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John Gilbreath smiling in front of jazz art poster

Feeling the Spirit

Welcome to the 2020 edition of the Earshot Jazz Festival. We’re proud to celebrate Seattle’s place in the dynamic world of jazz with a festival that reflects both the circumstances and the spirit of these extraordinary times.

Building this year’s program on the tangible pillars of Listen, Learn, and Improvise; we’ve also focused the artistic expression on the essen­tial fourth corner of jazz’s founda­tion: Feel. Beneath the technical brilliance that we’ve come to expect in today’s artists, the essence of the music is in the personal expression of the artist and its impact on the listener. As Langston Hughes said, “Jazz is a heartbeat—its heartbeat is yours.”

The iconic saxophonist, John Col­trane, came to represent a musical movement in the 1960s that opened jazz as a path toward spiritual tran­scendence in a time of great cultural unrest. That path continued with the pianist and harpist Alice Coltrane, and burns brightly to this day in Ravi Coltrane and the project he’ll bring to this year’s festival, with the harpist Brandee Younger and the quartet (see page). The incredible young saxophonist Lakecia Benja­min carries that tradition further forward with her ensemble, named after a Coltrane composition, Pursuance (see page). Their opening weekend concerts will set the tone and the spirit of this year’s festival.

In his introduction to the Jazz Day program at the White House, in what now seems to be an almost utopian time, president Barack Obama referred to jazz as “fearless and true” and an “honest reflec­tion of who we are in this time.” All of the artists on this year’s festi­val bring a great depth of skill and expressive spirit to the stage, though few have so rig­orously shown the world who they are, as our featured Resident Art­ist, Ahamefule J. Oluo. We are de­lighted to present several of Aham’s recent projects in this year’s festival schedule, and we look forward to the arrival of his feature film, Thin Skin.

We hope you’ll check out all of the artists on the festival this year. Check the complete schedule in the follow­ing pages, and be sure to check for updates daily on earshot.org.

Earshot Jazz is Seattle’s non-profit jazz support organization and a trea­sured part of this city’s incredible cultural scene. Building on our 31-year legacy as one of the most organ­ic, forward-thinking, and inclusive festivals in the country, this year’s schedule puts our mission into tangi­ble motion and focuses on the spirit of Seattle’s incredible jazz legacy.

We are enormously grateful to all of our partners in this endeavor. We are committed to all of the health and safety protocols that will en­sure the safety of festival artists and production crews. We are also com­mitted to pay all artists a respectful wage and to encourage attendees to contribute to individual artists and buy recordings directly from artists whenever possible.

And please consider a gift to Ear­shot Jazz this fall. Your donations help us keep ticket prices low and bring incredible artists into creative engagement with the community through workshops and panels.

Keep in touch and give us your feedback. Have fun and enjoy! Jazz lives right here!

–John Gilbreath, Executive Director

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September 24, 2020

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