December is generally the least active month for jazz music in Seattle, or anywhere for that matter. Even New Year’s Eve has been compromised this year, with Tula’s gone, and Poncho Sanchez’ annual Jazz Alley bash being replaced by…….and it’s difficult for me to type this……Kenny G. Nonetheless, SRJO steps up to the plate with its annual interpretation of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, and Seattle top-liners Jovino Santos Neto, Greta Matassa, Gail Pettis and Susan Pascal come out to play. December is as well, a great time to attend and support local jam sessions at The Royal Room, Owl and Thistle and The Angry Beaver. Here are some suggestions for you- see you out there!
Brent Jensen Quartet
Thu Dec 1, 7 PM/ North City Bistro
Saxophonist Brent Jensen hits the newly transitioned NCB for a sit down performance with long-time Seattle mates. Guitarist Dave Peterson, drummer John Bishop and bassist Chris Symer join to create a noteworthy quartet of Seattle jazz greats. Jensen’s pure melodicism isn’t heard often enough these days, so don’t miss this opportunity. It’s a dinner set, so be ready for fine cuisine and a stellar wine selection. https://northcitybistro.com/event/brent-jensen-trio/
Thu Dec 1- Sun Dec 4, 7:30 & 9:30 PM/ Jazz Alley
Marcus Miller is a historically significant player in the history of the electric bass in jazz. First introduced to Seattle audiences as a member of Miles Davis’ touring band of the 1980’s, Miller’s prowess as a player and composer is stuff of legend. Accompanied by a gathering of fusion all-stars, Miller’s four day run at JA should bring many great musical moments to the rise. Joining Miller are trumpeter Russell Gunn, keyboardist Xavier Gordon, drummer Anwar Marshall, and saxophonist Donald Hayes. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=6368
Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto
Sat Dec 3, 7:30 PM/ Town Hall Great Hall
Jovino’s explosive quintet has been a top draw in Seattle for many years, exuding brilliance, energy and light. Of course, recently passed genius Chuck Deardorf will be missing from the bass chair, but young bassist Alex Dyring will aptly step in. Vibraphonist Ben Thomas and Jovino have a magical chemistry that is special and unique. Drummer Mark Ivester and percussionist Jeff Busch provide the drive and the vibe. Trombonist Freddy Fuego adds a new dimension to the band. Jovino is a master pianist, brilliant composer and veteran bandleader who seems to never disappoint– in fact, his performances are as close to a sure thing as you will find in this land by the Salish Sea. https://www.earshot.org/event/jovino-santos-neto-quinteto/
Fri Dec 2, 8 PM/ Seamonster Lounge
Portland based saxophonist BrandonLee Cierley hits the Seamonster on the heels of his new album, Camaraderie. Opening for funk monsters, Funky 2 Death, Cierley sports an all-star cast of young, focused, top shelf Seattle musicians in drummer Xavier Lecouturier, keyboardist Dylan Hayes, guitarist Martin Budde and trumpeter June Iida. Cierley is finding his voice on tenor, and does so with fine facility and a strong, interpretive sense. https://www.seamonsterlounge.com/event-info/brandonlee-cierley-camaraderie-album-tour
Dylan Hayes Organ Septet
Sat Dec 3, 10 PM/ Seamonster Lounge
Pianist/composer Dylan Hayes morphs into his electric persona, manning electric keyboards leading an all-star septet. Hayes is joined by usual mates Martin Budde on guitar and Xavier Lecouturier on drums, adding ace trombonist David Marriott, vibraphonist Matt Williams, alto saxophonist Sidney Hauser and trumpeter Jun Iida. Worth a trip to the long time Wallingford night spot, and a peek into the next generation of Seattle jazz. https://www.seamonsterlounge.com/event-info/dylan-hayes-organ-septet
Greta Matassa Quintet
Fri Dec 2, 9 PM/ Egan’s Ballard Jam House
Any opportunity to see Greta Matassa sing, is a deep dive into the tradition and lineage of great Seattle jazz singers. Matassa’s instrument, innovation, and remarkable tenure are equaled only by those of the iconic Ernestine Anderson. While many local vocalists tend to lean on, and benefit from this association with Ms. Anderson, Matassa’s history of live performance, personal discography and remarkable talent aligns itself purely on the merit of her huge contribution to the history of jazz in her home city. To see her in the intimate surroundings of this tiny Ballard night spot is a rare and notable gem on the Seattle jazz calendar. https://www.earshot.org/event/greta-matassa-3/
Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble/ Monday Night Jam
Mon Dec 4,11,18 / Royal Room
RCME 7:30 PM/ Jam Session 9 PM
The RCME is a mad, swinging large ensemble led by the ever adventurous Wayne Horvitz. Often including such notables as Geoff Harper, David Marriott, Ray Larson, Kate Olson, James Falzone, Haley Freedlund, Evan Woodle and Neil Welch, the band performs an eclectic mix of Horvitz compositions and Thelonious Monk classics.
Following at 9 PM, trumpeter Thomas Marriott hosts a jam session that features veteran and young musicians alike, creating great moments and presenting an aperture into the natural jazz mentorship cycle. In the end, this Monday night gathering in Columbia City is a classic jazz hang with a great sense of community. https://theroyalroomseattle.com/event/royal-room-collective-music-ensemble-2/?instance_id=3716
Seattle Jazz Fellowship: Danny Kolke Trio/ Beserat Tafesse
Wed Dec 7, 7:30 PM/ Vermillion
This is the final Wednesday engagement with the Seattle Jazz Fellowship for the calendar year, before it becomes an EVERY Wednesday event beginning in January 2023. Veteran pianist Danny Kolke has been an important figure in Seattle area jazz since his tenure with Boxley’s in North Bend. His beautiful piano work often flies under the radar given that status as a promoter. He works in trio here with some very familiar mates in bassist Michael Glynn and drummer Greg Williamson. The performance will be a classic piano trio rendering between three voices that have frequently joined together over the past decade. Trombonist Beserat Tafesse is a relative newcomer to the Seattle scene, with deep roots in the blues and the great jazz trombone tradition- with a very modern twist. At Vermillion, Tafesse leads a quartet featuring young lions Xavier Lecouturier on drums, pianist Matt Williams and bassist Trevor Ford. Fellowship Wednesdays are the best value in Seattle jazz, with great performances in an intimate dive, with a small price tag to boot. The hang between sets and after the music ends is worth your time alone.
The great Julian Priester will lead a listening session at 5:30 before the music for free. This is your opportunity to hang and chat with one of the pivotal figures in jazz history.
Susan Pascal Quartet
Fri Dec 16, 8 PM/ North City Bistro
Vibraphonist Susan Pascal has been a bit of a mystery since the closing of Tula’s Jazz Club, where her monthly engagements were highly anticipated and received. The pandemic and the trouble with the West Seattle bridge did not help! She makes her return to NCB with the great Bill Anschell on piano, bassist Chris Symer and drummer Jeff Busch. Anschell and Pascal have a long history together, and the magic will be evident from the start of this performance. The piano/vibes aesthetic is not an easy one in which to operate, but this pairing makes it seem seamless. Great menu and wine selection adds to the vibe. https://northcitybistro.com/event/susan-pascal-quartet/
Gail Pettis & Jovino Santos Neto
Fri Dec 23, 8 PM/ North City Bistro
At first glance, this pairing appears to be an unlikely scenario- Jovino, the brilliant pianist and caretaker of the legacy of Brazilian icon Hermeto Pascoal, and Pettis, whose interpretation of jazz music is steeped in the blues from her upbringing in Gary, Indiana. But once one looks past the surface, the commonalities, or more precisely, the counterbalances reveal themselves. Pettis performs with a great sense of melody, enabling the lyrics of a tune to come to life. Her very natural approach is a deep, bluesy, late night vibe. Jovino joins her in his absolute dedication to lyricism in his playing, his amazing musical journey from Brazil to Seattle evident in every note. Both musicians know how to hang, to speak and listen, to enjoy someone’s plain company. The ability to make worlds of music, one world, is in the cards for this evening. https://northcitybistro.com/event/gail-pettis-jovino-santos-neto/
SRJO: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music
Fri Dec 30, 7:30 PM/ Town Hall Great Hall
SRJO returns with their annual performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, a piece the master wrote in 1965 that he considered his most important work. Not written to be a mass, or religious service, the music celebrates the sacred aspects of all cultures. The music is swingin’, and steeped in the traditions of Black American Music. While the vocal soloists and choral members have fluctuated over the years, the tap portion of the performance continues to be in the good feet of Seattle’s Alex Dugdale. This is an annual event worth attending on an annual basis, a spiritual re-awakening of sorts. When it comes right down to it, the concert may be the most valuable contribution the SRJO has made to jazz music in Seattle. https://www.earshot.org/event/concert-of-duke-ellingtons-sacred-music/
….and lastly…..get your jam on y’all. Your local jam sessions need your support
I have met many a jazz fan in Seattle who by personal rule, will only attend one jam session a week. Let me say that I do understand the sentiment, but also must point out that jam sessions are a great opportunity to relieve your social isolation and enjoy the fellowship of your community.
The 9 PM, all-ages Thomas Marriott led Monday night session at The Royal Room in Columbia City follows the weekly performance of the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble, led by Wayne Horvitz. There is a sign up sheet, with all who sign up guaranteed an opportunity to play. The 26 year run of the Tuesday Night jam at the Owl ‘n Thistle is based on an opening set, followed by a session that is open ended. It is well grounded in the leadership of pianist Eric Verlinde and an inherent anarchic attitude. Anything goes, and anything can happen, including visitations from touring dignitaries. The start time is inching towards its traditional, after-gig time slot, approaching 10 PM.
And why not a session in a hockey bar in what is now, an NHL city? North enders Max Holmberg and Greg Feingold have been executing this absurdly wonderful notion for a number of years now on Sunday nights at the Angry Beaver in Greenwood. The vibe is unique in so many ways. While this writer is more likely to attend the Royal Room and Owl sessions, being a southender and all, the Beaver session along with Phil Spark’s 5 PM tilt on Fridays at Latona Pub in Green Lake hold special sentiment for me. They are emblematic of what music can be in a social setting, as a unifier in a time of social disintegration.