Festival Previews, Week 4

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Festival Previews, Week 4

Circuit Rider ft. Bill Frisell, Ron Miles, Brian Blade, photo by John Spiral

Circuit Rider: Ron Miles, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade / These Hills of Glory String Quartet featuring Beth Fleenor

Sunday, October 28, 8pm | Benaroya Hall, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
$35-$100| $100 ticket includes private reception before performance

The quiet genius of trumpeter/cornetist Ron Miles is gaining the long-deserved international acclaim enjoyed by his Circuit Rider band mates, drummer Brian Blade and Miles’ frequent collaborator way back to the 1990s, guitarist Bill Frisell.

For years Miles, along with drum giant Brian Blade, have worked with Frisell to create a jazz-oriented genre of Americana that is all their own. With Circuit Rider, Miles steps out front with the same bandmates, but with results quite his own, as heard now on two albums, Quiver (2012) and the self-titled Circuit Rider (2014). The music is lyrical, translucent, and transporting, extending from deep in the jazz idiom through compositions deeply inlaid with folk and gospel traditions. Throughout, Miles’ tone is perfectly balanced between quietude and attack, contemplation and elation.

Miles is, indeed, known for his compositions with spiritual inflections. Circuit riders were, indeed, traveling clergymen who took Christianity to the furthest corners of the country in the 18th century. Miles says: “We, as musicians, are traveling Circuit Riders preaching every day at any place available and are always on the move.”

Like Frisell’s bands, Miles’s possesses an uncanny, almost telepathic empathy among the players. He says of Frisell and Blade: “Their astounding capacity for playing impacted how I approached the music. When you have musicians as perceptive and responsive as Bill Frisell and Brian Blade, the music just takes off!” whether originals or covers of such sleeper modern jazz standards by the likes of Jimmy Giuffre and Charles Mingus.

Many bandleaders have enjoyed Miles’s own capacity for creating music in that way. He has worked with the likes of Madeleine Peyroux, Don Byron, Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, The Bad Plus, Jason Moran, and Joshua Redman. They all have in common, and find perfectly complemented by Miles, an embrace of melody, distinctive contributions by all members of their outfits, and a masterful way with their instruments.

DownBeat said of Circuit Rider: “Trumpeter Ron Miles revels in wide-open spaces … But more importantly, he makes judicious use of silent passages to craft melodies that are magnetically lyrical yet just off-kilter enough to convey the right amount of mystery.”

Opening: The distinctive classical compositions of another frequent Bill Frisell collaborator, keyboardist and composer Wayne Horvitz (see also, Horvitz’s Snowghost Trio, October 11, Chapel Performance Space, above).

In the vein of his work for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, debuted at an earlier Earshot festival, this year Horvitz presents the premiere of his concerto, “These Hills of Glory,” scored for string quartet and improvising clarinetist, Beth Fleenor.

As a pianist, keyboardist, electronic musician, and composer, Wayne Horvitz has traveled extensively with his acclaimed groups, including the Gravitas Quartet, Sweeter Than the Day, Zony Mash, and The Four plus One Ensemble, and was a co-founder of the New York Composers Orchestra.

He has performed and collaborated with world-renowned leaders like Bill Frisell, Butch Morris, John Zorn, George Lewis, and Carla Bley, among others. Commissioners include the NEA, Meet the Composer, Kronos String Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players, BAM, and Earshot Jazz. He also has mentored and inspired two generations of younger Seattle players finding their way in innovative music of various forms.

He has long been active in dance and film, and has received numerous national and regional awards. He is the music programmer for The Royal Room, a cherished Seattle venue, and a professor of composition at the Cornish College of the Arts.

Beth Fleenor is a composer, clarinetist, and vocalist renowned both for her skill as a clarinet player and for her expressive daring in the guise of “Crystal Beth” of her performance ensemble Crystal Beth & the Boom Boom Band. Her work has been heard internationally in 100,000 seat rock festivals, maximum-security prisons, rural bars, art galleries, bunkers, sidewalks, sacred spaces, and prestigious concert halls, museums, clubs and theaters.

When not overturning sonic and performance convention, she expands expectations as a member of such bands as the Sam Boshnack Quintet, Wayne Horvitz: Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble, and Wayne Horvitz: Electric Circus.

On this blockbuster evening of innovative performance and composition, a fine time is guaranteed for all.

Thiefs w/ Guillermo E. Brown

Sunday, October 28, 8pm | Langston Hughes Performing Institute
$22 adults | $20 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Presented with support from the French-American Jazz Exchange.

With the Paris-meets-New York trio Thiefs, musical worlds conjoin in a surprising salvo of international musicality that redefines the possibilities of “jazz.”

Joined by original member Guillermo E. Brown, Thiefs, consists of Parisian Christophe Panzani (sax, electronics) and New Yorkers Keith Witty (bass, electronics) and David Frazier Jr. (acoustic & electric drums). Begun with “no rules about roles,” according to Witty, Thiefs steals what it can from the diverse but unified experiences of its members.

One of the premier saxophonists in France, Panzani has made a name with his own acclaimed groups, such as Drops, and as a sideman with the likes of Carla Bley. With Frazier, a graduate of NYU whose collaborations include work on Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s Jardín, he also has worked in the worlds of hip-hop and electronic music.

Witty, who has played with leaders like Anthony Braxton and Jonathan Finlayson, also keeps roots in jazz but plays with singers such as Somi, Amel Larrieux, and Pyeng Threadgill.

Guillermo E. Brown, a performer disciplined in multi-disciplinarity, has performed solo theater, created sound installations, and is currently the drummer for ex-Seattleite Reggie Watts’ band on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” He has collaborated with David S. Ware, Vijay Iyer, DJ Spooky, Arto Lindsay, Twin Shadow, Wangechi Mutu, and others.

He features on Thiefs’ 2018 release Graft (La Greffe), which includes collaborations with pianist Aaron Parks, Rwandan-French MC Gaël Faye, and American poet/hip-hop artist Mike Ladd.

The buzz about the new Thiefs outfit — and there is quite a buzz — stems from its “natural and synthetic, resonant and fractured” (New York Times) mix of jazz, hip-hop, electronica, spoken word that becomes more than the sum of those parts.

Roosevelt Hugh School Jazz Band with Special Guest Jovino Santos Neto

Monday, October 29, 7pm | Roosevelt High School Auditorium
$20 adults | $18 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

The Roosevelt Jazz Band—regarded as one of the nation’s top high school jazz orchestras—takes to their home stage with 2018 Festival Resident Artist, pianist Jovino Santos Neto.

Under Scott Brown, a dedicated teacher and accomplished jazz musician who has led the program for more than 30 years, the Roosevelt Jazz Band maintains its long tradition of excellence in big-band jazz. The renowned program has put out some of the best talent in the Seattle scene today, including fellow festival artists D’Vonne Lewis and Alex Dugdale.

From its triumphs as regional and national annual competitions, the ensemble’s trophy case becomes more and more crowded. Most recently, Roosevelt garnered an Honorable Mention at this spring’s Essentially Ellington Competition at New York City’s Lincoln Center.

A hard-swinging unit that can outpace many of the nation’s college bands, Roosevelt has competed in the finals at Essentially Ellington 18 times, and has won first place three times, and second place five times, and third place twice. It’s a staggering record!

As Scott Brown says—can say, every year: “We’re going to have a great band this year!”

Appearing with the young musicians is Jovino Santos Neto, a celebrated musician and educator and this Earshot Festival’s Artist in Residence. Known for his fine piano players and his arrangements for big bands, his appearance with the Roosevelt Jazz Band is sure to provide a rare learning opportunity over the course of an energetic and inspiring evening.

Alex Dugdale Fade Quintet

Tuesday, October 30, 7:30pm | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
$18 adults | $16 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Co-presented with Langston.

Saxophonist and tap master Alex Dugdale is a rare performer: an instrumentalist and tap dancer, both. Though not well known outside of the Pacific Northwest, Dugdale’s energetic, free-flowing style on both tenor and alto saxophones, combined with his artistic interpretation of tap, sets him apart as a complete jazz artist.

Dugdale, who has occupied both the second alto and baritone chairs of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, burst onto the scene several years ago with his skillful tap interpretation as part of the band’s annual concert featuring Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music. While the Ellington classic is a perfect vehicle for more traditional tap fare, Dugdale has been turning heads applying the art form to hard bop, and post-bop modern rhythms.

He has been back in Seattle and solidifying his reputation since 2012 after obtaining a degree in jazz performance at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. In his live performances, his high-energy saxophone virtuosity, and personality, light up audiences. He creates joyous interpretation of hard bop classics and original compositions.

Joining Dugdale for this performance will be the members of Seattle’s 200 Trio. Guitarist Cole Schuster, bassist Greg Feingold, and drummer Max Holmberg bring an uncommon, intrinsic chemistry. Schuster has been opening ears on the Seattle scene with his organ trio as well, and delivered a stellar performance as part of the Ballard Jazz Festival’s annual Guitar Summit.

Longtime piano ace John Hansen adds a refined harmonic and melodic sensibility to the band. A constant on the Seattle jazz scene, Hansen has a great sense of swing, and uncanny ability to unite the variant musical impulses of any performance.

This concert grants Dugdale the opportunity to present his music to the community at large, in a classic setting, with the respect his artistic integrity deserves and warrants.

Sarah Manning’s Underworld Alchemy: Transmuting Anger

Tuesday, October 30, 8pm | Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center
$18 adults | $16 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

“Sarah Manning proves to be a harmonious creature herself, capable of balancing order and chaos, shadows and light, and the simple and complex without issue,” All About Jazz writes about the mercurial saxophonist.

This evening, Manning and her band, Underworld Alchemy, perform her composition Transmuting Anger. Premiered in January 2014 as part of the NYC Winter Jazzfest, the work is a framed improvisation focused on the principle of women’s anger relating to sexism and sexual harassment. The alchemical symbols that code the improvisor’s roles reflect recurring themes of emotional transformation in the alto-saxophonist, composer, and bandleader’s music.

Manning began her career in San Francisco before relocating to New York. She has played and toured with a host of musicians, including John Zorn, Ebony Bones, and Eyvind Kang, but has also led multiple groups with her distinctive compositional voice. Her fourth album as a leader, Harmonious Creature (2014), received four stars in DownBeat, and the LA Times chose it as a Top Ten Jazz Album of 2014. She has received several awards including a Fellowship in Composition from the MacDowell Colony in 2012.

Manning’s fellow alchemists in Underworld Alchemy include saxophonist Briggan Krauss, who transmutes base metal into gold on his second instrument, guitar. A longtime player on the New York scene, Krauss has relentlessly explored new sonic territories with Wayne Horvitz, Kenny Wollesen, and others on albums for Knitting Factory Records and on his own releases.

Canadian cellist and improvisor Peggy Lee has a background in classical performance, but after a residency in Alberta’s Banff Centre, she began to approach other systems of music. She has since become a member of the New Orchestra Workshop, and collaborated with the likes of Tony Smith, Butch Morris, and George Lewis. She has five releases with her own group, and has spearheaded projects like Echo Painting, a ten-piece Vancouver improvising collective. Crossing lines of chamber and jazz, theirs is a “music that possesses great personality without an interest in category” (Musicworks).

Another Vancouverite, drummer Dylan van der Schyff has toured throughout North America and Europe, with over 200 recordings under his belt in multiple genres of jazz and new music. His 2006 album The Distance, recorded with guitarist Ben Monder and pianist Chris Gestrin, “is ongoing evidence that free improvisation needn’t imply a lack of either direction or focus” (All About Jazz). A research fellow in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford, he is also an accomplished scholar whose multidisciplinary work centers on cognitive science and the meaning of music.

Together, the band promises a memorable performance. “Not only is Sarah Manning a fearless and intense player, she’s a fearless and intense composer,” wrote Lucid Culture, “restless, irrepressible, unafraid and unfailingly terse, much of what she does here is transcendent.”

And her own musicianship is particularly arresting: “Manning played her alto saxophone like a blade cutting into viscera” (Josh Jackson, WBGO.org).

Chad McCullough & Bram Weijters Quartet

Thursday, November 1, 7:30pm | The Royal Room
$18 adults | $16 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Seattleite John Bishop, drummer of choice for a multitude of visiting leaders, brings three of his longtime musical friends to town. He and Chicago-based Chad McCullough worked together at the international Seattle label, Origin Records, that Bishop so ably runs with fellow drummer Matt Jorgensen, while McCullough was building a reputation as one of the city’s finest trumpeters and flugelhornists around.

About a decade ago, McCullough met pianist/keyboardist Bram Weijters at a workshop in Banff. Even before graduating in jazz piano from Antwerp Conservatory and then in jazz composition and arranging at the Brussels Conservatory, Weijters had become an accomplished and eclectic musician in his childhood and youth. He trained classically in piano, but also taught himself percussion, including by playing drums in several alternative rock bands. He also experimented with tape recorders and electronic circuits, influences still heard in his open-eared music, today.

Then, Bishop recalls, he and McCullough “were going to MIDEM in Cannes every year, so we figured out that we could stop off in Belgium and do some gigs with Bram and his favorite bass player, Piet Verbist. We’ve been doing Belgian tours every year for the past eight years now….Antwerp is a little home away from home for us now. We’ve recorded two albums in Seattle and the most recent one in 2014 in Brussels.”

McCullough and Weijters also released a duo album last year. Reviewing Abstract Quantities, Bird is the Worm wrote: “Together they make music that features fine tunesmithing and expertly paced and sparkling execution that rivets attention. Whether melodic and savored, or upbeat and driving, it all progresses with tightly sprung restraint and release.”

Their sound is at once classic and of-the-moment, as Harold Taylor of KUCI, Irvine observed: “Like Robert Glasper, Vijay Iyer, The Bad Plus, and Kris Bowers, sometimes they use traditional jazz instrumentation and structure to enhance melodies and beats that might resonate for audiences weaned on acid jazz and hip-hop.”

Raul Midón

Thursday, November 1, 7:30pm | Triple Door
$27 advances | $30 day of show | $35 front row | $25 Earshot members & seniors

Presented by Triple Door.

The singer-songwriter and guitarist with seven acclaimed albums, when not collaborating with Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Jason Mraz, Queen Latifah, and Snoop Dogg, is — as tonight — “a one-man band who turns a guitar into an orchestra and his voice into a chorus” (New York Times).

A native of New Mexico who was educated in the jazz program of the University of Miami—and who now lives in Maryland after years in New York City—Midón has earned acclaim the world over.

Ever since being told by some when he was a child that his blindness meant that “you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Midón has lived a life devoted to beating the odds and shattering stereotypes, learning his own lessons along the way.

“As someone who has never seen, I’ve always felt at a disadvantage in that lyric writing is usually very visual,” he says. “People really relate to images, and I’ve never seen images. But what I realized early on is that you have to write from what you know, and I hear, touch and feel intensely — and those are sensations and experiences that everyone can relate to.”

The title of Midón’s 2017 release Bad Ass and Blind came from an apt description of its maker that soul icon Bill Withers endorsed; the album saw Midón collaborating with such top jazz players as trumpeter Nicholas Payton and pianist Gerald Clayton, and it earned the singer his Grammy nomination for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance.”

This past spring, Midón performed in National Public Radio’s popular “Tiny Desk Concert” feature, with NPR prefacing the broadcast by saying: “Raul Midón lives in a world of sound — blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand alongside the most accomplished jazz musicians.”

Now, with his new album If You Really Want, Midón’s voice and guitar ride the waves of an actual orchestra: the acclaimed Metropole Orkest, the Grammy Award-winning Dutch ensemble that has collaborated with artists from Al Jarreau and Elvis Costello to Laura Mvula and Snarky Puppy. Already garnering praise, this album finds Midón drawing “energy from the brass and the strings and the orchestra has an understanding of the myriad musical influence that this artist brings to fore” (Soultracks).

Harriet Tubman: The Band

Thursday, November 1, 8pm | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute
$22 adults | $20 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Co-presented with Langston.

The New York power trio of Brandon Ross (guitars), Melvin Gibbs (bass), and JT Lewis (drums) is named for the slave who freed hundreds of others, and has for 20 years engaged her spirit of liberation. With credentials miles long, their “Open Music” invokes forebears like Ornette Coleman, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament-Funkadelic, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Harriet Tubman formed in 1998, inspired by Tubman’s ideals of freedom. The band’s pursues liberated musical expression in the spirit of musical forebears, with a credo: “Recontextualizing musical technology to create innovative compositional and cultural spaces is an important part of the African-American cultural tradition. Harriet Tubman is part of our contribution to that tradition.”

That’s a credo that has a historic context, the band says: “Harriet Tubman’s music reflects the essential impulse of the wave of energy that entered and embraced our world at that time [the late 1960s]: depth, creativity, communication, spirituality, love, individuality, determination, expression, revelation. We feel that our choice to perform Open Music has a value and relevance that connects with the re-awakening, the new search for restored meaning that we see and experience wherever and whenever we perform.”

The trio certainly has personnel able to breathe fresh cultural life into any ears it reaches. All have long, fabled histories in cutting-edge jazz and many other areas of music. Brandon Ross’s CV includes time with Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson, Arrested Development, Oliver Lake, Muhal Richard Abrams, Archie Shepp, and many, many others. Melvin Gibbs is a one-time member of the Rollins Band and Arto Lindsay’s samba-cum-no wave groups, and many others: Punk-Funk All-Stars, DJ Logic, Arto Lindsay, Power Tools (with Bill Frisell), and J.T. Lewis, similarly, has been there for major developments in American music, with Living Colour, Dave Sanborn, Stanley Jordan, Lou Reed, Herbie Hancock, and Don Pullen.

Harriet Tubman is a band unlike any other. As The Observer observed last year: “Going on two decades, Harriet Tubman…have been a steadfast anchor of NYC’s experimental music scene” bringing “a message of freedom, hope, and protest in the form of their soul-baring, politically-tweaked fusion of funk, rock, jazz, and dub that is spiritually cleansing as it is earth-scorching when we most need it.”

Vernon Reid Band of Gypsys Revisited

Friday, November 2, 7pm & 9:30pm | Triple Door
$24 adults | $22 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

On the final day of the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix recorded one of the greatest live albums in the history of rock: Band of Gypsys. A trio comprised of Hendrix along with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Noel Redding, Band of Gypsys outlined a template and set a standard for modern rock guitar, creating a musical shock wave that is still echoing to this day. As lasting and influential as much of Hendrix’s work was with his original band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the earthy, funky, and deep-grooving sound of the Band of Gypsys dug to a deeper level, providing Hendrix with a thick bed of rhythmically flexible sound that pushed him to new heights of freedom and fiery creativity.

Nearly a half century later, iconic guitar master Vernon Reid lands in Hendrix’s hometown, riding the still-breaking wave of inspiration from Band of Gypsys. Powering a blazing quartet of like-minded musicians, Reid’s updated project is not merely paying tribute to the original band but using it as a launching pad for this band’s own sonic interpretations and high-flying improvisations. Band of Gypsys Revisited is channeling something deep and resonant, tapping into the same mystically psychedelic well of transcendent rocking groove that powered the original Band of Gypsys. As Reid says: “We are not going to play a note-for-note recreation of the Band of Gypsys, but reinterpret it from an improvisational viewpoint.”

Vernon Reid occupies a revered spot in the pantheon of modern creative guitarists. To simply call him “eclectic” is to drastically underrepresent the staggering variety of music he has made, over a career spanning close to four decades. Best known as the founder of the multi-platinum rock band Living Colour, Reid’s de facto mission has seemingly been to defy the boundary expectations of what a black musician, a rock musician, a jazz musician, or an avant-garde musician is supposed to play.

Reid came to prominence in the early ’80s as a key member of iconoclastic and influential drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society. He made a duet album with Bill Frisell (Smash & Scatteration), worked with John Zorn and Public Enemy, and produced albums from avant-blues guitar maestro James “Blood” Ulmer. Reid also has an activist bent: In 1985, he co-founded (along with journalist Greg Tate) the vitally important (and active to this day) non-profit music advocacy organization the Black Rock Coalition, a collective formed to “maximize exposure and provide resources for Black artists who defy convention.”

Reid and the rest of the Band of Gypsys Revisited band share a lot of history and have played together in varying configurations since the mid-1980s. The quartet is all heavy hitters: André “Dré Glo” Lassalle (guitar) has performed with the Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Miles Davis, and John Scofield; James “Biscuit” Rouse (drums) served for five years as the musical director for Lauryn Hill, and has also worked with Nile Rogers, Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan; Jared Michael Nickerson (bass) came out of the legendary Dayton funk scene that spawned the Ohio Players and Slave, and has also worked with Charlie Musselwhite, The Roots, Bernie Worrell, Wadada Leo Smith, and many of Vernon Reid’s other projects, to name just a few.

Jovino Santos Neto Big Band & Quinteto

Friday, November2, 8pm | Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium
$22 adults | $20 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

In the 25 years since his arrival in Seattle from his native Brazil, Jovino Santos Neto has captivated Northwest audiences with his compositional flair and instrumental dynamism. The pianist/composer has been chosen as the Resident Artist at this year’s festival.

“I feel very honored and extremely appreciative,” he says. “This year is 25 years since I arrived in Seattle from Brazil with my family. It’s a nice milepost.”

For this performance, Santos Neto debuts his talents as a big band composer, with his longtime quintet serving as the core members of the band. In a very real and full sense, he will put on display his varied musical skills that have been honed to a fine point since his days of studying and performing with Brazilian legend, Hermeto Pascoal, from whom he learned to write for big band.

“That’s something I’ve never done in Seattle. I’ve done it pretty much all over the world,” Santos Neto says. “I’ve been working with big bands since 1986, with Hermeto.”

At the epicenter of this musical iconoclast’s activities has been his Quinteto; he has performed with its four stellar members since first arriving in Seattle.

“Since I arrived, I’ve hit the ground running musically. The moment I got here, the guys that play with me today, my band, I began playing with maybe a month after I arrived,” he says. “Chuck (Deardorf) and Mark (Ivester), then Jeff (Busch) came after that, and Ben (Thomas) a couple years after. That was really beautiful in that we’re still great friends and enjoy playing music together.”

Santos Neto cites the influence of Jim Knapp as essential in his progression as a large ensemble composer and performer. It was the next logical step after his time with Pascoal. “Since then, I’ve done a lot more large ensemble work, both with Hermeto’s big band and my own,” he says. Festival patrons will at last be able to witness this aspect of his musical persona here in Seattle.

Jay Clayton & Dawn Clement Birthday Celebration w/ special guest, Julian Priester

Saturday, November 3, 7:30pm | The Royal Room
$22 adults | $20 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Many friendships and musical alliances have formed among faculty members and students alike within the walls of Cornish College of the Arts. A perfect reflection of this is the connection between dynamic vocalist Jay Clayton and pianist Dawn Clement. Add an iconic figure in jazz in the person of trombonist Julian Priester, and a perfect storm of jazz lineage is formed.

Clement was hired immediately upon graduating from the esteemed arts college, and until her recent move to Denver, became a valued mentor to up-and-coming jazz artists over nearly two decades. At the same time, she developed an international profile as a recording and touring artist. Her latest release, Tandem (Origin, 2018), an album of duo performances with her closest musical collaborators, has gained critical acclaim. Her performances as a member of Jane Ira Bloom’s band illuminate her ability to take the music into uncharted territory.

Clement counts Clayton as a major influence during her time as a student, when the veteran singer was thrilling audiences and enlightening students during her time here in Seattle. With more than 40 recordings to her credit, Clayton has an impressive resume of performances including those with longtime collaborator, minimalist composer Steve Reich.

Special guest Julian Priester has been at the center of many of the most important performances and recordings in jazz history. He began by roving the blues clubs of his native Chicago, sitting in with the influx of blues musicians moving north to Chicago from the rural south. Before long, Priester was performing with Muddy Waters, Sun Ra, Lionel Hampton, and Dinah Washington. His association with Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln began in 1959, culminating in a torrent of recordings under his leadership, as well as under such historic jazz notables as Roach, Lincoln, Booker Little, and Eric Dolphy. He participated in John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass sessions as well, and, after a brief stint with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, became a founding member of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi Band. Clayton, Clement, and Priester represent a historic jazz lineage that has to our great fortune, passed through Seattle.

Tia Fuller Quartet

Saturday, November 3, 8pm | Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium
$26 adults | $24 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Saxophonist Tia Fuller has a sound direct and intelligent, but articulate in its passion, a “versatile, creative voice on alto saxophone, soprano, and flute,” according to trumpeter Jon Faddis. Having just released her fifth album as a leader, Diamond Cut, featuring Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, Fuller comes to the Earshot Festival with her quartet.

Fuller grew up in a musical family listening to the likes of Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane. After earning her undergraduate degree at Spelman College in Atlanta and her master’s degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, she is now a faculty member at Berklee College of Music. In musical performance and recording, her collaborators have include the late Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, and Ralph Peterson, and she is currently a member and featured soloist of Beyoncé’s all-female touring band.

Fuller’s band includes guitarist Andrew Renfroe, bassist Chris Smith, and drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr. A graduate of Juilliard and the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz, Renfroe has played in groups led by Nat Reeves, Steve Davis, and Terrace Martin, and played in working groups with Braxton Cook, Jonathan Barber, and others.

Bassist Chris Smith has played with a dizzying variety of artists, including Quincy Jones, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Joshua Redman, and Robert Glasper. He also collaborated with Thundercat on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning To Pimp a Butterfly.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Mark Whitfield Jr., the son of guitarist Mark Whitfield, is a graduate of the Berklee who has studied with the likes of Joe Lovano, Hal Crook, and Ralph Peterson. His current collaborators include Myron Walden and Yasushi Nakamura.

Together they promise an evening of riveting music from a singular figure in jazz. As Ron Savage, chair of music at Berklee when Fuller signed on there, told DownBeat: “It’s not typical for any musician to go from playing hardcore, straightahead jazz to playing with one of the world’s biggest pop stars, and also have a master’s degree. She’s a complete package.”

Maria Schneider with Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

Saturday, November 3, 7:30pm | Benaroya Hall, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
Sunday, November 4, 2pm | Kirkland Performance Center
$55 standard | $20 students

Presented in partnership with SRJO.

The 2019 NEA Jazz Masters Fellow leads Seattle’s all-star SRJO in performances of her genre-redefining compositions which combine ethereal, layered sounds with rich density and unexpected rhythms.

Schneider is highly experienced and accomplished as a band leader, and with her expressive conducting style she promises to lift the polished performance of the SRJO to new heights. Schneider is, says NPR, “a national treasure.” The New York Times similarly praises her as “a composer and orchestrator of penetrating insight” and leader of “the pre-eminent large ensemble of our time.”

Schneider has led her jazz orchestra in New York since 1992, producing seven albums, appearing in 80 countries, and collecting 12 Grammy nominations and five Grammy awards along the way. Ever since her orchestra’s first release, Evanescence in 1994, critics have hailed her music in such terms as evocative, majestic, magical, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and beyond categorization. She blurs the lines among genres—she is, in fact, one of the few musicians to have received Grammys in multiple genres, in her case in the jazz and classical categories.

With that stylistic range, she has received many, varied commissions. They extend from Jazz at Lincoln Center, to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, to the Australian Chamber Orchestra, to David Bowie. Her collaboration with Bowie resulted in his single, “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime),” and brought her a 2016 Grammy for best arrangement: instruments and vocals.

Schneider also has several film credits, but her core love clearly is big band jazz, as will be apparent during her SRJO concert featuring compositions from her many top-selling jazz albums including Hang Gliding, Last Season, and Coming About.

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra includes a host of top players from the Seattle region, all dedicated to the organization’s mission of promoting appreciation of large ensemble jazz. Co-directed by drummer Clarence Acox, a nationally recognized director of bands at Seattle’s Garfield High School, and saxophonist/arranger Michael Brockman, a longtime faculty member at the University of Washington School of Music, the orchestra’s repertoire is drawn from the 100-year history of jazz, from turn-of-the-20th century ragtime to turn-of-the-21st century avant-garde.

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

Sunday, November 4, 6pm & 8:30pm | Triple Door
$24 adults | $22 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military

Supported by the Government of Canada.

Maqueque is a Cuban women’s ensemble led by soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett that has thrilled festival and concert goers around the world since its debut now several years ago. The group blends scintillating Afro-Cuban rhythms, folkloric influences, exhilarating jazz, and soulful vocals, with a leader who has a long history of exploring Cuban music.

With Maqueque, Jane Bunnett has reached a peak in that long embrace of the island’s culture, particularly its Afro-Cuban melodies. It has been a glorious history: her longstanding ensemble Spirits of Havana, for example, has provided early opportunities to such future greats as Dafnis Prieto, Yosvany Terry, Pedrito Martínez, and David Virelles. JazzTimes said: “Bunnett integrates her flute and soprano sax into the Cubans’ music, giving us the best of the past and the contemporary.”

Bunnett has won five Juno Awards and several other top honors in her native Canada, and has been nominated for three Grammy Awards. Her Cuban collaborations have been depicted in two documentary films about her work, Spirits of Havana and Embracing Voices.

With Maqueque she brings together some of Cuba’s most outstanding female musicians. She says she formed the group because, during her decades of visiting Cuba, she observed that almost three-quarters of the students in the country’s many conservatories were female, and yet the jam sessions she attended at night would be almost exclusively male. Of the woman musicians, Bunnett says: “When they finish all their training, you don’t see them out on the scene. At jam sessions, I would notice some of the young girls I had seen at the schools just sitting on the sidelines, happy to watch their boyfriends up there playing. It seemed really strange.”

It was a chance encounter with a now-renowned vocalist, Daymé Arocena, that finally prompted Bunnett to do something about the situation. First, she and her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, met Arocena during a trip to Havana. At a hotel jam session that Bunnett organized for some Cuban artists, the vocalist sat in and proved so remarkable that a few months later, when she served as artistic director for “Funny Girls and Dynamic Divas,” an annual fundraising event for Sistering, a Toronto-based social service agency for women, she brought Arocena to Toronto to perform and the singer, Bunnett says, “brought the house down.”

Bunnett and Cramer scouted Cuba with Arocena, looking for similar talent—outstanding female musicians in their 20s. The result has been an evolving group of early-career and more established players. The Seattle lineup is expected to be Jane Bunnett on soprano saxophone and flute, virtuoso drummer Yissy García (a veteran already of the Cuban music scene with additional experience with David Sanborn and Roy Hargrove), Célia Jiménez on bass, Dánae Olano on piano, Magdelys Savigne on batás and congas, Melvis Santa, vocals and percussion, and Mary Paz, congas and vocals.

Arocena’s grandmother, a practitioner of the Afro-Cuban Yorùbá religion, provided the band’s name, which translates to “the spirit of a young girl.” That, says Bunnett, captures the vibe of the group: “I imagine that’s what I was like as a ten-year-old girl. I was very energetic, I could be sweet and I could be feisty. That’s Maqueque.”

Myra Melford: Snowy Egret

Sunday, November 4, 8pm | Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium
$24 adults | $22 Earshot members & seniors | $10 students & military/veterans

Pianist Myra Melford brings her newest release, The Other Side of Air, to the Earshot Festival with her stellar working ensemble, Snowy Egret. Melford’s ambitious musical vision, a postmodern skyscraper built on a bedrock of blues, gets decked out by some of the most forward-thinking minds in improvised music: cornetist Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

“Melford is an explosive player, a virtuoso who shocks and soothes, and who can make the piano stand up and do things it doesn’t seem to have been designed for,” writes the San Francisco Chronicle. Born in Chicago, Melford studied with Art Lande and Gary Peacock at Cornish College of the Arts, moving from the Northwest to New York in 1982. Studying with Henry Threadgill, Jaki Byard, and Don Pullen, her force set fire on the New York scene. A professor at University of California at Berkley since 2004, she has lead numerous boundary-pushing ensembles with artists such as Chris Speed, Cuong Vu, and Ben Goldberg, and, in 2013, received a Guggenheim Fellowship and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Performing Artist Award.

As NPR writes, Denver-based cornetist Ron Miles, “sings through his horn,” rounding out the group’s upper register. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, Miles has spread his cool with artists including Joshua Redman, Fred Hess, Ginger Baker, and others. His 2017 album I Am A Man, with Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan, Jason Moran, and Brian Blade, took on the themes of the Civil Rights era, connecting “African-American blues and gospel roots to the tangled branches of contemporary genre-bending jazz with rare perceptiveness” (The Guardian).

Brooklyn-based guitarist Liberty Ellman wields his rhythm instrument with a percussive bite matched to Melford’s. Having played with Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Lehman, and John Zorn, Ellman, a former member of Melford’s teacher Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, channels the tight order of Melford’s compositions. Similarly inquiring, Ellman has produced remixes and worked in hip-hop with artists like Midnight Voices. For his fourth solo album, 2015’s Radiate, “his touch and vision are omnipresent: in the album’s stuttering funk, its electronic interludes, and its general tone, which is jagged but somehow delicate, like eggshells in a careful pile” (New York Times).

Another former member of Zooid, Stomu Takeishi has a long collaborative history with Melford, including their trio Crush with Kenny Wollesen. Takeishi began in Japan as a koto player, moving to the US in 1984 where he attended Berklee College of Music, and later the New School. Now based in New York, he has performed with Paul Motian, Pat Metheny, and Don Cherry, among others.

Tyshawn Sorey, another New York veteran and 2017 winner of a MacArthur fellowship, given for “defying distinctions between genres, composition, and improvisation,” has worked with Muhal Richard Abrams, John Zorn, and Vijay Iyer. He is “an extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape” (New Yorker), with six acclaimed recordings as a bandleader. Having taught improvisation worldwide, he is now in Anthony Braxton’s former seat as assistant professor of composition and creative music at Wesleyan University.

With compositions written to the voices of the ensemble, Snowy Egret made its debut in 2012 with performances in New York and Los Angeles. Balanced on a foundation of history, it pushes forwards to the new soundscapes of tomorrow.