On the Scene: Live Jazz Previews for October

October is arguably the busiest and most noteworthy month on the Seattle jazz calendar. Of course, much of this has to do with the Earshot Jazz Festival adding to an already active scene. I do recommend researching the festival as a whole at https://www.earshot.org/, but I have highlighted a number of the performances here, along with an impressive amount of stellar events around the city this month, including those at Jazz Alley and the Royal Room. While the Earshot Jazz Festival does bring in an impressive array of artists from around the world, it features Seattle musicians as well, including the 2022 Resident Artist, Alex Dugdale. As always, we encourage you to get out and experience jazz as it should be– through live performance.

Greta Matassa/ Robert Vaughn

Sat Oct 1, 7 PM/ Egan’s Ballard Jam House

Small club, big time indeed. Seattle’s Greta Matassa will double bill with guitarist/vocalist Robert Vaughn at the tiny Ballard jazz spot. Matassa’s pedigree goes without saying, being one of the city’s jazz legends, while Vaughn was MIA from Seattle stages for many years, as he worked a steady gig in Idaho. Matassa began to bring him back to Seattle audiences as a guest at her long-running Tula’s residency. Vaughn opens in trio with bassist Clipper Anderson and drummer Mark Ivester. Matassa plays the second set adding tenor saxophonist Alexey Nikolaev and guitarist Brian Monroney with Vaughn guesting. http://www.ballardjamhouse.com/schedule.html

Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble/ Monday Night Jazz Jam with Thomas Marriott

Oct 3,10,17,24,31- 7:30 PM, Jam at 9 PM/ Royal Room

Monday nights at the Royal Room have become a thing in Seattle, with Wayne Horvitz’ ensemble performing interpretations of his original compositions, and those of Thelonious Monk. At 9PM, Thomas Marriott leads an open, all-ages jam session that places an emphasis on the mentorship cycle. Younger players have the opportunity to play with more experienced players, and everyone gets to play. Marriott has done an excellent job of curating the event that tends to include many of the top shelf players in town. https://theroyalroomseattle.com/event/royal-room-collective-music-ensemble-2/?instance_id=3708

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn
Photo Credit: thewimn.com

Grace Kelly CD Pre-Release

Tue Oct 4- Wed Oct 5, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

In a month dominated by the Earshot Jazz Festival, Jazz Alley has a few nuggets to feast on as well. Grace Kelly pays her annual visit to the esteemed venue, in celebration of her 14th album, All I Need. The fiery altoist is joined by pianist Adam Bravo, bassist Cooper Appelt, and drummer Julian Allen. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=6362

Ron Weinstein and Friends

Wed Oct 5, 9:30 PM/ Seamonster Lounge

The closing of Vito’s due to the fire on the fourth floor above it has impacted the jazz community in Seattle more than many anticipated. Ron Weinstein’s Sunday night gig there was a staple on the Seattle scene for many years, with Weinstein featured on piano. He often features top players in his trio, including bassist Jeff Johnson. You can catch Weinstein on his Wednesday night gig at the Seamonster in Wallingford in what many consider his true natural environment- performing on Hammond B-3 organ.https://www.facebook.com/Seamonsterlounge/events/?id=100049077476160&sk=events

Photo Credit: jazziz

Esthesis Quartet

Sun Oct 9, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

Pianist/vocalist Dawn Clement and flutist Elsa Nilsson have deep roots in Seattle, both as students at Cornish College of the Arts, with Clement’s  tenure there including a long term professorship. Swedish born, New York City resident Nilsson took advantage of her time in Seattle by performing live with many of the city’s most renowned players. Clement performed regularly with Julian Priester, Johnaye Kendrick and others, culminating her tenure in Seattle as Resident Artist at the 2017 Earshot Jazz Festival. Nilsson has spent her time wisely in New York, rapidly becoming recognized as a unique and innovative trailblazer of her instrument. Her presence on the front line of Esthesis Quartet exudes a physical strength, brilliance of tone and deep compositional wisdom. 

Drummer Tina Raymond is a well known quantity on the international jazz scene both as a musician and clinician. Her use of African polyrhythms and classical percussion techniques in her playing is free flowing and original. Bassist Emma Dayhuff has a presence and depth of talent that continues to evolve in a myriad of notable ways. One of only five women to participate in the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance, the Chicago based Dayhuff is performing and recording while continuing to pursue her DMA at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaF9YUAV

Dave Weckl Tom Kennedy Project featuring Stu Mindeman with special guest Eric Marienthal

Tue Oct 11- Wed Oct 12, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

Drummer/bandleader Dave Weckl has found a home at Jazz Alley, a venue that seems to be a jazz fusion flash point. Teaming up with bassist Tom Kennedy and pianist Stu Mindeman, Weckl’s high energy music is open ended and invites new congregants with each iteration of the band. This time around, saxophonist Eric Marienthal joins the band for this two night run. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=6359

Kurt Rosenwinkle Quartet

Wed Oct 12, 7:30 PM/ Triple Door

Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle is a generational voice and a messenger at the leading edge of modern jazz for more than thirty years. Much the same could be said for all four members of this stellar quartet. Bassist Eric Revis, pianist Taylor Eigsti and drummer Gregory Hutchinson join the Philly born Rosenwinkle for what should be an explosive evening of music. At the time of this writing, the show was nearly sold out, so make haste if you plan to attend. https://tickets.thetripledoor.net/orderticketsvenue.asp?p=4180

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Thomas Marriott and the Fellowship ‘Ceptet with Johnaye Kendrick

Thu Oct 13, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

The Fellowship ‘Ceptet led by trumpeter Thomas Marriott, is an outgrowth of another Marriott project–The Seattle Jazz Fellowship, a 501(c) 3 non-profit dedicated to the resident jazz scene in Seattle. Marriott prioritizes a blend of musicians that crosses generational lines. The personnel has changed a bit between performances due to a variety of factors. For example, bassist Grace Kaste has performed with the band during her senior year at Roosevelt High School, but had to opt out of this performance as she attends Columbia University in New York. Marriott  has tapped bassist Trevor Ford in her absence. 

Pianist Marina Albero joins the band a year removed from being the Resident Artist of the 2021 Earshot Jazz Festival. Alto saxophonist Mark Taylor stands with Marriott and Albero as a veteran presence in the band, as is the case with drummer D’Vonne Lewis. Trombonist Beserat Taffesse is on the leading edge of new, young faces on the Seattle scene. Tenor saxophonist Jackson Cotugno is a young saxophonist with a modern approach that features an older, Ben Webster style sound. Then of course, there is Marriott, on the cusp of releasing his fourteenth album as a leader, and perhaps the most notable Seattle jazz musician on an international scale. 
Vocal artist Johnaye Kendrick is a musician whose instrument is voice. Her approach blends dynamic range with a strong melodic sense, perfect pitch and open ears. The author of two albums as a leader is also a member of the Grammy-nominated vocal supergroup, saje. Kendrick’s instrument adds a whole new dimension to the ‘Ceptet, who will feature her addition for the first time with this appearance at the 2022 Earshot Jazz Festival.https://www.earshot.org/event/fellowship-ceptet-featuring-johnaye-kendrick/

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Entremundos Quarteto

Fri Oct 14, 8 PM/ North City Bistro

Entremundos seems to be the house band at North City Bistro, having frequented the venue from the very beginnings of the band. Brazilian vocalist Adriana Giordano and pianist Eric Verlinde have developed great repor during that time, blending their own immersions in jazz, Brazilian and Latin Jazz into an interesting fusion. Drummer/percussionsit Jeff Busch can handle the kit in all of the band’s variant forms, which is truly the joining force that allows the band’s unique sound to happen. Bassist Dean Schmidt is the center point of the band, holding down the bottom end solidly and colorfully. A gem aside from the torrent of Earshot dates this month. https://northcitybistro.com/

Meridian Odyssey

Sat Oct 15, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

The band Meridian Odyssey, a gathering of young jazz artists with ties to Seattle, represents the new wave of jazz in the Pacific Northwest. Performing primarily original compositions, the music speaks to life as a young professional artist in a time in history transformed by a worldwide pandemic. 

The storyline authored by the band includes being sequestered at the familial home of guitarist Martin Budde in Big Lake, Alaska in the thick of the pandemic lockdown. The music tells the story of six close friends, finding solace in the natural world, while creating music they would go on to record in an airplane hangar belonging to Budde’s father. Those recordings resulted in two albums released on the highly regarded Origin Records label. The aptly titled Second Wave arrived in 2021, followed by the recently released Earthshine in 2022. 

Drummer Xavier Lecouturier has released his own album of original compositions on Origin, the 2019 offering, Carrier. Pianist Dylan Hayes released Songs For Rooms and People in 2020 with his electric band. Trumpeter Noah Halpern had recently graduated from Julliard, and was being alluded to as one of the rising trumpet stars of his generation. In the same way, recent Manhattan School of Music grad Ben Feldman had made headway into the New York scene as a bassist and bandleader, performing with such notables as Dave Liebman and Stefon Harris. Saxophonist Santosh Sharma, a dynamic tenor player in the tradition of John Coltrane, had enthusiastically added the dimension of being a notable practitioner of the EWI. Then there’s guitarist Budde, who chanced upon this collection of talent while a student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Aside from contributing his family home in Alaska, Budde offers memorable compositions and a playing style heavily steeped in melodicism. 

The band’s performance at the 2022 Earshot Jazz Festival marks an ascendency from the constraints of circumstance, a high water mark in their remarkable story.  https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaGlZUAV

Photo Credit: Earshot Jazz

Naomi Moon Siegel Ensemble

Sun Oct 16, 8 PM/ Royal Room

Missoula based trombonist/composer Naomi Moon Siegel comes back to her roots in Seattle, leading a sextet of the city’s finest. Always adventurous in an original way as both a musician and composer, she performs with some familiar faces in pianist Marina Albero, bassist Kelsey Mines, drummer Christopher Icasiano, guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme and trumpeter Ray Larsen. Siegel’s compositions straddle the folk-jazz medium, written with space for the spontaneous composition of her bandmates. https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaGloUAF


Marquis Hill: New Gospel Revisited

Tue Oct 18, 7:30 PM/ Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center

Trumpeter Marquis Hill explores the entire history of jazz with a modern outlook and traditional approach. In his New Gospel Revisited project he stakes out that territory with mates Jahari Stampley on piano, bassist Joshua Griffin, and drummer Jeremiah Collier. The band will be revisiting music from Hill’s album, New Gospel.https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaHZyUAN

The Bad Plus

Tue Oct 18- Wed Oct 19, 7:30 PM/ Jazz Alley

The Bad Plus has been going through personnel changes after the departure of founding pianist Ethan Iverson, but bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have kept the progressive jazz vision alive. At first, the piano trio format was preserved with the addition of pianist Orrin Evans. Evans’ departure ushered in a completely different approach, with guitarist Ben Monder and saxophonist Chris Speed joining to form an eclectic quartet in the spirit of the band historically. In other words, expect the unexpected. https://www.jazzalley.com/www-home/artist.jsp?shownum=6337

Photo Credit: Brooke Wilson

Jacqueline Tabor & Marina Albero: Don’t Explain

Thu Oct 20, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

Barcelona born pianist Marina Albero has been performing in Seattle since her arrival here in 2014, but it wasn’t until the lockdown during the worldwide pandemic that she became close friends with blues based jazz vocalist Jacqueline Tabor. The music presented here speaks to the truth of today’s modern civil rights movement, told through the voices of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. The music sheds light on the courage of these two great American artists, a story told by two of the city’s most dynamic musical voices. https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaHyxUAF

Photo Credit: Earshot Jazz

Bad Luck/ Kin of the Moon

Thu Oct 20, 9 PM/ Clock-Out Lounge

The explosive duo of drummer Christopher Icasiano and saxophonist Neil Welch takes off on Beacon Hill, at the Clock Out Lounge. Welch’s mastery of his instrument and applied electronics seems bent on a collision course with Icasiano’s relentless approach on drum kit. In the end, there is a symphonic and sonic intelligence to what they do. There is nothing remotely similar to an hour long Bad Luck set. Kin of the Moon is a classically based eclectic ensemble with a wide array of musical interests. A cross-pollination of flute, viola and electronics could be the default instrumentation, but the band utilizes ten instruments, voice and electronics. Violist Heather Bentley, flutist Leanna Keith, and vocalist/composer Kaley Lane Eaton are conservatory trained musicians who each serve on the faculty of the Cornish College of the Arts. Whatever the case, this is a well placed billing and a night to remember in the south end.https://www.earshot.org/event/bad-luck-kin-of-the-moon/

Photo Credit : Alan Jackman

Miguel Zenon Quartet

Fri Oct 21, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

One of the premier ensembles in modern jazz, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon returns to Seattle with his quartet featuring pianist Luis Perdomo, drummer Henry Cole and bassist Luca Alemanno. Zenon’s music is very much in the moment and open to interpretation, making a ninety minute set with them a journey into the depths of modern jazz. The presence of these particular musicians by nature is guided by the music of Puerto Rico, yet the original approach of this well grounded foursome creates a post-bop hybrid that speaks for itself.https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaI1cUAF

Ben Wendel Quartet

Wed Oct 26- 6:30 & 9 PM/ Royal Room

Since his arrival with the band Kneebody, saxophonist Ben Wendel has been thrilling Emerald City jazz fans with his ultra-modern approach to an ever-changing modern jazz vision, accompanied by some of the most adventurous musicians in jazz. His appearance at the Royal Room is no exception. Pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Harsh Raghavan and drummer Nate Wood are a select group of intrepid travelers that should be a perfect match for Wendel’s adventurous compositions.  All of this in the community vibe in Columbia City at the Royal Room. https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000SaI21UAF

Photo Credit: Daniel Sheehan

Anat Cohen Quartetinho

Thu Oct 29, 7:30 PM/ Town Hall- Great Hall

Clarinetist Anat Cohen is one of the most inspired and exuberant musicians in jazz, no matter which iteration of her band within which she performs. She plucks a select few from her Triple Helix Tentet to perform at Town Hall, with Vitor Goncalves (accordion & piano), Tal Mashiach (bass & 7-string guitar), and James Shipp (percussion, vibraphone, & electronics). Cohen will perform on clarinet and bass clarinet. https://earshot.secure.force.com/ticket#/events/a0S2L00000Sa0bKUAR

Joachim Mencel Quartet

Sun Oct 30, 7:30 PM/ The Forum at Town Hall

Polish piano icon Joachim Mencel makes a rare appearance in the Pacific Northwest with his Earshot set featuring guitarist Pete McCann. bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Allan Mednard. Mencel is also an eclectic practitioner of the hurdy gurdy, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Mencel has a unique piano voice, one that invites introspection and imagination. That in itself is worth your time and interest. Then, he somehow makes an ancient voice such as the hurdy gurdy make sense in twenty first century improvised music. Mencel has recently released Brooklyn Eye (Origin, 2020) on the Seattle based Origin Records label. His US based quartet is all about modern jazz, with Mencel’s European overtones included brilliantly in the conversation.

Opening will be M.O.M., an eclectic trio featuring bassist and drummer François and Louis Moutin, identical twins. along with versatile Haitian-Canadian multi-horn player, Jowee Omicil. https://www.earshot.org/event/joachim-mencel-quartet-m-o-m/

Seattle Jazz Fellowship Presents: Orrin Evans & The Captain Black Big Band

“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

Seattle Jazz Fellowship’s Saturday Jazz Matinee

The jazz non-profit hits it out of the park presenting piano great George Cables and his trio, with the Fellowship ‘Ceptet

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

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.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

“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.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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. 

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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. 

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt
Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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. 

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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. 

Seattle Jazz Fellowship: Why in one evening,”Fellowship Wednesdays” became the most important jazz hang in Seattle

Pianist Dylan Hayes leads a tribute to Jim Knapp, for Seattle Jazz Fellowship. Dylan Hayes, piano; Jay Thomas, trumpet and sax; Michael Glynn, bass; Xavier Lecouturier, drums;

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. 

l to r: Xavier Lecouturier, Michael Glynn, Dylan Hayes                 Jim Levitt photo
Jay Thomas                                                 Jim Levitt photo
l to r: Xavier Lecouturier, Michael Glynn, Jay Thomas             Jim Levitt photo

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. 

Delfeayo Marsalis                                              Jim Levitt photo
l to r: Brian KIrk, Phil Sparks, Nathan Breedlove                                    Jim Levitt photo
Brian Kirk                                                 Jim Levitt photo
l to r: Nathan Breedlove, Phil Sparks, Delfeayo Marsalis

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/

Nathan Breedlove                                        Jim Levitt photo
Phil Sparks (b), Ron Perrillo (p)                               Jim Levitt photo