Seattle Jazz Scene: Live Jazz Previews for April & May

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Underground Sounds with Thomas Marriott, Rick Mandyck, Jeff Johnson & John Bishop

Tue Apr 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, 8 PM / Underbelly- 119 First Av S.

Underbelly, the quaint cellar bar on First Avenue in Pioneer Square sits directly across the street from what was the New Orleans club, a former hub of local Seattle jazz. That vibe lives on Tuesday nights in the former burlesque venue, with four of the city’s top jazz musicians colliding in an explosive chordless quartet that at times has been known as “Free Fall.” This is an opportunity to witness great jazz in an informal environment with no cover. 

Trumpeter Thomas Marriott leads this band of long time mates with a strong intuitive connection. The author of fourteen albums as a leader and a recent inductee into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame is joined by the incomparable duo of bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop. Saxophonist Rick Mandyck has switched to alto, but bears the sound and approach of some of the great tenor players in jazz. The band plays originals from Marriott, Mandyck and Johnson, along with a few standards. The vibe in the room is relaxed, the drinks are first class and there is a very cute puppy in the house to add to the charm. The house screens classic films and cartoons as well! A highly recommended hang on Tuesday nights.

Stanley Clarke

Thu Apr 18 – Sun Apr 21, 7:30 & 9:30 PM / Jazz Alley

Electric bass virtuoso, and NEA Jazz Master Stanley Clarke has been lighting it up for fifty years. Brought to national attention as a member of Return to Forever with Chick Corea, Clarke has gone on to become a jazz fusion pioneer and living legend through his recordings and performances as a leader.

Clark hits Jazz Alley in trio mode, in collective spirit with Dave Weckl on drums and piano / keyboard ace Beka Gochiashvili. Weckl is to fusion drumming what Clark is to the electric bass– a true match made in heaven. These shows amount to fusion royalty present in Seattle.

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Jun Iida Quintet

Fri & Sat Apr 19 – 20, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Trumpeter Jun Iida hits the Fellowship for a two night residency on the heels of his new release on Origin Records, Evergreen. Iida has a fluid and full trumpet sound. Having four sets over two nights gives the band a chance to reallyn dig into his tunes, with the help of this well put together band. Pianist Dylan Hayes, guitarist Martin Budde, bassist Michael Glynn and drummer Xavier Lecouturier represent a formidable gathering for Iida to work his magic. Always good for a trumpet player to have a band stocked with skilled soloists. For the audience, it presents a diversity of sound across the board over a weekend residency that makes attending both nights an excellent option.

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

The Racer Sessions: James Falzone

Sun Apr 21, 7 PM / Gallery 1412- 1412 18th Ave

The Racer Sessions are an iconic series of performances that feature artists in exploration mode. There is a wide variance in the performances depending on the participating artist, but all are strong in the art of improvisation. The tradition began at the old Cafe Racer on the edge of the University District, when it was a hip coffee bar. The sessions moved to the current incarnation of Racer on Capitol Hill, but have moved once again to the intimate room at Gallery 1412.

Clarinetist James Falzone is a world class musician, and a master of both classical and improvised forms. For his Fellowship date, he plays clarinet and piano in duo with Seattle-based dancer Giordana Falzone. G. Falzone is an accomplished movement artist, and the daughter of the noted clarinetist.

Photo Credit: Daniel Sheehan

Ann Reynolds Quartet

with Tobi Stone, Heather Chriscaden & Evan Woodle

Ian Hughes Quartet

Thu Apr 25, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship – 109 S. Main St.

Pianist Ann Reynolds has been featuring the compositions of female composers in her recent performances, including those of the great Mary Lou Williams. Her skillful arrangements have raised awareness of these “new standards” for her audiences. Reynolds is supported by the solid rhythm section of bassist Heather Chriscaden and drummer Evan Woodle. Her beautifully harmonic support elevates the soaring, bold sound of tenor saxophonist Tobi Stone, who acts as the lead voice of this well formed quartet. 

Photo Credit: knkx

Guitarist Ian Hughes makes his Fellowship debut, leading a band that includes drummer Chris Patin, alto saxophonist Michael Jedynak, and bassist Marina Christopher. Hughes is known around Seattle for his work with the band Freudian Slurp among others projects. He is a tradition based player, with branches that extend into funk and adventurous original compositions. For this performance, he offers compositions inspired by nature, written during the pandemic to channel joy into times of despair.

Photo Credit: KNKX

Julio Jauregui

Fri Apr 26, 7 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Nobody embodies the spirit of Latin jazz in Seattle, better than talented pianist Julio Jauregui. The Mexico City native is an excellent jazz pianist who has pushed the limits of Latin music through a number of musical associations. He founded the band Tumbao with vocalist Carlos Cascante in 2001, and has been thrilling jazz and latin audiences with that combo ever since. Many of Jauregui’s performances are outside the orbit of local jazz programming. It’s satisfying to see him on the SJF schedule, giving the audience there the opportunity to witness his artistry and virtuosity. Band TBA

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Dylan Hayes Trio with Jeff Johnson & Xavier Lecouturier

Sat Apr 27, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Dylan Hayes is a highly skilled pianist, composer and arranger who moves around the Seattle jazz scene in a wide ranging sort of way. He is the curator of the legacy of conmposer Jim Knapp, and co-leads The Jim Knapp Orchestra with Jay Thomas. As a member of the collective ensemble, Meridian Odyssey, he is challenged in all facets of his skillset. For this performance, he strips it all down to the studs, performing in the traditional jazz piano trio format. It will be fun to see how the composer / arranger side of him interacts with the jazz pianist.

Hayes has chosen excellent partners for this trio venture. Bassist Jeff Johnson has been blazing a new trail through trio configurations for decades with the likes of Hal Galper, Jessica Williams, Chano Dominguez and Bill Anschell. Drummer Xavier Lecouturier has been Hayes’ musical partner since high school days in California, and shares a collective spirit with the pianist.

Willie Jones III Sextet

Tue Apr 30 – Wed May 1, 7:30 PM / Jazz Alley

Drummer Willie Jones III is touring in support of his new album Fallen Heroes, an homage to a long list of his mentors that include Roy Hargrove, Larry Willis and Jimmy Heath. Speaking of Hargrove, Jones has Justin Robinson on alto, a veteran of the late trumpeter’s quintet. Young trumpeter Giveton Gelin is on the gig as well, a rising star in jazz who appeared recently in Seattle at Langston. Vocalist Christie Dashiell adds a different dimension to the proceedings, with pianist Keith Brown and bassist Gerald Cannon rounding out this stellar assemblage of talent. This is one that has “fly under the radar” written all over it, and could well be one of the best hits of the year at Jazz Alley.

Chris McCarthy Quintet

Wed May 1, 7:30 PM / Royal Room

Chris McCarthy is a Seattle born and raised pianist based in New York City. His style rests on the edge of straight ahead modern jazz and modern improvised music. His articulate, probing playing does not delineate a particular style in the jazz world, and possesses a refreshing openness and clarity. He is joined by the dynamic front line of Japanese born trumpeter Takuya Kuroda and dedicated baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket. Both bassist Sam Minaie and drummer Steven Crammer are adventurous spirits in the post-bop tradition that have a penchant for producing elasticity in their approach to rhythmic aspects of a given tune. 

This date will tend to slip under the radar, due to the Royal Room’s outdated and puzzling approach to publicity. Don’t allow that to deter you from venturing to Columbia City and welcoming home a brilliant Seattle artist who is making his mark in New York.

Trombonasaurus Wrecks

Thu May 2, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 Main St.

Veteran trombonist Dan Marcus has been a major voice on the Seattle music scene for decades. His work includes highly visible gigs with SRJO and a variety of small bands in the area’s best clubs. His playing is also heard in show bands around town at the city’s showcase theaters. His musical personality is bold and virtuosic. Trombonasaurus Wrecks is his statement as a proud, unabashed trombonist living in a trumpet and saxophone dominated world. For good measure, he brings along a cadre of the city’s best trombonists, including the brilliant David Marriott, Jr.. Add relative newcomers Beserat Tafesse and Audrey Stangland, and you have a low toned wall of sound that ascends to trombone heaven. With pianist John Hansen and bassist Greg Feingold or Heather Chriscaden in tow in the rhythm section, this band is sure to vibrate the foundation of the intimate room at 109 S. Main.

Photo Credit: Matt Jorgensen

Matt Jorgensen Quintet

Fri & Sat May 3 – 4, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Drummer/composer Matt Jorgensen is the author of eleven albums as a leader or co-leader, including his modern jazz band, +451. He has co-led the ensembles Chamber 3, Human Spirit with Thomas Marriott and Mark Taylor, and NYC with Gary Versace. He is co-principal of Origin Records, the highly regarded Seattle based label.

Jorgensen has a way of measuring the pulse of the Seattle scene and assembling a band that best interprets his original compositions. For this iteration of his quintet, he teams with his longtime ally Mark Taylor on alto saxophone, joined in the front line by young tenor saxophonist Jackson Cotugno. Pianist Dylan Hayes has been making a name for himself as a composer/arranger, as well as an up and coming voice on piano. Bassist Kelsey Mines has become a highly visible presence on the scene, performing in a wide-ranging array of gigs that covers a broad spectrum of the jazz idiom. Jorgensen’s two night residency presents him with an opportunity to reach out over his two plus decade career as a composer, and dig deep into the sound.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Free Fall with Jeff Johnson

Thu May 9, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Free Fall is a chord-less quartet that in rare appearances over the years, has gained a reputation as a free spooling affair with four of the best jazz musicians this city has produced historically. The core of the band’s history goes back to a weekly gig in Ballard in the 1990’s, when bassist Jeff Johnson, drummer John Bishop and saxophonist Rick Mandyck led a trio gig that would every so often add a fourth member. That fourth member now is trumpeter Thomas Marriott, adding a different dynamic to the band. 

The quartet performs original compositions, many of which are open ended, freedom seeking scores written by Johnson and Mandyck. Marriott adds his tunes as well, selecting those that very well may have been incubated in this harmony liberated environment. Johnson’s trailblazing style on bass, and Bishop’s orchestral sound on drums tends to bring the best out of Marriott and Mandyck. One not to miss on the May calendar.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Marina Albero Trio / Quartet

Fri & Sat May 10 – 11, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

It’s now been ten years since pianist Marina Albero arrived in Seattle from her native Barcelona. The daughter of iconic Catalan musician / composer Marian Albero has created a style that reflects the many different directions her musical journey has taken her. A four month sabbatical in New Orleans is the latest journey taken by Albero, an immersion into her music while surrounded by the multiplicity of musical influences that encompass the crescent city. Albero hits SJF upon her return from that real life deep dive into the melting pot of American music, for a two night residency that features two different bands.

Albero breaks things down into the classic trio format on the first night, joining in conversation with bassist Kelsey Mines and drummer D’Vonne Lewis. Saturday night will feature a quartet with drummer Xavier Lecouturier, bassist Trevor Ford and tenor saxophonist Jackson Cotugno. With a different band and different tunes each night, attending both nights is a great option.

Marc Smason / Noah Pettibon Quartet

Thu May 16, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

This twin bill has an interesting theme of sorts, but in two very different ways. Young saxophonist Noah Pettibon bears the mark of being perhaps the only dedicated baritone player on the scene, dedicated enough to have studied with baritone legend Gary Smulyan. While he has played gigs in the area, and has frequented jam sessions around town, for the majority of Seattle jazz fans, this set is a bit of an introduction. Tacoma based guitarist Elliott Turner will join and contribute the original tunes for the set. Mountlake Terrace native Scott Swanberg is on bass with drummer Brady McCowan completing the quartet.

Marc Smason has played every type of gig in Seattle one could imagine, moving in and out of a broad range of musical forms. A trombonist of note and a jazz singer to boot, it is just as common to see him delivering his message on the street as it is to see him playing more conventional club dates. While holding a degree from the prestigious Cal Institute of the Arts, Samson’s jazz life has eschewed the career path of many modern jazz school trained musicians. He has served the local music community as a member of the executive board of international federation of musicians local 76-493, and as a community activist on a broad range of issues. His trombone sound is thick and foggy like the Seattle marine layer. He is trained both in jazz and classical music, and can often be seen and heard dipping into latin and klezmer sounds. You’ve heard about jazz musicians paying dues? This cat has paid a ton, and it is good to see him on the SJF docket. Samson’s band includes Gus Denhard on tuba, holding down the bottom end. Saxophonist Jeremy Shaskus, guitarist Martin Budde and drummer Dave Bush round out this unconventional lineup that should provide interesting results.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

Johnaye Kendrick

Fri & Sat May 17-18, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Now with a Grammy in tow from her work in the vocal quartet, saje, vocal artist Johnaye Kendrick returns home to the SJF for two sets of original music and selected standards. A professorship at Cornish brought her to us in Seattle, and we have reaped the benefits of her artistry ever since. The author of two solo albums with a long list of finely crafted original tunes, Kendrick will be working up some new tunes to be included in her next album. An original board member of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship, Kendrick thrilled the audience on the opening weekend of the new Pioneer Square digs. She is joined in her return by bassist Chris Symer, pianist Dylan Hayes and drummer Byron Vannoy.  Another stellar two night residency by SJF with one of the true gems of the Seattle and international jazz scene.

Noah Haidu Trio with Buster Williams & Lenny White

Tue & Wed May 21-22, 7:30 PM / Jazz Alley

Pianist Noah Haidu is a relative newcomer to the international jazz scene compared with his bandmates, noted as a modern player with a free and buoyant feel to his playing. While this performance will be a bit of a coming out party for the pianist in Seattle, the immediate focus for listeners will be the years of history made by his partners in bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White

Williams and White share a commonality as former members of bands led by the great Miles Davis. At eighty one years of age, Williams still possesses his nimble, even-toned touch much like he did in Herbie Hancock’s historic sextet of the 1970’s. His trio work includes groundbreaking work with Hank Jones and Tony Williams. Much like Williams, White has a long list of recording and performance credits that include time with the revolutionary fusion transition of Davis in the early 1970’s. The three time Grammy winner was a founding member of Chick Corea’s seminal fusion band, Return to Forever. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the fusion movement. 

This performance allows jazz fans to both witness greatness that has persisted over generations and a talent that is fresh and on the rise. A can’t miss date at Jazz Alley.

Jory Tindall: Left Coast

Thur May 23, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St

Saxophonist Jory Tindall has put together a band to celebrate the West Coast style, with a non-chordal quartet in the spirit of Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano and Chet Baker. The band will present original music inspired by the west coast movement, though nuanced by Tindall’s hard bop DNA. Driven by bassist Greg Feingold and drummer Stefan Schatz, Tindall is joined on the front line by trumpeter Jun Iida. Feingold is a bold presence on double bass, and a perfect fit for this assemblage. Plenty of room here for melodic improvisation from the front line.

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Ray Vega Quartet

Fri & Sat May 24 – 25, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Trumpeter Ray Vega is a native of the Bronx, NY, and a veteran of the bands of Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Johnny Pacheco and many, many more. He is also a master practitioner of bebop. Vega met a young Thomas Marriott in Seattle while on a tour stop at Jazz Alley, and became a close friend of the young trumpeter and his family. Their friendship became a musical partnership under the banner of “East-West Trumpet Summit,” resulting in three albums on the Origin Records label and accompanying live performances. 

This time around, Vega performs in quartet mode with three of Seattle’s finest. Pianist Eric Verlinde is a perfect match for the trumpeter’s personal musical journey. He is a master jazz pianist with a special affection for Latin jazz. Bassist Michael Glynn is a first call Seattle player with the acute musical flexibility to interact with a wide range of approaches to the jazz lexicon. He appeared on the latest East-West Trumpet Summit album, Coast to Coast (Origin, 2022). Drummer John Bishop is an iconic Seattle performer acclaimed on an international scale. He has been one of the leading voices in the Seattle jazz community for forty years as a drummer, record label owner, graphic designer and festival presenter. He has appeared on over 100 albums and has recorded and toured with the likes of Hal Galper, Jessica Williams, Sonny Fortune and Ernestine Anderson to name but a few. He was elected to the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Vega is a genuine soul and a bright light in the music world. Get there early for this one, it should fill up quickly.

Samara Joy

Sat May 25, 8 PM / Benaroya Hall

After quickly selling out her Earshot show at Town Hall, Grammy winning vocalist Samara Joy returns to Seattle to perform at Benaroya Hall. If you are unfamiliar, Joy performs standards in the vocal jazz tradition, and has been generously rewarded for her efforts. She recently has taken on writing lyrics for instrumental jazz classics for her own interpretation. How can a singer with a musician’s approach to sound not want to take on melodies that were written without lyrics? One example would be her take on Charles Mingus’ “Reincarnation of a Lovebird.”

In seeing Joy perform on several occasions, I have become well acquainted with her perfect pitch, deep resonance and dedication to excellence. She has not approached artistry to the extent of Cecile McLorin Salvant or Jazzmeia Horn, two current voices in jazz that have extended their respective reach into the music as artists. But she has a glorious instrument that can completely disarm you in moments. 

I fear Joy falling into the “too much credit, too soon” category that is prevalent in these times of social media driven, recency biased instant-gratification. Her talent is genuine and sound, and a gift not to be taken lightly. Another concern is Benaroya Hall itself. As anyone who has attended a jazz concert at the renowned venue can tell you, it is a difficult room to achieve dynamics through any sort of amplification. Performances by the Keith Jarrett Trio there were stricken by unbalanced resonance, particularly concerning drums and cymbals. Wayne Shorter on the other hand, sounded wonderful. Here’s to hoping for the latter. 

If you are a vocal jazz enthusiast, May is especially kind to you. Between Joy and Salvant, you might want to seek out a Greta Matassa show to add good measure for the month!

Photo Credit: Detroit Jazz Festival

Cecile McLorin Salvant

Tue & Wed May 28 – 29, 7:30 PM / Jazz Alley

What more can one say about vocal artist Cecile McLorin Salvant? A generational talent who is already a multi-Grammy recipient, Salvant’s performances could be described as “stunning,” or “genius seeking beauty.” She has recently visited Jazz Alley in duo with her partner, the great pianist Sullivan Fortner. Fortner is indeed on the gig this time around, joined by Bellevue’s own Yasushi Nakamura on bass and drummer Aaron Kimmel. If you are yet to witness one of her performances, this becomes a priority event for you, whether or not you are a fan of jazz vocals. Salvant is a musician in every sense of the word, with a comnposer’s ear and mind. She very well may be the greatest American jazz singer since the historic reigns of Sarah Vaughn and Carmen McRae.

Photo Credit: Anthony Dean

Victor North

Thu May 30, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Philadelphia based tenor saxophonist Victor North has roots in Seattle and Alaska, moving to Philly some twenty five years ago after attending Rutgers University. In that time, he has established himself as a prominent voice on the fertile Philly scene, performing with the late Joey DeFancesco, Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Charles Fambrough, Terrell Stafford and a variety of others. North is a powerful presence on the tenor, a straight ahead player with an eclectic view of the music. He doesn’t perform in Seattle all that often, take advantage of this opportunity. Band TBA

Emmet Cohen Trio

Thu May 30 – Sun Jun 2, 7:30 & 9:30 PM / Jazz Alley

It seems as though pianist Emmet Cohen has been around forever. He is frequently booked at major festivals and clubs on an international scale, and for good reason- he is a technically brilliant player with a seemingly endless vocabulary steeped in beatific melody. Yet Cohen is just thirty years of age, with a vital energy and peerless vision of what straight ahead jazz is and will be in the future. 

Cohen hits Jazz Alley with bassist Joey Ranieri and drummer Kyle Poole in tow for what should amount to a sizzling ninety minute set each of the four nights of his run. The only regret may be that the run doesn’t include a Tuesday evening, as he has a history of hitting the late-night jam session at the Owl ‘n Thistle. If you are a straight ahead jazz fan that loves genius musicianship, this is the gig for you.

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

Machado Mijiga Trio

Fri & Sat May 31 – Jun 1, 7:30 PM / Seattle Jazz Fellowship- 109 S. Main St.

Machado Mijiga is a Portland based drummer / composer who has a close connection to the new wave of young jazz artists in Seattle. Making his second SJF appearance, Mijiga will perform in trio mode with one of those Seattle players in pianist Dylan Hayes. Veteran first-call bassist Michael Glynn completes the trio, in an environment where listeners will be able to witness his elegance as a soloist in ample portions. Mijiga’s style is intricate in form, polyrhythmic at times and nuanced in pure energy. At this point in his career, he is stylistically diverse, still in search of a true voice as he well should be. All of that musical gathering will be pared down to the moment at hand in trio mode, with Hayes’ harmonic imagination creating shapes for bass and drums to interact with. The date ends an active and broad ranging month of programming at the Seattle Jazz Fellowship.

Opinion/Editorial: The Time to Act is Now to Support Local Seattle Jazz

“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.’” 

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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. 

Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn

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.

Photo Credit: Jim Levitt
Photo Credit: Lisa Hagen Glynn
Photo Credit: Jim Levitt

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

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.

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