Stanley Ruvinov and Beserat Tafesse photo by Lisa Hagen Glynn
BY PAUL RAUCH
In the jazz world, Mondays traditionally are “for community” nights. At The Royal Room in Columbia City, they have become a time to engage with a most innovative big band and for area musicians of all ages to join together in music and fellowship. It is the apex of what the South Hudson Music Project is trying to achieve in the Seattle music community.
Wayne Horvitz is a broad-based presence in the world of jazz music. He has operated the creative side of The Royal Room in a similar vein. In presenting the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble (RRCME) on Monday nights, followed by the Thomas Marriott-led jazz jam session, the South Hudson Music Project presents its aim in plain view on a weekly basis. It promotes new and exciting sounds and engages in the mentorship cycle that cuts across generational boundaries. The two Monday events are united in the art of improvisation, with Horvitz’ music and conduction style opening his music up to spontaneous interpretation, and the jazz jam session providing a weekly forum for local improvisers to explore on their own.
“The South Hudson Music Project was designed to make The Royal Room more sustainable, and to allow us to sometimes make choices that aren’t the economic choices we sometimes have to make,” says Horvitz, adding, “Monday nights are the most important to me because they’re about community.” A donation of $5-25 is suggested, an essential element to the sustainability of the event. While sessions are often seen as free events, patrons need to be aware of the work of the twenty-plus musicians in the room who prepare to perform each week. Public support is what sustains this evening of music and fellowship. Currently, well less than fifty percent of Monday evening costs are defrayed by donations.
The Royal Room is set up extremely well for both sides of the Monday night coin, with a stage large enough for a big band, and a Steinway B piano distinctly occupying stage right. There is a full bar, a menu suitable for most, and a friendly staff that fits seamlessly into the occasion, both professionally and socially. The club sits in the Columbia City town center on Rainier Avenue S, where typically the streets are hopping. It feels as the south end should — diverse, inclusive, and culturally focused.
RRCME begins the evening performing from Horvitz’ book that largely contains his original compositions and those of bebop icon, Thelonious Monk. While the occasional Bill Frisell tune or Robin Holcomb piece may be performed, the Horvitz and Monk pieces have an odd camaraderie in madly swinging and inspiring vibrant soloing.
At 9pm, music stands and chairs are yarded off the stage and the jam session begins. The Monday night session is an all-ages tilt led and curated by trumpeter Marriott, a well-established, nationally acclaimed artist and founder of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship. Marriott opens with a few tunes from a chosen house band and then opens the session up to players who sign up to participate. The session is in the able hands of the veteran trumpeter and bandleader, who brings a deep understanding and dedication to traditional and progressive jazz culture.
Jazz culture is as much about community as it is music. Monday nights at The Royal Room is a place where you can experience that notion for real.