Jun Iida photo by Jim Levitt

Jonah Parzen-Johnson photo courtesy of the artist


Jonah Parzen-Johnson/Here to Play

Sponsored by Seed IP. Welcomed by 91.3 KBCS. $12-30


Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based Jonah Parzen-Johnson, who honed his craft with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians’ Mwata Bowden brings his exceptional new music for baritone saxophone, flute, and electronics. Parzen-Johnson fuses synthesizers, meditative long tones, provocative percussive elements, and distortion to create a contemporary feeling that calls on the listener to look inward.

Oftentimes performing solo, Parzen-Johnson layers texture upon texture in a seamless way that draws us toward space and the expansive, unexplainable complexities of the universe. He approaches art and life by inquiring into the act of searching. On his track “Trying to Explain” from the album Helsinki 8. 12. 18, he describes “eating different foods, going different places, writing different songs and listening to different music” to find something that he has not yet found. This curious attitude is evident in the warbling, undefined abstractions that are his works.

For this North American tour, Parzen-Johnson performs his new suite entitled You’re Never Really Alone, a deeply intimate set of solo music meant to celebrate the “joyful collaboration between a creator and a listener”. Each performance calls on the basics: “a single acoustic instrument, an intimate room, and a few dozen people ready to listen and collaborate”. The intention is to fully embody the experience of creating something together in the space.

To initiate the evening of creative artwork is Here to Play: a captivating improvising trio with Kelsey Mines (bass), Neil Welch (tenor saxophone & electronics), and Seattle legend Gregg Keplinger (drums). The work of this trio accompanies well that of Parzen-Johnson. Here to Play offers a daring approach to free improvisation that embraces intense percussive interplay in a daring, emotionally forward manner. The sound calls on us to ask why things are the way they are.

Mines currently co-leads the quartet EarthtoneSkytone, contributes to the Latin-jazz group Eléré, teaches at numerous schools including Bellevue College and Seattle JazzED, and tours nationally and internationally. With 6 albums to date, Welch’s playing unabashedly embraces a vastness of sonic possibilities. All About Jazz calls his work “stunning and extraordinary.” Keplinger enjoys legendary status among aficionados of Northwest music for his powerful, individualistic percussion style and internationally for his unique, handmade snare drums.

Gil Scott Heron playing the keyboard, with his head raised and eyes closed.
Gil Scott-Heron photo by Adam Turner


Winter in America—An Homage to Gil Scott-Heron

Co-presented with LANGSTON. Welcomed by KEXP. $12-38


Gil Scott-Heron’s physical form has been gone from this planet for a dozen years now. The echoes and ripples of his spirit, however, continue to be felt, growing in strength and resonant energy with each passing day. The presence of this renowned poet/vocalist/activist responsible for such indelible sociopolitical tunes as “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and “The Bottle” has survived in the ways you’d expect — a posthumous Grammy Award in 2012, induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 — and in surprising fashion as with Makaya McCraven’s incredible 2020 reworking of Scott-Heron’s final album We’re New Here

Within that latter category sits Camilo Estrada’s upcoming Earshot Festival event Winter In America — An Homage to Gil Scott-Heron. The bassist/musical director first presented this concert tribute in 2022 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and will be bringing with him many of the same singers and instrumentalists that joined him last year. In the mix will be vocalists Ayesha Brooks and Ben Hunter, spoken word artist Shakiah Danielson, as well as trumpeter Chris Littlefield, guitarist Dan Rapport, keyboardist Darrius Willrich, Freddy Fuego on trombone and flute, and percussionists Ricardo Guity and Chris Patin. 

Together, this all-star cast of Seattle artists will perform a wealth of Scott-Heron’s best known tunes while also using his work as a springboard to explore the current plight of the BIPOC (or, people of the global majority) community in the U.S. It’s the kind of expansion and reinterpretation befitting an artist who, while associated most with soul, funk and hip-hop, maintained the heart of a jazz artist. Scott-Heron never saw his work as sacrosanct, preferring to tweak and improvise his words and lyrics to better suit the mood of the moment and the tenor of the times. Estrada and co. will tap into that same mindset and let the music grow and expand and, most definitely, inspire all who will be on hand to bear witness. 

Birch Pereira photo by Daniel Sheehan


Birch Pereira’s Delta Jump 

Sponsored by BECU. $12-38


Honey-toned singer and upright bassist, Birch Pereira, will bring his project, Delta Jump, to the Century Ballroom for an all-ages night centered on swing dance and Lindy Hop. Dancers and listeners alike will be immersed in the swinging sounds created by the multi-talented Pereira and some of the Northwest’s most sought-after musicians, including Jonathan Doyle (saxophone), Josh Roberts (guitar), Jerome Smith (trombone/tuba), and D’Vonne Lewis (drums). Should the dance floor continue to call you, ticket holders are welcome to stay for the regular 9pm DJ-ed Wednesday swing dance social with lesson included, courtesy of Century Ballroom (21+ only).

Birch Pereira, grew up studying classical cello before changing course at the University of Washington to pursue the double bass and a life in jazz. Pereira studied with Phil Sparks, Marc Seales, and Doug Miller whilst earning his bachelor degree in jazz bass performance before expanding his studies to seek the tutelage of Senegalese percussionist Ibrahima Camara, Latin jazz bassist Joe Santiago, and the funkiest guitarist in Seattle, Thaddeus Turner. Pereira is best known for his band Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints, which focuses on 1950s style swing, soul, and Americana and has toured the United States and Canada. He has also performed with jazz trumpeter Bria Skonberg, Celtic pop band The Paperboys, and Cajun soul artist Marc Broussard.

The Century Ballroom was founded in 1997 with the goal of creating a diverse and welcoming community through social dancing. This evening will be one of a kind, a true attraction for the music-loving dance community and the dance-loving music community.

Sondra Segundo from Khu.éex, photo by Spike Mafford


Preston Singletary’s Khu.éex’/Mo’s Jamily Band feat. Estro Fiesta

Sponsored by Homestreet Bank. Welcomed by KEXP. $12-38

First set: Khu.éex’ at 8:30pm


Khu.éex’ (pronounced koo-eex) is an Indigenous jazz funk band keeping endangered languages and Indigenous stories alive through music, dance and art. The collective is led by Tlingit glass artist, Preston Singletary (whose visual artwork is currently on view at Seattle Art Museum). 

Khu.éex’ has embraced many members since its formation in 2013 and includes members of the Tlingit, Haida, and Blackfoot tribes. In 2016, the band lost two original members: keyboardist and co-founder Bernie Worrell and vocalist Clarissa Rizal. Their contributions live on through the group’s present work and spirit. The current lineup is an expansive 10-piece with Singletary on bass and vocals; Gene Tagaban on vocals, flute, and hand drum; Captain Raab on guitar and vocals; Denny Stern on percussion; Tim Kennedy on piano; Edward Littlefield on drums and vocals; Sondra Segundo on vocals and hand drum; Arias Hoyle (also known as Air Jazz) on vocals; and the True Loves’ Gordon Brown on saxophone and Jason Cressey on trombone. 

Khu.éex’ performances are split into “happier” and “solemn” segments, portioned as such to facilitate healing of the audience’s spirit by releasing a collective grief. Listeners can expect an emotional journey aided by a blend of jazz, funk, and even rock ‘n’ roll. The musicians incorporate theatrics, spoken word, and dance to create an immersive experience. 

Khu.éex’ translates to potlatch (a gift giving feast practiced by Indigenous peoples across the Pacific Northwest). Potlatches were banned in the United States for decades, classified as “un-Christian” and “reckless.” Before the ban was lifted in 1934, potlatches continued to take place, enduring in the face of colonization. Today, Khu.éex’ is reclaiming Indigenous traditions, using traditional masks and regalia to share their culture with pride and a deep love. Khu.éex’ is releasing three new albums in 2023, with the first being Siyáadlan (the Haida word for Seattle). 

Following the performance, Mo’s Jamily Band takes the stage, with Estro Feista, for some late-night funk to carry out the rest of the evening. Estro Fiesta is Marina Albero (keys), Marina Christopher (bass), Celeste Sloan (guitar), Morgan Gilkeson (drums), Kate Olson (saxophone), Hannah Mowry (trumpet), Shaina Sheperd (vocals), and a special guest on trombone. The all-female/non-binary band, Estro Fiesta, is a presentation of the Mo’Jam All-Stars, curated by Mo’Jam’s Morgan Gilkeson. Gilkeson co-creates a space where musicians from diverse backgrounds can come together, collaborate, and create magic through the universal language of music. Since 2013, Mo’Jam has hosted weekly Monday night jams (Mo’Jam Mondays) that bring joy into spaces by facilitating musical improv.

Photo of Jun Iida with trumpet.
Jun Iida photo by Steve Korn


Jun Iida

Sponsored by BECU. $12-30


When things began to slowly open up following the pandemic shutdown of 2020 and 2021, a new face began showing up at the historic jam session at the Owl ‘N Thistle. Jun Iida had arrived from Los Angeles, bringing with him a sound steeped in his classical roots and driven by his more natural leanings towards the improvised arts. Since that time, Iida has been frequently seen on stages around the city on gigs that range from bebop to modern soul. 

The son of Japanese immigrants, Iida was born in St. Louis and raised in Pittsburgh, two cities with integral ties to jazz and Black American music. His performances as a leader have included Seattle stars Marina Albero, Jay Thomas, Kelsey Mines, and Bill Anschell. 

For his performance at the 2023 Earshot Jazz Festival, Iida takes his quintet to the south side, to Beacon Hill, for a throwdown at the Clock-Out Lounge. Iida is joined by Albero on piano, a spectacular musician who arrived in Seattle in 2014 from Barcelona. Mines holds down the groove on bass, with Origin recording artist Xavier Lecouturier completing the rhythm section on drums. All three are significant bandleaders and composers on their own, with vital stage experience together as a section. Los Angeles-based guitarist Masami Kuroki makes the trip up the coast to complete this powerful fivesome. 

Iida plays with a refined cool, a sound that reflects his classical roots and deep dive into the jazz artistry of classic players like Miles Davis. His modest use of pedals and electronics gives his approach a modern edge without abandoning orbit from the jazz tradition. His arrival in Seattle comes to full fruition with his appearance at the festival and a new album on the horizon slated to be released on Origin Records in January 2024. 

Todd Sickafoose photo courtesy of the artist


Todd Sickafoose’s Bear Proof

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


Todd Sickafoose does not fit in any box. He’s a double bassist, a bandleader, and an orchestrator. He’s an arranger, a producer, and a composer. He’s won a Grammy Award. He’s won a Tony Award for the Broadway musical, Hadestown.

That’s not all. He’s performed and recorded with the likes of Don Byron and Trey Anastasio; Sean Hayes and Andrew Bird. He’s got his own band, too, Tiny Resistors. Also, since 2004, he has been performing with folk poet Ani DiFranco. They’ve made seven albums together.

That’s not all, but that gives one a sense of the omnivorous artist Sickafoose is. “Everything is connected,” he said. “Playing music gets my mind thinking about writing. Writing inspires me to work on my recordings. Recording music is never satisfying enough on its own,” he continued, “because the desire to play music in the midst of other humans is too strong.” 

It’s a big loop, not a box. A loop Sickafoose hopes to never get out of.

And yet, at the same time, with jazz, a genre he holds dear, it’s, as he states, “a borderless land.” He said, “We see the jazz in everything; one of possibility and discovery.”

If jazz is, indeed, everything, boxes and loops are welcome along with those possibilities and discoveries. 

Take Bear Proof, the album Sickafoose released just last month and will perform at the Earshot Jazz Festival. It’s an hour-long piece of music, commissioned by Chamber Music America, written for eight musicians: Sickafoose (acoustic bass/composer), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Adam Levy (guitar), Carmen Staaf (piano), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Rob Reich (accordion), and Allison Miller (drums). It’s intended to be performed straight through — one long take. The piece is a rich, sometimes unpredictable palette with a kaleidoscope of instrumental combinations. It is also a surreal meditation on the ideas of boom and bust. “Is music perhaps better than words for talking about high times and utter ruin?”

The piece and Sickafoose are much like Walt Whitman, who wrote, years past, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” 

What comes next for the artist along the borderless lands—more possibilities; more discoveries. Multitudinous.

Santiago Leibson Marty Kenney, Elsa Nilsson, and Rodrigo Recabarren photo courtesy of the artists


Elsa Nilsson’s Band Of Pulses/Jahnvi Madan

Sponsored by BECU. $12-38


A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, flutist/composer Elsa Nilsson moved to Seattle to study at Cornish College of the Arts, eventually heading to New York to attend NYU’s graduate program in jazz studies. Since her departure for Brooklyn, Nilsson has maintained her ties to Seattle, forming the Esthesis Quartet with fellow ex-Seattleite Dawn Clement, and returning to town in the summer of 2023 to perform the music of legendary Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal with her former Cornish instructor — and former Pascoal bandmate — Jovino Santos Neto. 

Nilsson’s work as a bandleader tends towards the conceptual. The Atlas of Sound series, a collaboration with pianist Jon Cowherd and bassist Chris Morrissey, is meant to evoke in the listener’s mind a specific location in the natural world: debut album Coast Redwoods 41°3209.8”N 124°0435.5”W was inspired by Nilsson’s visit to California’s majestic Redwood National Park. 

Featuring pianist Santiago Leibson, bassist Marty Kenney, and drummer Rodrigo Recabarren, Nilsson’s latest release, Pulses, considers the musicality of the human voice. Using Maya Angelou’s recording of her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” written for Bill Clinton’s first presidential inauguration, as source material, Nilsson and her band have crafted an eight-part suite to complement the instantly recognizable rhythms of Angelou’s recitation, obtaining permission from the Angelou estate to use her voice as part of their concerts. “I’ve always been drawn to Dr. Angelou’s work,” says Nilsson. “What I find compelling is her ability to look directly at difficult topics and approach them with both compassion and honesty. Her unflappable clarity in her expression of everything from the beautiful to the brutal is something I work to embody on my instrument as well.” 

Opener Jahnvi Madan is one of three composers commissioned to premiere new works as part of the 2023 Earshot Jazz Festival. A gifted clarinetist, Madan grew up in Bellevue, and is currently a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Madan is also an instructor and administrator for her alma mater Seattle JazzED, and has performed with local luminaries like Kelsey Mines, The Westerlies, and fellow 2023 commission recipient Carlos Snaider. For her festival premiere, Madan has composed a piece inspired by her family’s experiences as immigrants to the United States, as well her own identity as a first-generation Indian American.

Fabian Almazan photo courtesy of the artist, Linda May Han Oh photo by Shervin Lainez


Linda May Han Oh & Fabian Almazan

Sponsored by BECU. Welcomed by KNKX. $12-38


Separately, bassist Linda May Han Oh and pianist Fabian Almazan have amassed resumes that are fit to inspire awe in even the most casual jazz fan. The former has, in addition to being a Grammy winner and producing several brilliant albums as a bandleader, logged time on stage and in the studio with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, and Pat Metheny. Her work has earned her praise from Wall Street Journal, which called out “her innovative range and stellar improvisations.” Oh was even tapped to perform with Jon Batiste on the soundtrack for the Pixar film, Soul

Meanwhile, her husband Fabian Almazan, has landed a pair of Grammy nominations and worked with Mark Guiliana, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Terence Blanchard. The latter musician gave the pianist a huge platform by inviting him to play on the scores for the Spike Lee films Chi-raq and Miracle at St. Anna. Almazan has also released numerous albums of his own, with several coming out on Biophilia, the record label he started as a platform to raise awareness for environmental causes and to lessen the footprint of the modern music industry. 

Together,  the two artists will tap into their shared history, performing music from throughout their already storied careers with a likely emphasis on The Glass Hours, the album that Oh released earlier this year (on Biophilia, natch) made up of “​​works based on abstract themes of the fragility of time and life; exploring paradoxes seeded within our individual and societal values.” Or as Oh put it to the Charleston City Paper last year, music built from the idea of “what we choose to do in the limited time that we have on this earth.” Fans of jazz should be thankful that these two incredible talents have opted to spend much of their time on this mortal coil in one another’s company — inspiring each other to reach new creative plateaus either alone or in tandem. 


Posted on

September 30, 2023