility. It is a foundational source of fellowship as its name portends, within the framework of a community that has sustained itself over a century of time. The ambitions of the group to expand to five nights a week in a permanent home is the light that shows the way to the present and future of the Seattle jazz scene. The music, the gathering of friends and the emotional and spiritual high experienced by those fortunate enough to attend speaks loudly and clearly to that.
Scroll down to On the Scene: Live Jazz Previews for December to see the full schedule of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship. Next week: Iconic jazz vocal artist Greta Matassa, and Latin Jazz piano firebrand Julio Jauregui lead their respective bands to the Vermillion stage. https://seattlejazzfellowship.org/
There is a miracle on the corner of 12th Avenue and Jackson St. in what is now Seattle’s “Little Saigon.” In what was a traditional African American and Jewish community before the influx of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian immigrants after the war in Southeast Asia in the early 1980’s, this urban crossroads was the main pulse of an integrated nightclub scene in the 1930’s, ’40s and ’50s that featured dozens of late-night jazz clubs that not only housed the city’s thriving African American musicians, but attracted many musicians after hours from their respective gigs Downtown that featured only white audiences.
A fully integrated jazz nightclub scene was a rarity on a national scale, perhaps only fully realized along Jackson Street in Seattle, and Central Avenue in Los Angeles. The respective scenes attracted Black musicians from the Jim Crow south, in search of work and the ability to achieve artistry untethered by the tyranny experienced in southern music cities such as Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans. Even Jelly Roll Morton lived a spell in Seattle, as early as 1919. Neither prohibition, nor the Great Depression could cap the enthusiasm of the city’s bottle clubs along Jackson Street, many of which were operated by Black entrepreneurs. The most notable of these club owners was E. Russell “Noodles” Smith, who along with partner Burr “Blackie” Williams would operate the legendary Black and Tan nightclub in the basement of the aforementioned “miracle” on the corner of 12th and Jackson. In 1920, they opened The Entertainers Club in the upstairs portion of the building, and the late night Alhambra club in the basement. The downstairs nightspot then was renamed the Black and Tan, noted for its integrated, black and white clientele. Smith had arrived in Seattle in 1909, and had a sharp eye for business. With the town rife with cash from the shipyards and lumber mills following the Great War, Jackson Street was able to withstand the onslaught of prohibition, and later as mentioned, the Great Depression. To continue reading, click this link https://www.allaboutjazz.com/jazz-returns-to-seattles-central-district-two-evenings-of-black-brilliance-immanuel-wilkins
History and historical change happens incrementally. An able writer could expound exponentially about the life changes that added up to Louis Armstrong being the first great messenger of jazz music, step by step, before ever mentioning Duke Ellington. In the history of jazz in Seattle, one evening last week has the huge potential of being the first incremental phase of live, local jazz moving forward in the new jazz century, in such a way that allows more meaningful access for the fans, and a creative outlet for artists that compensates them fairly. It has the potential of uniting in a meaningful way, the musicians of this very social art form, and the patrons that support it. For those patrons, it as well allows them to put their hard earned dollars more directly into the musician’s pockets, impacting the creative process in such a way that positively leads to innovation in the music itself. For those of us who love the music, and see it as an integral part of our lives and culture, October 20, 2021 is the date where a giant step was taken towards a goal of vibrance and stability for the Seattle jazz scene. It was the first live incarnation of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship, and its weekly affair at Vermillion on Capitol Hill.
Trumpeter Thomas Marriott, one of the most impactful jazz musicians in recent Seattle memory, has envisioned a movement like this for a number of years. During the deepest, darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, he put his ideas on paper, effectively charting the future for post-pandemic, live, resident jazz in Seattle. With the eventual goal being a five night a week venture in a permanent home, the Seattle Jazz Fellowship has taken its first incremental step towards that goal, forming a Wednesday night partnership with Vermillion, an art gallery and bar that has mainly hosted music from the city’s avant-garde and improvised music community. Marriott purchased a piano and a PA system, and began operations in Vermillion’s brick lined digs. The room is quite vibrant acoustically, and the music was able to take place without electronic assistance with the exception of light amplification for bass and electric keyboards. The piano was not mic’d.
As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the fellowship cannot charge a cover, but has a twenty dollar suggested donation that includes two sets of music from the best Seattle jazz has to offer. The programming however, actually starts in the afternoon at 5 PM, with a free listening event designed for students and jazz fans alike. Historic trombonist and jazz icon, Julian Priester, spends an hour playing albums he appears on, and discusses the historical aspects of that recording. Mr. Priester has appeared on albums and toured with Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington and more. His own records on ECM and Riverside will be explored as well.
On his first go-around, Priester played and expounded on his 1960 Riverside date, Keep Swingin’, and shared wonderful stories about his time with such greats as Roach, Lincoln, and Tommy Flanagan. To sit in a quiet room, talking about a session that took place over sixty years ago with one of the participants was magical, an opportunity not to be missed. Unfortunately, the audience consisted of twenty six musicians, and not a single high school student. The hope is certainly that students will begin to take advantage of this rare opportunity to share time with Priester.
At 7 PM, the club opened officially for an hour of hang time prior to the first set. Vermillion had been shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic, and it took a little work to create the space the event required. Many familiar faces checked in, as well as many new, young faces, all covered in masks. Vaccination ID was checked at the door, adding a layer of social comfort to the event.
From the first note, the room was resonant, the sound projecting out of the bar, and down the long corridor that is the art gallery. People walking through the front door could hear the acoustical brilliance of the room, with the piano of Marc Seales coloring the sound with gorgeous voicings. Drummer Gary Hobbs, up from Portland for the evening, chimed in at first, and then dug in, being his usual swinging self. So appropriately, bassist Chuck Deardorf was on the gig, and sounding better than ever, literally. Deardorf has been a first-call musician in this town since the early seventies, playing often at clubs like the original Jazz Alley in the U District, Parnell’s, The Rainbow and the Pioneer Banque, all of which are swept away into the dustbin of history. Marriott’s trumpet sound was in perfect tune with the physical aspects of the room, his resonant tone rising and projecting immensely. The quartet was in perfect tune with the human vibe in the room, as fifty people filled the tiny, brick lined digs at the Capitol Hill club.
A short break between sets provided more time for people to enjoy the fellowship of community, in many cases, greeting long time friends not seen since the pandemic shut down live music eighteen months ago. The diversity of the crowd itself was stunning in terms of age–being so indicative of the long term multi-generational nature of jazz scenes around the globe. Those attracted are not done so by generational trends, or corporatized marketing. The music is the thing, the appreciation of beauty, the immersion into something that elevates us emotionally and spiritually. There were no expensive dinners to buy, no craft cocktails required. Hungry patrons took advantage of Mario’s across the street. Vermillion owner Diana Adams provided drinks and friendly service. It was obvious she was there for the art, the music itself, just as everyone else in her bar.
Drummer/composer Xavier Lecouturier led his quartet the second set, a bassless ensemble that morphed into a quintet with the last minute addition of trumpeter Noah Halpern. Some of the usual suspects were on the gig, with Meridian Odyssey bandmates Martin Budde (guitar), and Dylan Hayes (piano, keyboards). Vibraphonist Matt Williams, known more prominently as a pianist, but as well highly skilled on vibes, completed the band. With the bassline maintained collectively by Hayes, Budde and Halpern, soloists were free to explore with less visible and audible parameters, creating a unique, orchestral sound. Halpern’s ardent tonality was rich and warm, giving the evening an extraoridinary two trumpet hit. Budde’s playing was free, probing yet thoughtful, as his evolution continues to unfold before us. Lecouturier acted as a leader should, often kicking rhe music in another direction with his confident playing that embraces the entirety of the jazz tradition. Noticeable of course, was like the audience, the group of musicians playing that evening spanned four generations. If you include Priester into the mix, there was sixty five years of separation between the most highly regarded elder, and the youngest player on the gig. There is beauty and value in that beyond measure.
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship could not have hoped for a better result the first time out of the gate. The evening was competing with the Earshot Jazz Festival and Jazz Alley, and received an audience that was attentive, mature, joyous, engaged and aware of the value of masking and being vaccinated. The music was thrilling, the vibe generous and positive and our hosts at Vermillion, kind, helpful and all in on the music.
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship offers a weekly opportunity to show your support for local Seattle jazz, hear vibrant and important music and gather in fellowship with friends. Best of all, it won’t cost you half your weekly paycheck to attend. It is an organization for the music, and the community that embraces it. Musicians and patrons alike are equal partners in this most social music. October 20, 2021, mark it down. It is step one of a journey that very well could determine the future of the Seattle jazz scene. https://seattlejazzfellowship.org/
Two trumpet quintets in jazz are rare, historically and presently. The alliances most commonly mentioned are the bop era tandem of Fats Navarro and Howard McGhee and their post-bop descendents, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. The individual players in both these pairings had similar qualities in terms of style and approach.
The pairing of Bronx born trumpeter Ray Vega, and his younger partner, Seattle’s Thomas MarriottT, as well have their musical commonalities. It is where the differences lie between the two that provides the intrigue around their recordings and live performances.The age-old belief that the east coast version of jazz is commonly more intense, and the west coast approach more laid back, has not been completely eradicated by modern travel, and in recent times, social media. Vega’s move from the Bronx and New York City to Burlington, Vermont has certainly redefined the “east” portion of the equation, while Marriott is now suddenly the more urban of the two, residing in the city of Seattle. Musical styles aside, the true story of this historic pairing has much more to do with friendship, with mentorship, and a long time friendship and bond that has seen Vega name his youngest son after Marriott. A little background therefore, is necessary to be able to appreciate the magnitude of this latest meeting in Seattle, performing at the Bellevue Blues and Jazz Festival. To continue reading, click on this link:https://www.allaboutjazz.com/east-west-trumpet-summit-at-meydenbauer-center-theatre-thomas-marriott-and-ray-vega
The third week of September turned out to be quite the week for jazz in Seattle. On Tuesday September 21, Herbie Hancock appeared at the Paramount Theatre, performing a thrilling two hour set with bassist James Genus, flutist Elena Pinderhughes and drummer Justin Tyson. The following night, The Cookers were at Jazz Alley, and I went not only to hear some great jazz music, put to pay homage to a group of jazz elders that are hugely influential in the music I had come to be passionate about. This was personal and I wasn’t alone in that feeling. Pianist George Cables is not only one of the great jazz pianists of our time, he is a man with tremendous humility and humanity. Eddie Henderson is on the list of most underappreciated trumpeters historically, with his brilliant melodic sense and tonal elegance. Drummer Billy Hart is still, at age eight one, a force of nature. Mr. Cecil Mc Bee? The master bassist is on records I have come to treasure that date back to the early sixties. Just seeing the great McBee enjoying a glass of wine after the gig was a bit of a surreal experience in itself for an admittedly over-the-top jazz fan like myself.
I was insistent on attending the performance as a civilian–I wanted to enjoy these master musicians without checking on a set list, without jotting down notes. I was however, accompanied by photographer Lisa Hagen Glynn, who wanted to document the event with her very fine skills as a live performance photographer. She knew the room well, so her plan of attack would no doubt bring excellent results. As you can see from the photgraphs below, that indeed was the case.
A review might simply point out that Billy Harper is still letting it fly on tenor, that Cables is playing as well, or better than he ever has. It would state the obvious that Hart would set the pace with his physical and articulate style. It would cite McBee as the foundational impulse of the band, playing with understated elegance. It would mention that Donald Harrison would bring a bit of New Orleans with him, acting as a tonal counterpoint to Harper’s snarling, biting attack. David Weiss would fill in the gaps, solo madly and be the band’s designated spokesman.
For the audience, there was a prominent feeling of rebirth, that somehow through the fog of now almost two years of social isolation, these jazz apostles are still on the road, still sharing their gifts with us. We felt not only joyous, but fortunate to be sharing space with them.
Our friend, the iconic trombonist Julian Priester, sat at a table right up against stage left. It occured to me that three members of Hancock’s Mwandishi Band would be in the house, after having seen Hancock the night before. Priester was there unbeknowst to his Mwandishi brothers, Hart and Henderson. As the Cookers were being announced and entering the stage, Hart spotted Priester and got down on his knees to lean over the stage and embrace his old friend. The emotion of the moment was only surpassed by its beauty.
The hang is always the thing–an unequivocal fact in the jazz community, that somehow felt even more relevant that evening. To be seated with Priester, Hart and Henderson, or sharing a drink with McBee is an honor. Young musicians, such as saxophonist Jackson Cotugno, were able to meet and briefly chat with these legendary and historic musicians. That generational bridge is always something wonderful to behold.
As for my friend Lisa Hagen Glynn, she captured the energy of the evening perfectly. Many, many thanks to her for sharing this treasure trove of jazz history with us. You can catch and support her fine work covering the music scene in Seattle, both inside jazz and out, at her new blogsite https://hardlyraining.com
The stage at the esteemed Seattle jazz club, Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, holds special meaning for local musicians who are brought up through the traditions of the city’s historically vibrant jazz scene. The majority of the performers who grace the Belltown nightspot’s hallowed podium are national and international touring artists, who over the years have included Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis, Betty Carter and Cecile McLorin Salvant to mention but a few. On occasion, the club has set aside nights for its resident jazz elite, including the great Ernestine Anderson.
Before the worldwide pandemic brought the live performance world to a screeching halt, Jazz Alley began featuring resident artists on Monday nights (the reference to ‘resident’ artists as opposed to ‘local’ was inspired by Seattle jazz great Julian Priester, who explained that the term local could be interpreted as pedestrian). With live music at the club re-igniting in the summer of 2021, the club decided to take a chance on Seattle’s best, booking Thomas Marriott, Greta Matassa, Marc Seales and Ari Joshua with positive results both in terms of performance and attendance. It was quite striking to see a full club in on every note for Seattle veteran pianist Seales for example, with a band that featured Seattleites Marriott and Jeff Johnson.
The Seattle based Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio took to the Jazz Alley stage to begin a two night, sold out engagement on August 24th, a Tuesday evening with a full house on hand. Many in the audience were about to experience live music for the first time since the pandemic induced shutdown. There was a sense of rejuvenation, of celebration in the room, as Lamarr escorted his mother, brother and sister in law to their table suspended over the stage in the front of the balcony. The soulful R&B and blues guitarist Jimmy James was his usual sharp witted and comical self. “Do you know how to tell if someone is not from Seattle,” he quipped. “When they ask how to get on THE five!” James is all south end Seattle, just as Lamarr’s roots run deep in the Emerald City. New drummer Dan Weiss, who hails from Reno, was getting a full dose of the immensity of the moment, of his Seattle bandmates about to take stage on the city’s most prestigious jazz precipice. The trio had enjoyed a degree of commercial success prior to the shutdown, and had drawn well in their previous visit to the club.
Seattle’s reputation of being a remote and unique cultural outpost is perhaps a bit outdated in its modern incarnation, but nonetheless steeped in historical accuracy. When Jazz Alley opened, it would often feature a national touring artist accompanied by Seattle musicians. In the seventies and eighties, it was common to see such Seattle stalwarts as Chuck Deardorf and Dean Hodges manning the rhythm section for notables like Kenny Burrell or Mose Allison. The resident artists could be found full time at clubs like The New Orleans, or Tula’s beginning in the nineties. But headliners at the old Jazz Alley on University Way, or the current Belltown location, were clearly the exception, not the rule.
Lamarr is what some might refer to as a “natural” musician, one that has an innate understanding of music as a base point for his personal musical progression. In middle school, he came to play in the band by chance, by clearly showing his teacher and mentor Sam Chambliss his ability.
“One day I saw a horn on the floor, and didn’t even know what it was. I told Mr. Chambliss, ‘I can play that.’ He said, ‘Good, I’ll put you in band.’ It was a baritone horn. I picked it up and played it naturally right away. I couldn’t read music, so I would just copy the person next to me. Whatever they played, I played,” he recalls.
Lamarr settled on B-3 after playing drums in the band of Seattle B-3 master, Joe Doria. A year of simply observing his bandleader from behind the kit, allowed him to casually sit down and play the complex instrument.
“I had been watching Joe play it for a year, and literally sat down and played it like I had been playing it my whole life,” says Lamarr.
Lamarr was, and is, a jazz first musician no matter what musical tradition he employs. There is an intuitive eclecticism about his art that transcends form. The influences of his first love, R&B and soul, speaks through his music as well. Taking those elements of his musical personality, and creating a concept that not only would be sufficiently expressive for a genius musician like Lamarr, and as well supply ample opportunity to make a living, eventually became the domain of Amy Novo, Lamarr’s wife, life partner and manager.
“She literally owns DLO3,” exclaimed Lamarr from the Jazz Alley stage that night. “She came up with the idea, and made it happen in every way. I just have to play music.”
Novo worked tirelessly, while her husband created music that would land them with the esteemed Kurland Agency. They found an audience that, like the music, transcended genre. The potent recipe of jazz, rhythm and blues and rock pulled in a sizable crowd that enabled the band to play venues like the Blue Note in New York, worldwide festivals and of course, Seattle’s Jazz Alley. Guitarist James provided the punch that incorporated that which encompasses all of Lamarr’s stylistic indulgences- the blues. The band’s sound has been represented well on the studio albums Close But No Cigar (Colemine, 2018) and I Told You So (Colemine,2021) for Colemine Records, and the live offering Live at KEXP (Colemine, 2018).
That “sound” has a historical lineage, perhaps unknown to Lamarr at the beginning stages of the band’s development. In the fifties and sixties, Seattle Hammond B-3 artist Dave Lewis had a multitude of hit records with what was being referred to at the time as the “Seattle Sound.” It was instrumental, organ based music, that had markings of jazz, rhythm and blues and the hybrid form taking hold of the airwaves in those days– rock and roll. Lewis’ band would eventually have a huge impact sociologically by playing north end gigs that were the exclusive domain of white bands. This would put an end to musical segregation in the city, which included separate unions for white and black musicians. The unity exhibited by late night jam sessions on Jackson St., now had legal and ethical legitimacy by practice among venue owners. The “sound” would have an impact on Seattle jazz, as well as artists in all blues based styles, including Jimi Hendrix. DLO3 has received a large degree of popularity and commercial success with their own unique organ based sound, that much like Lewis’ combo, is an open door for guest artists to enter and leave their mark. It is a style that is constantly in motion and inviting new musical notions. Whether performing for a sit down audience at Jazz Alley, or accommodating a dance crowd, the band has the unique ability to satisfy multiple audiences, a luxury seldom afforded by jazz artists.
Lamarr’s solo work, and his minimalist comping style, are unmistakingly tied to his roots as a jazz musician. His dual persona in a way, is like an artistic aperture allowing the entire blues tradition into the mix. So much is the same, so much is different. “When I play DLO3 music versus swinging jazz, the approach is completely different. I intertwine the soul with jazz and make sense of it,” he explains. It is not, however, groove dance music, no matter how thick and comfortable drummer Weiss makes that pocket seem. Lamarr’s thought processes arrive musically from the jazz lexicon, smothered in blues based soul and funk. “It’s undeniable that music is better when it speaks to somebody’s soul instead of just hearing a beat,” he points out.
The trio’s open door welcomed in India Arie bassist Khari Simmons, and Polyrhythmic’s guitarist Ben Bloom on this Tuesday evening engagement in Seattle. Relieved of bass line duties, Lamarr is able to ascend as a soloist to new heights, and for two tunes, as a vocalist. Until this opening night in Seattle, Lamarr had never dared to sing in public. He soulfully rendered two new compositions to accommodate this new, very personal revelation. “No Walk in the Park,” and “Can’t Win For Losing,” unmasked the organist’s inner creative sanctum, leaving himself completely vulnerable to an audience that included family, long time friends and some of the city’s top music scribes. That comfortable vibe, that which one feels when surrounded by loved ones, by being home, gathered all the loose ends of the evening into one, enlightened space. The jovial nonchalance of Lamarr’s outward personality, and his deep, soul searching inner musical self came to a singular state of being. This wasn’t another ordinary stop on a long tour–it was Seattle, it was Jazz Alley, this was about neighborhood and being home.
The afternoon preceding DLO3’s opener at Jazz Alley, Lamar and Novo set up a B-3 at the Owl ‘n Thistle, an Irish dive bar in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, with intentions of returning after the Jazz Alley hit to attend a weekly jam session that has taken place at the Owl for more than two decades. The jam is the social focal point of the Seattle jazz scene, and where Lamarr would come to match his chops with the best players in town. In those days, the young Lamarr would play trumpet and drums at the session. Two weeks prior, he had dropped in at the Owl after a gig at Woodland Park, with Novo and Simmons in tow. He played drums a bit, but mostly just enjoyed the hang tremendously. He realized how shut in socially he could be, between touring and ultimately, due to Covid-19. Knowing that he would be playing the house B-3 at Jazz Alley, he set up his own equipment at the Owl, and arrived around 10 PM, just as the house band led by pianist Eric Verlinde was finishing up its set. The trio played a few tunes for the jam packed (pun intended) audience in the small, brick lined room. Soon, Lamarr was at the organ with a rapidly changing cast of musicians at the open session, clearly enjoying himself. While Lamarr is an affable sort, his normal positive self seemed to play into a state of heightened joy and repose. Novo as well sported a look of knowing she was in the right place at the right time. Normally a whirlwind during a gig, dealing with the business portion of the band, she as well could just revel in the sense of normalcy, of fellowship and community, that was so clearly at hand.
Of course, the evening would end with Lamarr and Novo once again loading one hulk of a musical instrument into their van. There was another night at Jazz Alley to traverse, and whatever else comes literally down the road as things slowly return to normal. There is the uncertainty of the Delta variant, of course, yet over two nights at their city’s most esteemed club, every seat is full, every audience member engaged and content. There is hope in the air, that we will rise above a two year pandemic hiatus, and find our stride musically, and inevitably, socially.
A single evening saw the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio in front of a full house, and then immersed in the hang, that which in the end really matters. A return to normalcy means so much more than audience being reunited with artist. Rising above the fray of a worldwide pandemic, that place where none of us had ever resided, is more about being reunited with each other. Of feeling that embrace. On one Tuesday evening in Seattle, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio and family felt the embrace that only home can bring. —Paul Rauch
There’s a new spot in North Seattle for an intimate evening of jazz. Calluna restaurant, a casual European American restaurant at 5628 University Way NE in the Ravenna neighborhood, will offer live jazz Wednesday-Sunday beginning in September.
Calluna was opened by familiar faces on the jazz scene in Seattle in former Tula’s manager Jason Moore and his partner, Heather Bourne. With Tula’s ending its 26 year run in October of 2019, they were looking to open a restaurant outside of the music business. The restaurant opened in December of 2019, just three months before the world shut down due to Covid-19. After close to two years in their new digs, they realized how much they missed the music. They knew post-pandemic, they had to breathe some life into the intimate, homespun room.
“I missed the music, I missed the culture and the musicians themselves” says Moore. Very much like they did at Tula’s, Moore and Bourne took on the task of renovating their new space, from painting and cleaning, to the huge step of committing finances to a piano and acoustic revisions to the room. Experience told them that a room in Ravenna was going to have to draw people in with something special and welcoming. This isn’t Belltown, and lack of foot traffic in the north end neighborhood makes Calluna a destination venue, needing top end talent and superior ambience to attract a crowd.
Knowing the room was not suitable for more volumnus bands, they decided on a duo/trio format, with solo acts a possibility as well. The recently shuttered New York club, Bradley’s, was cited as an example to follow. While Calluna doesn’t plan on being the late night hang that the iconic Bradley’s was known for, it will offer top tier Seattle jazz musicians performing in duos and trios without drums, just right for the cozy living room vibe that best describes the Ravenna eatery. Moore brought in a Yamaha C-3 piano, and invited the best players in town to join in on the fun.
September will bring in a large strand of Seattle’s top jazz musicians, including Bill Anschell, Jeff Johnson, Greta Matassa, Stephanie Porter, Kelley Johnson, Rick Mandyck, and a special John Coltrane birthday celebration with Alex Dugdale. Anschell will square off in a duo with bassist Jeff Johnson, a fine example of the programming at Calluna. The marvelous jazz vocalist Matassa will perform with Clipper Anderson on bass and Alexey Nikolaev on saxophones. The demands the room places on the musicians in terms of intimacy will create an environment unlike what one might experience at a larger venue. The fine food and drink and Moore’s standard and understanding of live jazz performance will be a big plus.
Calluna adds to nightly opportunities for Seattle jazz fans. From the Royal Room in Columbia City and Egan’s in Ballard, to Jazz Alley and the arrival of the new Seattle Jazz Fellowship, the landscape for live jazz, post-pandemic, is beginning to take shape. For more information on Calluna, and a full music calendar, follow the link below.
One of the recent positive marks on the Seattle jazz scene is that Jazz Alley, the city’s premier spot for touring acts, has been featuring some resident artists. The shows have been well attended, featuring iconic Seattle artists such as Greta Matassa, Marc Seales, Thomas Marriott and Delvon Lamarr.
The Seattle jazz community has been well documented in recent years photographically, thanks in large part to veteran jazz photog, Jim Levitt. Long known for his work for the Ballard Jazz Festival, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Port Townsend, Levitt can often be found at a gig near you. He may be hiding behind a curtain, or slithering along the ground like a shutterbug snake. He may find the empty chair at your table, taking a few shots before disappearing again, toting his stuffed to the gills bag of camera equipment.
Levitt has mentored the next gen photog on the scene, Lisa Hagen Glynn, who as well can often be found working around stages and audiences in several genres of the city music scene, most notably the jazz world where she typically resides. Her initial interest in photographing jazz performances came by attending gigs played by her husband, Seattle first call bassist, Michael Glynn. She has a unique, perhaps innate sense of the moment, often catching musicians at the height of their emotional arc. Her remarkable ability to seem almost invisible, yet find superior angles to shoot, makes her work stand out much in the way of her mentor. Many thanks to Jim and Lisa for bringing the music to life in pictures.
If you were a young and talented jazz musician in Portland, Oregon, you would make yourself highly visible on the local scene to gain invaluable experience playing with the best the city had to offer. In addition to your more formal studies, you would extend your musical outreach from post-bop modernism to the avant-garde. Most importantly, you would constantly be rubbing musical shoulders with the elders who have mentored you to the point of having professional aspirations.
This is precisely what Portland-based alto saxophonist Nicole McCabe accomplished before her 2020 move to Los Angeles. Along the way she benefited from performing with the great pianist George Colligan, trumpeter Charlie Porter, bassist Jon Lakey, and veteran drummer/producer Alan Jones. For her debut recording Introducing Nicole McCabe (Minaret, 2020), she gathers all four to perform a collection of original tunes, along with two covers. To continue reading, click here https://www.allaboutjazz.com/introducing-nicole-mccabe-nicole-mccabe-minaret
Seattle-based musician Jay Thomas may be considered the oddest of ducks in the jazz universe. By that, I am referring to his fierce musicality expressed both on trumpet and saxophone, as well as most members of the brass and woodwind families. Inspired early in his career by the like minded veteran Ira Sullivan, Thomas in a single night will drift from trumpet to tenor, from flugelhorn to alto, and then double back on flute and soprano. He may as well play a melody in elegant style on tenor, and solo on trumpet and flute within the context of a single tune. While the demands of embouchure for each of these instruments makes Thomas’ methodology remarkable in itself, the fact that he performs with equal world-class virtuosity on each makes him, well, the oddest of ducks in the jazz universe. To continue reading, click this linkhttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/upside-jay-thomas-quartet-mcvouty-records