On the Scene: Live Jazz Previews for April

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt
Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Immanuel Wilkins Quartet

Sat Apr 1, 7:30 PM/ Raisbeck Auditorium

Alto saxophonist/composer Immanuel Wilkins has seen a lot of attention come his way since his BlueNote debut, Omega (BlueNote, 2020). His quartet has been led by the constant presence of fellow Juilliard alumnus, Micah Thomas, an equally potent young force on the modern jazz scene. Drummer Kweeku Sumbry has been a presence on Wilkins’ recordings, including the latest, The 7th Hand (BlueNote, 2022). Sumbry missed the quartet’s last go around in Seattle at Langston, replaced by Mike Mitchell. Rick Rosato is a newcomer on bass, one of the true rising stars on the New York scene. As for Wilkins himself, his sound, his vibe is pure Philadelphia, where he was mentored by his elders in his hometown long before his arrival at Juilliard. His time spent around Philly masters such as Christian McBride and Orrin Evans has been hugely influential, including the principle of originality that is ever present in his compositions and his approach to playing alto. Though a modernist in every sense of the word, Wilkins seems to achieve a sound on the instrument that is wide ranging. This performance is in the new Raisbeck Auditorium, and an important date on the 2023 jazz calendar in Seattle. https://www.earshot.org/event/immanuel-wilkins/

Seattle Jazz Fellowship Wednesdays at Vermillion

The now 200 plus member strong non-profit has a hit on its hands Wednesday nights at the Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar. Presenting the best of the Seattle jazz scene with occasional special touring acts, the series is the best value out there, and is responsibly paying our musicians well. Below is the weekly schedule. Performances begin at 7:30, doors at 6:30. First come, first served, so arrive early. https://seattlejazzfellowship.org/events

Ben Wolfe Trio

Apr 5

The last time master bassist Ben Wolfe came through Seattle, he was toting young vibraphonist Joel Ross with him in his trio– yet there were few who witnessed the show at the Royal Room. The bassist and Julliard prof has frequented the bands of Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and Diana Krall, and is a fine composer. Wolfe is joined by tenor saxophonist Chris Lewis, currently a touring member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Eric Reed Quartet. Drummer Aaron Kimmel rounds out the chord-less trio, a regular member of trios led by pianists Aaron Diehl and Benny Green. Kudos to Thomas Marriott for bringing this level of talent to Vermillion. Don’t miss this trio, this time around.

Ben Thomas Quartet

Apr 12

Seeing master vibraphonist Ben Thomas perform in a jazz context is an all too rare opportunity in Seattle. Typically, he is seen performing in a tango trio, or as a key piece of the brilliant quinteto led by Brazilian pianist, Jovino Santos Neto. Thomas will utilize those influences within his jazz persona, the first clue being the presence of Brazilian pianist Gabe Hall Rodrigues. Drummer Xavier Lecouturier and bassist Tim Carey join for this performance at Vermillion. Thomas’ playing style reflects his personality, one of high energy and ebullience. This is true of his compositions as well, making this a positive-vibes-only evening. Carey has been transitioning in part to the double bass from electric, increasing his musical possibilities. Lecouturier has been making his mark as a leader, both on stage and in the studio. Rodrigues doubles on accordion, giving Thomas a broad palette of sounds from which to draw.  

Instrumental Ladies of Jazz

Apr19

Bassist Heather Chriscaden, pianist Ann Reynolds and saxophonist Tobi Stone played extensively together in the late 1990’s before Chriscaden departed for New York City. In what should be a hard swinging evening, Eric Eagle joins on drums to compliment Chriscaden’s driving bass style. Stone features a round, full tenor sound that resonates well with the brick lined confines of Vermillion (no mic needed). The room truly embraces horn players in general, and this will be no exception. Reynolds and Stone provide the original compositions, with a few interpretations of standards sprinkled in. 

Reynolds is an open, almost sparse player when comping, leaving space in the music for her mates to explore. This is a wonderful fit for Stone, whose performances seem few and far between in recent times. She’s been out and playing a bit post-covid, making this performance all the more intriguing. 

Connor Eisenmenger’s Think Tank

Apr 26

Trombonist/composer Conner Eisenmenger seems to straddle that neutral zone between straight-ahead jazz and free jazz. Call it what you may, but his voice is new in these parts, and has been partly obscured by the pandemic. As a composer, he is inspired by the likes of Eddie Harris, Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons. “They wrote swinging tunes, deep arrangements with an emphasis on groove, and melodies with bluesy qualities mixed with really interesting and angular lines.  This is the type of ‘blues informed’ language that I try to emulate in my own writing,” he says. 

Eisenmenger discovered jazz as an adult, while growing up with indie-rock and folk music. These forms still speak to him compositionally. For SJF members and the Seattle jazz community at large, this is an evening of discovery as well. It is our chance to get to know the trombonist on a personal level. The music and the fellowship that accompanies this Wednesday series is a perfect match for such an occasion. Think Tank is comprised of saxophonist Steve Treseler, bassist Paul Gabrielson, pianist Dan Kramlich and drummer Rocky Martin

Greta Matassa Sextet

Fri Apr 7, 8 PM/ North City Bistro

The transition involving new ownership at NCB seems to have gone smoothly, and why wouldn’t it? Making solid business decisions like bringing Seattle jazz legend Greta Matassa in to sing with her killin’ band are perhaps a sign of what is to come. Matassa’s almost telepathic relationship with bassist/husband Clipper Anderson, saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev and drummer Mark Ivester goes a long way into allowing her to go off course and try new and exciting things. Relatively recent additions, in ace guitarist Brian Monroney and pianist David Joyner, have broadened the palette compositionally for the band. Matassa’s mastery is matched only by her professionalism. Every performance is important to her as an artist, and articulated as such–that clearly comes through on a nightly basis for this top shelf ensemble. https://northcitybistro.com/event/greta-matassa-quintet-2/

Eliane Elias

Thu Apr 20-Sun Apr 23, 7:30 & 9:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

Grammy winning pianist Eliane Elias has been a major force in the jazz piano world since her arrival on the scene from Brazil. She can play Brazilian music as both an instrumentalist and vocalist, or play straight up Bill Evans style, accompanied by her bassist and husband, Marc Johnson. Johnson, of course, played extensively with Evans. Guitarist Leandro Pellegrino is, like Elias, a jazz musician influenced by a global musical awareness. Drummer Rafael Barata has the versatile skill set that best fits Elias’ wide-ranging musical vision. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=7411

Seattle Jazz Fellowship Presents: The Ernie Watts Quintet featuring Marc Seales, Steve Rodby,Thomas Marriott & John Bishop

Sat Apr 22, 7:30/ Royal Room

Iconic tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts has been a friend to Seattle, appearing many times here with pianist and friend, Marc Seales. Such is the case here, with the Seattle Jazz Fellowship producing the show. Long-time Pat Metheny bassist Steve Rodby joins, along with trumpeter Thomas Marriott and drummer John BIshop. Rodby is a Seattle resident these days, making this a complete Emerald City contingent supporting the distinguished tenorist. While the LA resident has appeared on many rock and pop recordings, from the Rolling Stones to Frank Zappa, Watts has authored 22 albums as a leader in the jazz world. Some of his deepest work was with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West and Liberation Music Orchestra. This performance is open to the public, so secure your tickets quickly for this one. https://www.strangertickets.com/events/136641522/seattle-jazz-fellowship-presents-ernie-watts-quintet

Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita Suba Trio

Tue Apr25-Wed Apr 26, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

Pianist Omar Sosa and kora master Seckou Keita play in trio with percussionist Gustavo Ovalles, playing a unique fusion of styles that draws from the jazz tradition of improvisation and intuitive musical conversation. Donned the SUBA Trio in recognition of their album of the same name, this ensemble represents a unique and positive new direction for Sosa, whose roots are deeply embedded in the Afro-Cuban forms of jazz music. I had the rare opportunity to see the trio perform at the Detroit Jazz Festival in 2021, and came away with the understanding that their music was deeply spiritual and joyful, something badly needed at that phase of the pandemic. It changed how I felt about my personal humanity,and how fortunate I was to be there. Isn’t that what music is supposed to be all about? https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=6394

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Naomi Moon Siegel Ensemble/ Christopher Icasiano (solo)

Thu Apr 27, 7:30 PM/ Royal Room

A double dip of drummer Christopher Icasiano on this one, with his solo opening set likely focused on compositions he wrote on his journey to the Philippines to explore his ancestral roots. This music is portrayed on his album Provinces (Origin, 2019). Icasiano has been touring with Fleet Foxes in recent times, adding to his layers of musical influence that is deeply rooted in traditional jazz drumming.

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Trombonist Naomi Moon Siegel has a wonderful touch when it comes to populating her bands with the best possible players for the music she is presenting. Her bold, rich sound touches jazz, folk and classical elements that are largely expressed within the context of spontaneous composition. The presence of pianist Marina Albero, guitarist Andy Coe, and trumpeter Ray Larsen adds bright melodic color to the equation, with bassist Kelsey Mines and the aforementioned Icasiano grounding this musical lightning strike. Both Mines and Icasiano are sure to be used as melody instruments as well. This is a performance that should draw an audience from a very broad spectrum of the Seattle jazz community. https://theroyalroomseattle.com/event/naomi-moon-siegel-ensemble/?instance_id=4237

Carmen Staaf & Allison Miller

Fri Apr 28, 7:30 PM/ Royal Room

A lot has been made of the musical successes of Seattle born and raised jazz musicians performing and living in cities such as New York. Perhaps underappreciated in this light is brilliant pianist, Carmen Staaf. Her co-lead album Science Fair (Sunnyside. 2018) made a variety of “Best of 2018” lists, including those of the NY Times and the LA Times. Drummer Allison Miller, Staaf’s partner on that release, has been busy touring and recording with the supergroup, Artemis. The band; who has been tearing up major festivals around the world, includes Portland’s Nicole Glover and iconic trumpeter Ingrid Jensen from Nanaimo, BC. At first glance, one might find the intelligent, introspective style of Staaf to somehow be a clash with Miller’s aggressive, hard swinging tendencies. Guess again–the duo has an intuitive bond that is seamless without either compromising anything of their personal creative inclinations. https://theroyalroomseattle.com/event/carmen-staaf-and-allison-miller/

Photo Credit: WBGO

Billy Childs Quartet featuring Sean Jones

Tue May 2- Wed May 3, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

A bit of an early alert to these dates at the beginning of May. Pianist/composer Billy Childs does not frequent Seattle. The Los Angeles based pianist/composer arrives this time around in quartet mode with Baltimore based, fellow Mack Avernue Records artist, trumpeter Sean Jones in tow. Bassist Hans Glawischinig has performed in Seattle in recent years with Miguel Zenon’s quartet. Fellow LA resident Christian Euman rounds out the quartet on drums, a young, on the rise star in the jazz world. The band is on tour in support of their new release, The Winds of Change (Mack Avenue, 2023).

Photo Credit: Open Studio

Childs can flat out swing, and does often in this setting, but so much of his approach to improvisation in based on his principles of composition. Trumpeter Jones has spent time in New York with the JALC Orchestra, but has a sound that more reflects his youth in Ohio, his associations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and his current residence in Baltimore. He has seven albums as a leader at Mack Avenue Records. He is recognized as one of most influential and skilled trumpeters of his generation. Seeing Jones play is reason enough to attend this performance. Childs makes that decision easy. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=7426

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Monday Night Jazz Jam with Thomas Marriott.

Mon Apr 3,10,17,24- 9 PM

The all-ages jam on Monday nights has been doing well. The South Hudson Music Project series, “New Music Mondays,” precedes the jam most nights at 7:30. Marriott forms a new quartet each week to play three tunes or so, then opens up the session. There is a sign-up sheet, and everyone gets to play. For his part, Marriott has done a masterful job curating the session, adjusting on the fly according to the participants and vibe of the particular evening. Some of the city’s finest are in attendance, as well as younger musicians, some as young as high school age. This fulfills a portion of the mentorship cycle that has kept this music alive for over a century. Speaking of young musicians, 10 year old Donovan Lewis, son of Seattle drummer D’Vonne Lewis, played one tune at the session last week. This represented the public debut of a fifth generation of Lewis family musicians. Donovan’s great-grandfather was the great Dave Lewis, a major voice in the creation of the “Seattle sound,” and a key figure in the integration of music unions and performance venues in Seattle. Papa Dave was a master of the Hammond B-3 organ. History! https://theroyalroomseattle.com/event/royal-room-jazz-jam-session-hosted-by-thomas-marriott/?instance_id=3111

In Photos: Maria Schneider Orchestra at Town Hall Seattle

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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.

Drummer Jonathan Blake (Jim Levitt)
Steve Wilson (Clarinet), Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone)- (Jim Levitt)
Guitarist Ben Monder (Jim Levitt)
Baritone Saxophonist Scott Robinson (Jim Levitt)
Saxophonist Steve Wilson on soprano (Jim Levitt)
Photo Credit: Jim Levitt
Rich Perry tenor solo (Jim Levitt)
The rhythm section- Julien Labro (acordion), Ben Monder (guitar), Johnathan Blake (drums), Jay Anderson (bass). (Jim Levitt)
The Maria Schneider Orchestra (Jim Levitt)
Maria Schneider (Jim Levitt)
Trumpeter  Nadje Noordhuis (Jim Levitt)
Steve Wilson soprano solo (Jim Levitt)
Donny McCaslin and Maria Schneider (Jim Levitt)
Pianist Gary Versace (Jim Levitt)
Maria Schneider (Jim Levitt)
Trombonist Ryan Keberle (Jim Levitt)
Ryan Keberle solo (Jim Levitt)
Trombonist Marshall Gilges (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Acordionist Julien Labro (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Maria Schneider (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Saxophone section: L to R- Dave Pietro, Steve Wilson, Donny McCaslin, Scott Robinson (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
All eyes on the director (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Alto saxophonist Dave Pietro (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Maria Schneider (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
The Maria Schneider Orchestra at Town Hall. Best shot of the lot! (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Alto saxophone master, Steve Wilson (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Drummer Johnathan Blake (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Pianist Gary Versace (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Guitarist Ben Monder (Lisa Hagen Glynn)
Maria Schneider and Earshot director, John Gilbreath (Jim Levitt)