Earshot Jazz Kicks Off Spring Series

Seattle jazz world music les mystere des voix bulgares presented by earshot jazz

Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares photo courtesy of artist

Gordon Grdina Quartet

Friday, April 7, 7:30pm
The Royal Room

“A guitar player of unbridled musical ingenuity,” writes World Music Report of Gordon Grdina. “Few musicians—especially guitarists and oud players—have a vision as broad and seemingly limitless as him.”

Juno Award-winning Vancouver-based oud player/guitarist Grdina is known for his incredible versatility and ability to bring a fresh and edgy vibe to any ensemble he joins or forms. His sound is a combination of his interests in mainstream jazz, free-form improvisation and Arabic classical music. A protégé of jazz great Gary Peacock, he is a well-respected contributor to the jazz and world music scenes and is constantly being sought out for new projects. As Pop Matters says, “Gordon Grdina has managed to place a finger in every corner of the jazz/world fusion room.”

His latest ensemble, the Gordon Grdina Quartet, is inspired by the complexity of Bartok, the freedom of Ornette Coleman, the intensity of Soundgarden, and the delicacy of Webern. His carefully formed quartet of Oscar Noriega (saxophone), Russ Lossing (piano), and Satoshi Takeishi (drums) combines the traditions of jazz improvisation, complex and memorable compositions, and a dynamic freedom to the music that ebbs and flows with each tune.

Tickets are $15 general / $13 Earshot members & seniors / $7 students & military/veterans, and available at StrangerTickets.com.

Bill McHenry & Thomas Marriott

Saturday, April 15, 9pm
The Royal Room

Bill McHenry’s compelling and highly personal approach to the tenor saxophone has garnered respect around the world. His most recent recording, Proximity, a duo date with jazz-great Andrew Cyrille, adds to an impressive and passionate discography featuring his compositions played by the likes of Paul Motian, Ben Monder, and Reid Anderson, among others. In a rare appearance on the West Coast, McHenry joins Seattle trumpet legend Thomas Marriott at the Royal Room.

–Levi Gillis

Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares

Saturday, April 22, 8pm
Town Hall Seattle
Welcomed by KBCS

Last month may have scored International Women’s Day, but one of April’s brilliant follow-ups comes April 22 at Town Hall: the Grammy Award-winning women’s chorus of traditional and contemporary Bulgarian folk music, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. The unamplified vocal ensemble carries a dense history, a rare artistic gift, and an unearthly beauty, dissolving the separation between East and West, new and old, and popular and traditional music.

The chorus has performed over 1,200 concerts in a slew of prestigious performance halls while touring internationally throughout their history, which in itself is a mysterious lineage. The women’s choir seeded around 1952 under founding director of Bulgaria’s State Ensemble for Folk Songs Filip Kutev. Decades later, Swiss musicologist Marcel Cellier would track down this roots-based, avant-garde choir and record them as the primary feature of his 1975 compilation Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares. Nearly another decade would pass before Cellier licensed his disc to British indie label 4AD, who in turn licensed the US rights to Elektra/Nonesuch.

Once the Soviet Bulgarian choir received due Western European exposure, sales of Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares became unprecedented for a foreign-language vocal album. The name Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, now a trademark of the choir, was registered in 1990 by Cellier himself.

Translated to “The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices,” the groups’ vocalists combine diaphonic, often dissonant, singing to produce a breathtaking, otherworldly sound “somewhere between the Muslim call to prayer and the Beach Boys” (The Guardian). It’s in part to this “magic” – and the group’s unique choral arrangements – that the ensemble has found remarkable success in mastering Bulgaria’s diverse and age-old vocal traditions, while sounding strikingly modern and original.

Over 20 women embodying different folklore regions in Bulgaria through traditional flowered costumes comprise the choir we see today. Their concert will be an unveiling of centuries of Bulgarian vocal tradition, through a gamut of repertoire containing complex layers of singular note punctuations, microtonal harmonies, and ancient melodies.

Over the course of a two-part concert, the choir performs songs that tell about daily life and traditions in Bulgaria, a cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences and a rich heritage of dance, music, and costumes. While most lyrics translate to describe the life of a Balkan woman, the act of singing has also remained a foundation for many women of this culture.

The event follows the expert direction of Dr. Dora Hristova, who has been Artistic Director and conductor of the female vocal choir for more than 25 years. A graduate of the Bulgarian State Conservatoire, Hristova contributes to academia as a lecturer at the Art Academy in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and to the fields of sonority and vocal ensemble studies. Under her direction, the choir was appointed the Ambassador of European culture in 2007.

It’s difficult to encapsulate just how widespread the affect of this enduring world music force is. It was in part due to the admiration by Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy that the choral group was recognized by 4AD’s co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell, who has called the original Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares album “a highlight of my life.” More recently, the music of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares extends into playlists and soundtracks from artists such as Gorillaz and Werner Herzog, and the women themselves have been a featured accompaniment to Bobby McFerrin.

Tickets are $35 general / $30 Earshot & Town Hall members / $20 students for Preferred Section, and Regular Section: $20 general / $15 Earshot & Town Hall members / $10 students for Regular Section, and are available at earshot.org.

Co-presented with Town Hall Seattle Global Rhythms.

–Halynn Blanchard

Gerald Clayton Trio “Tributary Tales” CD Release

Tuesday, May 2, 8pm
PONCHO Concert Hall

The four-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist/composer brings his “Tributary Tales” trio to Seattle with Joe Sanders on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums.

Gerald Clayton searches for honest expression in every note he plays. With harmonic curiosity and critical awareness, he develops musical narratives that unfold as a result of both deliberate searching and chance uncovering.

The son of beloved bass player and composer John Clayton, he enjoyed a familial apprenticeship from an early age. Clayton honors the legacy of his father and all his musical ancestors through a commitment to artistic exploration, innovation, and reinvention. His music is a celebration of the inherent differences in musical perspectives that promote true artistic synergy. Inclusive sensibilities have allowed him to perform and record with such distinctive artists as Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, and John Scofield. Clayton also has enjoyed an extended association since early 2013, touring and recording with saxophone legend Charles Lloyd.

Joe Sanders has made a name for himself through his versatility, dedication, and steady pulse. He is one of the most sought-after young bass players of his generation and has played with Ravi Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, and Dave Brubeck, among others.

Kendrick Scott is an alumnus of the famed Berklee College of Music. He has performed with Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano, Terence Blanchard, and Dianne Reeves, and currently plays with the Charles Lloyd Quartet alongside Reuben Rogers and Gerald Clayton.

Tickets are $24 general / $22 Earshot members & seniors / $10 students & military/veterans, and available at earshot.org.

Helen Sung Quartet
with John Ellis, Boris Kozlov & Terreon Gully

Thursday, May 4, 8pm
PONCHO Concert Hall

Pianist Helen Sung is poised to take her place as one of the preeminent voices on today’s jazz scene. Anyone who caught her performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis last October can attest to that. She was an absolute standout. Her music has been called soulful and smart, and is characterized by irresistible grooves overflowing with a warm humanity that is both thrilling and unforgettable.

A graduate of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, she has worked with such jazz luminaries as Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Ron Carter, Jon Faddis, Wayne Shorter, and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter. In addition to her own band, Sung can currently be seen with the Mingus Big Band & Mingus Dynasty, T.S.Monk Band, and Terri Lyne Carrington’s “Mosaic Project.”

Sung’s quartet includes John Ellis on reeds, Boris Kozlov on bass, and Terreon Gully on drums. Ellis expresses a keen intellect and easy virtuosity as both the leader of his own projects and as an in-demand sideman. Kozlov is a two-time Grammy Award-winning acoustic and electric bassist, composer, and arranger. Gully has performed with various musicians, including Christian McBride, Ron Blake, and Stefon Harris.

Tickets are $24 general / $22 Earshot members & seniors / $10 students & military/veterans, and available at earshot.org.


Posted on

March 28, 2017