Sona Jobarteh photo by Jay Louvion

Alex Dugdale photo courtesy of the artist


Alex Dugdale Funk Band

Sponsored by BECU. Welcomed by Rainier Avenue Radio. In-person and livestream. $12-38


Saxophonist and tap dancer Alex Dugdale is one of Seattle’s most exciting young performers and educators. After delivering a home run performance series as Festival Resident Artist for last year’s Earshot Jazz Festival, Dugdale’s Funk Band will kick the 2023 festival off with a bang.

Dugdale was raised in Seattle after being adopted from Cali, Colombia. He played with the distinguished Roosevelt High School Jazz Band through his graduation in 2008, before going on to study saxophone performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Since returning to Seattle in 2013, Dugdale has kept busy, to say the least. Musically, he is all about variety. As a saxophonist, he is at home as much in small groups like his FADE Quintet as he was in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s saxophone section – or at the helm of his own big band, whose rousing performance at Town Hall stood out as a highlight from last year’s festival. On top of all that, he also held the honor of first-call saxophonist during his time with the Seattle Symphony. As a tap dancer, Dugdale brings a unique layer of exciting energy to every stage he appears on. Additionally dedicated to community, Dugdale actively teaches in public schools and has previously served on the Earshot Jazz board. 

Dugdale’s boundless applications of his talents don’t stop at the band – they apply to the bandstand, as well. When it came time to choose venues for his performances at the 2022 Earshot Festival, Dugdale jumped at the opportunity to juxtapose the architectural grandeur of Town Hall with the close quarters and festive atmosphere at Wallingford’s Sea Monster Lounge.

Dugdale’s most recent decade in Seattle leaves no doubt that his love for the extended jazz universe comes through in every performance. On that note, the Alex Dugdale Funk Band is sure to bring a creative approach to this funky evening. The 10-piece ensemble includes Dugdale, Melissa Montalto (keys/vocals) and Richard Radford (keys), Kelsey Mines (bass), D’Vonne Lewis (drums), Demarcus Baysmore (guitar), Jory Tindall (sax), Walter Cano and Jun Iida on trumpet, and Freddy Gonzalez (trombone).

Johanye Kendrick photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn


Johnaye Kendrick’s Heart Songs

Sponsored by Seed IP. Welcomed by 91.3 KBCS. In-person and livestream. $12-38


Earshot’s 2023 Artist in Residence, Johnaye Kendrick, certainly has earned her reputation as a vocalist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist to be reckoned with. In the grand tradition of historically important vocalists like Betty Carter and Ella Fitzgerald, Kendrick moves it all into the future. Whether it be her original music or an interpretation of a jazz standard, her phrasing, tone, and overall musicianship has the ability to capture the hearts, souls, and imagination of her audience.

In addition to the impressive sound of her music and performances, Kendrick has traveled far educationally with a bachelor’s from Western Michigan State University, master’s from Loyola University in New Orleans, and diploma from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. She is currently a professor of jazz voice at Cornish College of the Arts. She has also had the honor of working with some of the genre’s iconic figures like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.

Kendrick’s debut CD, Here, features twelve original compositions and demonstrates her formidable ability as a composer. With a deep, emotional, and almost spiritual quality about it, we are drawn into this very rich musical expression. Flying, Kendrick’s second album is comprised of six originals and six jazz standards. These two records (both released on Kendrick’s label, Johnygirl Records) are a clear reflection of her skills as a musician who can crossover easily into different styles of music. From her masterful interpretation of jazz classics and her soaring scat solos to a more new age or even folkish sound, she demonstrates just how vast her musical palette is.

For this performance, Kendrick is joined by some of Seattle’s finest with Dawn Clement on piano, Chris Symer on bass, Steve Treseler on sax, and Ted Poor on drums. They will perform originals and arrangements from Kendrick’s forthcoming album, Heart Songs.

As well as this debut performance for the Earshot Festival, don’t miss her upcoming festival performances: on October 13 she performs with the Grammy-nominated vocalist supergroup, säje, and on November 2, Kendrick will perform at Cornish’s ultra-modern concert hall, Raisbeck Auditorium. Together with her musical comrades they are sure to carve a path into musical ecstasy. Broad and expansive, encompassing her many travels and influences.

Hiromi Uehara photo courtesy of Ellora Management


Hiromi’s Sonicwonder

Sponsored by BECU. Welcomed by KNKX. $12-65


Don’t be fooled by the sparse melody opening Hiromi’s “Seeker,” off her 2014 record Alive. If there’s one takeaway from the Japanese pianist’s discography, it’s that nothing is as it seems. The soft will turn heavy, the heavy will turn ponderous, and if a riff at any point begins to trot—as it does in “Seeker”—it might get very quick indeed.

Alive sits third in a string of four albums recorded by Hiromi’s now defunct Trio Project (Simon Phillips on drums, Anthony Jackson on bass). These records filtered formidable jazz chops through a bruising gamut of progressive rock, classical music, and straight-up oddity. But after the band hung up their uniforms in 2016, Hiromi veered down a more solitary path. Spectrum, 2019, was her first solo album in a decade, and Silver Lining Suite, a reflection on pandemic isolation, saw her accompanied by a string quartet.

Stylistic departures are the norm for Hiromi, continual surprise the expectation. This is the childhood star who performed with the Czech Philharmonic at age 14, who tutored under the great Ahmad Jamal at Berklee, who met Chick Corea in Tokyo at 17 and impressed him enough down the line (“she’s one of my favorites,” he said) to record a twelve-track live album, Duet, in 2008.

“I don’t want to put a name on my music,” says Hiromi. “Other people can put a name on what I do.”

Boy, have they tried. But whatever she’s labeled – The New York Times called her “A Whirligig of Jazz,” The Guardian, “relentlessly flashy” – Hiromi prevails. A mere two years ago she took center stage at the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony, hammering out the blistering title track from Spectrum with her signature stage presence. Wild hair, brilliant ruby dress, fingers approaching the flash point. That was the “COVID Games” (lest we forget) and Hiromi’s opening night pyrotechnics deserved a packed stadium audience. She didn’t get it then, for obvious reasons, but she should have better luck on October 8 at Seattle’s Town Hall, highlighting the first weekend of 2023’s Earshot Jazz Festival.

Fans of the Trio Project will rejoice at Hiromi’s newest creation, a quartet called Sonicwonder featuring trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, bassist Hadrien Feraud, and drummer Gene Coye. The Trio Project had youthful energy, but Sonicwonder is legitimately youthful. Which is not to say inexperienced. O’Farrill has done work with Vijay Iyer, Feraud with Corea, Coye with Santana and Larry Carlton. This is the most up-and-coming jazz group Hiromi has assembled in over a decade, and if their newly released hyper-funk single – “Sonicwonder” – is any indication, the sounds will be fresh to match. Rhythm has always been Hiromi’s forte, and this group is built around her percussiveness. You won’t want to miss it, nor her latest creation Sonicwonderland out October 6 on Telarc.

Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke photo by Lauren Desberg


Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke

Sponsored by Seed IP. Welcomed by KNKX. $15-40


Words can hardly describe the level of creativity reached by the duo of vocalist Gretchen Parlato and guitarist Lionel Loueke. A rhythmic, cultural, and lyrical smorgasbord that is a fine example of how only two musicians can present music that is so satisfying on so many levels.

Twice Grammy-nominated Gretchen Parlato began her musical journey in Los Angeles and attended the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at UCLA. Now a New York resident, she has received critical acclaim and awards from The New York Times, DownBeat and JazzTimes. Her unique approach and keen rhythm sense that incorporates Brazilian, African, and American influences possess a rare poetic magic. She is a guiding light that shines on the cultural diversity that is the future of jazz. Her more than twenty-year musical partnership that began at the Institute with guitarist Lionel Loueke has blossomed into a musical art form that defies cultural boundaries.

Lionel Loueke was born in Benin, West Africa, and has studied music in Paris, Boston, and LA. He currently resides in New York. His early influences were guitarists like George Benson, Joe Pass, and Wes Montgomery. His cultural background combined with his fascination for American jazz guitarists has shaped his playing in a way that makes him not only incredibly proficient but uniquely different. He has performed with heavy weights like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Esperanza Spalding and has multiple records of his own. Four of his recordings can be found on the esteemed Blue Note Records label.

Their recently released recording Lean In tells the story. Born out of the grips of the pandemic, their musical bond takes center stage on this CD. We’re not just listening to two outstandingly accomplished musicians here but a partnership that merges to become its own entity. Loueke once referred to Parlato as his “musical soulmate” and as we listen, it all becomes perfectly clear how special that is.

Sheridan Riley photo by Haley Freedlund


Sheridan Riley

Sponsored by BECU. Welcomed by 91.3 KBCS. $10-30


Drummer Sheridan Riley will present their new ensemble piece “Meandering” as the first of the three commissioned works for this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival. “Meandering” will utilize melodic motifs, rhythmic cycles, polyrhythms, space, and delay to illustrate the ways in which every person is shaped by their own personal collage of past experiences. 

Across its many forms, Riley’s music maintains an exuberantly restless quality that makes each performance a unique exploration for performer and audience alike. Take the kinetic sound collages on Riley’s 2022 EP Participant, for example. In just under 25 minutes, shifting drum beat melodies anchor soundscapes that layer contemplative spoken word passages over warm, droning instrumental textures.

While Participant’s pieces focus on experimentation and becoming, “Meandering” will take a somewhat more melodic approach to portraying memory and its influence on how we live in the moment. The piece will explore the ways in which art and music form touchstones that connect our present to our past.

Born in Long Beach, Califonia, Riley’s musical path has been a freewheeling tour through jazz, rock, pop, and whatever else comes up along the way. Their instrumental influences represent a percussive who’s who of the late 20th century – Karen Carpenter, Elvin Jones, Zigaboo Modeliste, and John Bonham are just a few.

Riley leads projects under both their own  name and as Peg, whose breezy avant-pop can be enjoyed on their February release Shimmering. Indie rock fans will also be familiar with Riley through their drumming in bands like Alvvays, Avi Buffalo, and others.

“Meandering” was written to evoke happiness, self-reflection, and surprise in the audience – along with remembrance, of course. In addition to Riley on drums, the ensemble for this performance will include Mason Lynass on electronics, Ronan Delisle on guitar, Alina To on violin, James Falzone on clarinet, Marina Christopher on upright bass, and Wayne Horvitz on piano.

Thomas Marriott photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn


Thomas Marriott All-Star Quartet

Welcomed by Rainier Avenue Radio. In-person and livestream. $12-38


Seattle trumpeter/composer Thomas Marriott is a veteran of the national jazz community and a community-engaged producer. His playing features an original, elegant sound on his instrument that shines in moments of great intensity or engaged in ardent romanticism. His work in the Seattle jazz community includes the founding of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides a stage for Seattle jazz musicians, while lowering barriers to public access. 

After winning the prestigious Carmine Caruso Jazz Trumpet Competition in 1999, Marriott followed the path blazed by many Seattle musicians before him—to New York City to join Maynard Ferguson’s band. Returning to Seattle in 2004, Marriott quickly became a fixture and a main attraction on the local scene. His national profile quickly rose to prominence as well, resulting in fourteen albums as a leader, and touring dates with Orrin Evans, Joe Locke, and Roy McCurdy among others.

Marriott’s work on all levels is guided by his keen sense and understanding of jazz music and culture. His playing is deeply rooted in the modern jazz tradition which includes a profound engagement with the blues, bebop language, and a commitment to the lineage of Black American music. 

His three most recent recordings reflect the diversity of his musical vision and serve as a window into his stature as one of the finest trumpet players in modern jazz. Romance Language (Origin, 2018)recorded in 2017 in collaboration with pianist/composer Ryan Cohan and producer/vibraphonist Joe Locke, features ballads performed in an operatic setting. Marriott’s focus on the album is simply beauty, with the melody being the primary voice. Live From the Heat Dome (Imani, 2022) was born on the edge of the pandemic, when the trumpeter was aching for meaningful musical conversation with equally sympathetic musicians. The music is hard-hitting and swinging, pushing the boundaries of post-bop sensibilities. Coast to Coast (Origin, 2023) is the third installment of his East West Trumpet Summit collaboration with Latin and bebop trumpet master, Ray Vega. 

For his appearance at the 2023 Earshot Jazz Festival, Marriott has formed a quartet featuring internationally acclaimed pianist George Colligan, double bass master Eric Revis, and drummer and octogenarian Roy McCurdy. Mr. McCurdy is a decorated veteran of the bands of Cannonball Adderly and Sonny Rollins, among many, many others.

säje featuring l-r Erin Bentlage, Johnaye Kendrick, Sara Gazarek, and Amanda Taylor. Photo courtesy of the artists.



Sponsored by BECU. Welcomed by KNKX. $12-65


säje is a vocal supergroup comprised of Seattle-raised Sara Gazarek and Seattle resident Johnaye Kendrick along with two other national stars, Amanda Taylor and Erin Bentlage. The four voices weave a spellbinding fabric of sound with a “silk-smooth vocal blend…heightened harmonic insight…[and] hair-trigger dynamic sensitivity” (Nate Chinen).

The Grammy-nominated group released their self-titled, self-funded, and self-produced album in late August and has already topped multiple Billboard charts, including #3 Top Jazz Album. Encompassing 10 tracks of original compositions, reimagined jazz standards, and inventive interpretations of contemporary tracks by Yebba, The Bad Plus, and The Beatles, the album features first-call guests Jacob Collier, Terri Lyne Carrington, Michael Mayo, and Ambrose Akinmusire. 

säje opens with original composition “Desert Song,” which was written early in their journey inspired by a retreat in Palm Springs, where they forged a deep bond and experienced a creative breakthrough. “‘Desert Song’ opens with the sounds of a tender, rhythmic guitar that provides a simple yet sturdy canvas for which säje can paint their vocal magic,” writes David Benedict in Earshot Jazz.

Following their live debut performance at the Jazz Education Network Conference in 2020, the artists quickly launched into developing a suite of new material, most of which is found on the album.

Another standout original is “Never You Mind,” Johnaye Kendrick’s meditation on Black Lives Matter. “I needed to write a piece that acknowledged what is happening to Black people across our country,” she tells JazzTimes. “I needed to say their names.”

This year’s Earshot Festival Resident Artist, Kendrick has rocketed in the jazz community thanks to her deep repertoire and storied collaborations, as well as being on the faculty at Cornish College.

She’s not the only professor in säje; Gazarek was recently appointed as associate professor of jazz voice at the Eastman School of Music. The Roosevelt High School alumna has seen much success since leaving her roots in the Emerald City and is now considered one of her generation’s definitive jazz vocalists.

Bentlage, a faculty member at California State University-Northridge, has been featured on albums by Collier, Kate McGarry, and Amber Navran, as well as provided background vocals for bands Pomplamoose and Moonchild. Grammy-nominated arranger and in-demand teacher at schools across the country, Taylor is known for her work with The Manhattan Transfer and Groove for Thought. Her work can also be heard on games including World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Shadow of Mordor.

Their individual credits aside, as a collective, säje, with their “dynamic range, perfect pitch, and emotive lyricism” (Paul Rauch, Earshot Jazz) is primed to win over audiences around the country as they tour this fall.

Tina Raymond photo by Anna Webber


Tina Raymond Trio



How do you define jazz? “Funny you ask,” Tina Raymond said, “because I ask that question every year in my jazz history course over the course of the semester.” Raymond is director of jazz studies at California State University Northridge. “Our definitions change and morph…ultimately, the moment you put boundaries around jazz, it defies those boundaries.”

For Raymond, a DownBeat Educator Achievement Award-winner, jazz has been “the greatest teacher in my life. It’s given me my identity, passion, and community.”

That passion has been brought forth with a new album released in October. With Divinations, released by Imani Records, Raymond leads her trio (Andrew Renfroe on guitar and Karl McComas-Reichl on bass) through a set of new and original compositions inspired by tarot cards.

Getting into tarot readings with her friend during the pandemic she said, “It was a fun, whimsical way to reflect on life events and what I wanted to have transpire, and I wanted to put those qualities in music.” She’d write at the piano, pick a card, read the descriptions about it, and start to work on a song that she felt embodied the words or imagery of that card.”

She wrote the music to “tap into some core human emotions we, at times, don’t find the words for.” It’s as though, through her music, she’s defied a boundary. That, beyond it, she found once again, jazz.

The Bad Plus featuring l-r Chris Speed, Ben Monder, Reid Anderson, and Dave King, photo courtesy of BigFish


The Bad Plus & Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog

Sponsored by Seed IP. Welcomed by KEXP. $12-65


Two decades into their partnership as the rhythm section of The Bad Plus, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King reimagined the band from the ground up. 

As a piano trio with Ethan Iverson, The Bad Plus were among the best-selling jazz acts of the 2000s; following Iverson’s 2017 departure, King and Anderson released two well-received albums with renowned Philadelphia pianist Orrin Evans. When pandemic-inspired self-reflection prompted Evans to return his focus to his solo career, King and Anderson resolved to carry on, bringing saxophonist Chris Speed and guitarist Ben Monder into the fold. 

Though the new version of The Bad Plus marks the quartet’s first official collaboration, Monder and Speed have, in one permutation or another, worked with King and Anderson since the 1990s. Anderson appeared with Monder on several albums led by saxophonist Bill McHenry, while King and Anderson joined Speed and Tim Berne in the Ornette Coleman/Julius Hemphill repertory ensemble Broken Shadows. 

Pointedly self-titled, The Bad Plus’s 2022 album is the coming out party for a band reinvigorated. Speed’s unmistakable, breathy, burnished tone is a highlight of ballad “Stygian Pools,” while on “Not Even Close to Far Off,” Monder’s heavily distorted churn encourages the founding rhythm section to fully explore the hard rock influences hinted at by the original trio. 

Opening for The Bad Plus is Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog. A fixture in avant-garde for forty years, guitar iconoclast Marc Ribot first earned acclaim for his lacerating lead work on Tom Waits’s 1985 masterpiece Rain Dogs. In the years since, Ribot’s projects have often evinced a taste for cutting against the grain. The Young Philadelphians ensemble juxtaposed smooth, Gamble and Huff-style Philly soul (complete with string section) with the punk-funk harmolodics of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, while Los Cubanos Postizos turned the compositions of pioneering Cuban songwriter Arsenio Rodríguez into rowdy party music. 

The punk-influenced power trio Ceramic Dog, featuring bassist/keyboardist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, is the vehicle for Ribot’s most prankish impulses—debut album Party Intellectuals opens with an irreverent rampage through The Doors’ “Break on Through”—and his most impassioned political protests. Released in the thick of the Trump years, YRU Still Here? album track “Fuck La Migra” denounces ICE’s treatment of undocumented immigrants in the most profane terms; on “Muslim Jewish Resistance,” Ribot calls out Trump administration officials Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions by name. 

Ceramic Dog’s latest album Connection features the most controlled expression of Ribot’s anger yet, a tense reading of The Band Wagon standard “That’s Entertainment,” as well as the most unhinged. On “Heart Attack,” Ribot free associates a wild speed freak rant, combining allusions to The Beatles and Billy Joel with a torrent of English and Italian profanity, all while Ismaily picks at his bass like a scab and Smith pummels his kit into submission.

Stephan Crump, Cory Smythe, and Ingrid Laubrock photo courtesy of the artists


Stephan Crump, Ingrid Laubrock, Cory Smythe



Uniting three masters of the avant-garde, the trio of bassist Stephan Crump, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and pianist Cory Smythe examines the porous boundaries between free jazz and contemporary classical music.

Best known for his lengthy association with pianist Vijay Iyer, Crump has a well-earned reputation for versatility. His brawny basslines were the earthy counterpoint to Marcus Gilmore’s adventurous drumming in Iyer’s trio, while in his own Rosetta Trio with guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox, Crump revealed a gift for tender, folk-influenced melody. Laubrock’s thirty-year career has ranged from rough-and-ready sax and drum duets with her husband Tom Rainey to, on her 2018 album Contemporary Chaos Practices, long-form compositions melding a chamber orchestra with jazz soloists. A core member of the International Contemporary Ensemble and a 2015 Grammy winner for his stint accompanying classical violin star Hilary Hahn, Smythe has enjoyed long-lasting collaborations with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and trumpeter Nate Wooley alongside a wide-ranging solo career; on his most recent album, 2020’s Accelerate Every Voice, Smythe provides piano backing to a series of wildly elastic vocal arrangements featuring beatboxer Kari Francis.

Born from informal 2015 jam sessions at Laubrock’s Brooklyn home, over the course of two releases on the stalwart Swiss creative music label Intakt, the trio has explored the possibilities of sheer sonic texture and extended techniques — Smythe’s skitters up the keyboard often verge on cacophony, while Crump occasionally deploys his bass as percussion, rapping and tapping his instrument’s body with his fingers and fists. Just as noteworthy, however, is their near-telepathic musical rapport. On “Fluvium,” from the 2019 EP Channels, Crump matches his bowing — alternately delicate and frantic — to Laubrock’s ghostly murmurs and astringent bleats. For his part, Smythe ratchets up the tension with fractured arpeggios, or juxtaposes a handful of well-placed notes with the thick sonics of the Crump/Laubrock dialogue.

Sona Jobarteh photo courtesy of FLI


Sona Jobarteh

Sponsored by Seattle Sacred Music & Arts. Welcomed by 91.3 KBCS. $12-65


A twenty-one-string harp from West Africa, the kora demands intense virtuosity, encouraging wickedly complex rapid-fire melodies, all performed with only two fingers on each hand. It’s an instrument of great beauty and difficulty, and an instrument of the griots: storytellers, songwriters, historians, and improvisers tied for centuries to West African royalty and class. Griots trace their lineage back hundreds of years, to illustrious names and legendary mythic figures, and primarily to their own families in a hereditary line. For Gambian singer, instrumentalist, and activist Sona Jobarteh, her family of griots has provided not only her inspiration as an artist but a grounding in the deep traditions of West Africa. 

Though women can be griots, they are often seen more as singers, while men are the instrumentalists, the kora virtuosos. Jobarteh was encouraged by her grandmother to sing as well, though she stubbornly refused at a young age. Immediately drawn to the kora, Jobarteh rejected the cliché of men being the true kora virtuosos, and her father, kora master Sanjally Jobarteh, readily accepted her interest in the instrument. Now one of the foremost kora players in the world, Jobarteh is using her career to break down barriers and to encourage an interest in West African traditions amongst the region’s youth. She’s a passionate advocate for education, especially anti-colonialist education that foregrounds African knowledge, consulting with the UN and spending time at the school she’s founded, The Gambia Academy. Occupying a position of power as a critical voice pushing for change is very much in keeping with the traditional role of the griot in West Africa.

On her newest album, 2022’s Badinyaa Kumoo, Jobarteh is joined by a host of artists from the legendary Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour, to Yemeni singer Ravid Kahalani, and American jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum. She duets with another kora master, Ballaké Sissoko, a role model for her and for others of her generation. Though she may not have wished to be a singer at a young age, her voice rings clear and true today, interpreting songs about unity, community, diversity, and the celebration of women. Not just the celebration of women by other women, but celebrating women by men and asking people to raise their sons to celebrate women. An engine for change, a voice for the people, a keeper of West African history effaced by colonialism, Jobarteh truly is a griot.

Chief Adjuah photo courtesy of BNatural


Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott)

Welcomed by KNKX. $12-65


This October, Chief Adjuah (formerly known as Christian Scott) makes his way to Seattle for an incredible evening at Town Hall Great Hall. The ensemble will include Chief Adjuah on trumpet and harp, Cecil Alexander on guitar, Ryoma Takenaga on bass, Elé Howell on drums, and Weedie Braimah on djembe and percussion.

Born Christian Andre Scott, the artist began performing under the name Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah in 2012 to represent his West African and Indigenous background and identity. This year, he changed his legal name to Xian aTunde Adjuah and performs under Chief Adjuah. 

The deep cultural focus in Chief Adjuah’s art stems from his active involvement in various living traditions. His family lineage comes from the Maroon culture and Black Indian tradition of New Orleans. His grandfather, Donald Harrison Sr., led three Mardi Gras Indian tribes. His uncle, Donald Harrison Jr., is Big Chief of the Congo Square Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group. Adjuah took part in his grandfather’s Guardians of the Flame project in 1988. In 1999, he joined his uncle’s Congo Square Nation as “gang spy”. Today, Adjuah is chieftan of the Xodokan Nation of Maroons tribes. 

Since 2001, Adjuah has released thirteen critically acclaimed studio recordings, four live albums, and one greatest hits collection. He is widely recognized as the founder of the “Stretch Music” style, a 21st-century approach in jazz that asserts genre blindness and encourages diplomacy in music-making. This method is meant to include and push forward the rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic conventions of jazz in a way that shows respect for as many musical forms, languages, and cultures as possible. Adjuah’s creative belief is that “no form of expression is more valid than any other”.

Chief Adjuah is a vocal proponent of human rights and a resolute critic of injustices throughout the world. His community-based work includes holding master classes, creating and participating in discussion panels, and purchasing instruments for youth music programs and individual youth musicians. He has worked with several community organizations including Black Lives Matter, Girls First, and Guardians Institute, which is dedicated to reading and fiscal literacy, cultural retention, and a firm commitment to the participation of community elders and artists in uplifting and supporting youths from underserved areas in New Orleans.

Chief Adjuah has collaborated with several notable artists, including Prince and Marcus Miller. Adjuah produced music for Prince and is featured on his album Planet Earth. Prince “wanted to start a jazz supergroup” and had Adjuah in mind as the musical director. Adjuah and Miller collaborated on Tutu Revisited, an homage to Miles Davis that was performed live in France.

He was inducted into the inaugural constituency of the Black Genius Brain Trust, received the Changing Worlds Peacemaker Award, and most recently, the Doris Duke Award in the arts. Receiving the Doris Duke Award has allowed Adjuah more time and attention to “create new opportunities throughout his community”. Adjuah would often hear elders use the phrase “Take my song and pass it along”, a sentiment he now embodies in his art – the idea of passing along the gift of music to others.


Posted on

September 30, 2023