Lindy Extravaganza photo courtesy of the Savoy Swing Club
Old-time swing. Bebop. Cool school. Bossa nova. Hip-hop fusion. Trad Jazz. Free improv. Jazz has many voices and the full range can be found all around Seattle. Great news, young musicians: there are a number of events and opportunities that welcome all ages. How do you find your sound and get involved? Jump right in and take your pick among the venues, jam sessions, and educational opportunities below:
When learning the jazz language, one of the most important tools is your ability to listen. The following venues feature world-class local and traveling musicians, and each has at least some hours or evenings open to all ages.
2033 6th Ave
In a cool, New York club-like atmosphere, Jazz Alley brings in serious local and national talent, including hosting Grammy Award-winners regularly. All shows are all ages; most shows are jazz, but the venue also offers blues, world, R&B, folk, new-grass, and rock artists. Prices range from $25.50–$45 most of the time, but there are a handful of $10 shows per year, and students get a hefty discount (half-off) at the 7:30pm sets on Wednesdays and 9:30pm sets on Thursdays. There are both dinner and non-dinner tables available. Call for reservations, as tickets often sell out. Be sure to make a reservation and have your valid ID on hand in order to receive the discount.
The Royal Room
5000 Rainer Ave S
All ages until 10pm, the Royal Room is an artist’s venue in historic Columbia City that offers a diverse array of music from improvised jazz to funk to country blues. With permanent backline, sound and video recording, a grand piano, and a generous stage, the venue has been designed to serve the musicians and artists performing. Open seven nights a week, the restaurant is suited to patrons of all ages and varied tastes. Enjoy their comfortable, neighborhood feel while hearing the work of innovative musicians.
Chapel Performance Space
4649 Sunnyside Ave N
Nestled in the neighborhood of Wallingford, the historic Good Shepherd Center became a Seattle Landmark in 1984. Located on the fourth floor of this multi-purpose community center, the Chapel Performance Space is one of the city’s best-kept secrets when it comes to live music. Each month, Steve Peters’ Nonsequitur, and a community of like-minded organizations and artists present concerts of contemporary/post-classical composition, free improvisation, and the outer limits of jazz in this historic space. Immersed in the stellar acoustics, awe-inspiring stained-glass windows, and gorgeous wooden floors and columns, the Chapel Performance Space is a befitting venue for audience members to worship at the altar of innovative music. Most shows are sliding scale $5–$20. Afraid to dip your toes in the waters of experimental music? Come to the Chapel and you’ll become a believer.
216 Union St
Located in the heart of Downtown Seattle, the Triple Door is known for offering a wide variety of musical styles. There is something for everyone at this dinner theater venue, from blues to singer-songwriter showcases to funk and brass bands. The Mainstage is an all-ages venue for shows starting at 8pm or earlier, while the Musicquarium Lounge outside the theater is strictly 21 and older. Tickets generally range from $15–$40
Diving in headfirst is the best way to learn this music. Seattle has a fun and supportive environment that embraces all ages and levels. Check out these jams below to get in on the excitement!
Couth Buzzard Jazz Sessions
Sundays, 2pm & 7pm 8310 Greenwood Ave N
Featuring concerts, open jams, poetry readings, open mic nights, and more, this bookstore with a community center feel has the motto: “Building community, One Book, One Cup, One Note at a Time.” Jazz saxophonist, Kenny Mandell, hosts open jazz jams at 2pm on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, as well as a music improv session at 7pm on the third Sunday of the month. On the first and third Sundays of the month at 2pm, guitarist Stuart Zobel leads the Choro music jams. And finally, Couth Buzzard hosts a concert series every First Friday and numerous concerts throughout the month. Each of these events is open to all ages and levels.
Egan’s Ballard Jam House
Vocal Jam Second & Fourth Wednesdays, 9pm, $10 cover
1707 NW Market St
One of the few vocal-specific jams in the Seattle area, Egan’s is a great venue to gain experience. They describe themselves as “dedicated to providing a positive community-centered environment for jazz education and performance.” It’s all ages until 11pm and offers student discounts to many shows. The jam has a $10 cover but it’s free if you attend the 7pm vocal showcase before. Check their calendar for performance and jam schedules.
Racer Sessions at Café Racer
Sundays, 8pm 5828 Roosevelt Way NE
Offering innovative performances and jam sessions since 2010, the Racer Sessions have become an integral part of Seattle’s music scene. Each week, an individual or group leads the session, beginning with a performance that presents ideas and concepts that are developed in the jam session that follows. According to their website, the jam “frequently incorporates the aesthetic and techniques of avant-garde jazz and classical music,” but “warmly welcome[s] musicians of any persuasion to share their voice.” It is organized by Seattle record label Table & Chairs, and upcoming presenters are listed on racersessions.com.
Future Jazz Heads
Wednesdays, 6pm Instrumental Jam Session Sundays, 7:30pm
Wildflower Restaurant, 112 W 2nd St, North Bend jazzclubsnw.org/northbend
North Bend’s JazzClubsNW, formerly known as Boxley’s, now programs out of the Wildflower Restaurant, with events each week. The Wednesday series, Future Jazz Heads, features local music students, including from awardwinning bands at Mount Si High School, Twin Falls Middle School, and Chief Kanim Middle School, and rising stars as they take the stage for a jazz jam. On Sunday evening, join the fun at the instrumental jam session, featuring special guests and local players. Educational Opportunities Camps, clinics, workshops, and more are available year-round, no matter your age. They are often led by local musicians, making them a great way to connect with and find mentors within the tight-knit Seattle jazz community.
Jazz Night School
5415 Rainier Ave S
Offering extensive jazz education and performance opportunities to all ages and all levels, Jazz Night School teaches improvisation in ensemble settings. The organization currently offers nine ensembles (standard combos, gypsy jazz, big bands, Brazilian, etc.), and classes in various music studies, periodic workshops, and private lessons. Some of the most rewarding rotating classes include ear training classes, small jazz ensembles, Trad Jazz combo, Singing with Jazz Trio, the All Voices Gospel Choir, and the big bands, including the top level All-Star Big Band. The ensembles rehearse weekly and perform at the end of each tenweek session. The Jazz Night School opens up budding musicians to a pool of distinguished professional musicians, dedicated to helping folks learn about and perform music. The level of teaching here is on par with that at a conservatory or specialized school, but provided at accessible prices, with partial and full tuition waivers available.
3201 E Republican St
The fun never stops at Seattle JazzED: the non-profit offering classes, workshops, camps, and ensemble performance opportunities yearround. JazzED provides access to excellent music education to youth all over the region with partial and full tuition waivers. They focus on musical excellence, character development, access to a quality education, and community. JazzED offers opportunities including the Girls Ellington Project, a Masterclass Series, All Star Combos, Big Band Ensembles, Jazz Boot Camp, and more. Students in several ensembles, such as Big Band, also have the opportunity to travel to New York City, while other opportunities include performing at Seattle venues like the Triple Door, Royal Room, and Jazz Alley. JazzED hosts free jam sessions regularly, open to everyone even if you are not enrolled.
The Vera Project
305 Harrison Street
Proudly an all-ages, volunteer-fueled music and arts venue, The Vera Project offers private classes on recording, audio engineering, concert lighting, etc. You can book a private class for your friends, classmates, or high school jazz band. Vera offers group classes or you can work with the talented teaching staff on tailoring a class for your specific needs. Private classes cost $30 per attendee, and you must have a minimum of six people participating.
Tacoma Jazz Association
Classes at Ted Brown Music
6228 Tacoma Mall Blvd, Tacoma
High-caliber educational opportunities for local young jazz musicians aren’t limited to Seattle. Venture to Tacoma for weekly instruction in improvisation and performance opportunities with saxophonist/composer Kareem Kandi at Ted Brown Music. Put on by the Tacoma Jazz Association, the class is open to all ages and abilities, and offers students special handson study and performance time with world-class artists that they don’t normally receive in a regular high school or college jazz band setting. The cost is $60 monthly, though financial assistance is available. Dance Opportunities If swingin’ tunes put you in the mood to move, check out these dance spots. With classes for all levels and styles, you’ll be doin’ the Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, and Jive in no time!
All ages Swing nights, Sundays & Tuesdays
915 E Pine St
An established staple of the swing dancing community, the Century Ballroom offers camps, classes, and open dance nights, where you can learn all of the moves you need to look like a Swing (East and West Coasts) or Lindy Hop pro. Century Ballroom also offers dance classes in hip-hop, Balboa, Salsa and more. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced dancer looking to challenge yourself a little, this beautiful venue has it all.
Russian Community Center,
704 19th Ave E
The host of the longest-running allages swing dance in Seattle, HepCat productions provides fun for all levels. Whether new or an old pro, classes and private lessons are available for you. Every Thursday night from 9pm to midnight, you can dance Swing, traditional Jazz, and the Lindy Hop. The dance is free if you’re registered in one or more of their classes.
Seattle Swing Dance Club
First & Third Sundays, 6pm
Alki Masonic Center,
4736 40th Ave SW
The Seattle Swing Dance Club (SSDC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting West Coast swing dancing in the Seattle area. The club holds bi-monthly dances on Sundays in West Seattle. These all-ages dances are open to both SSDC members and non-members, and are free if you attend the workshop beforehand. SSDC also presents an annual “Easter Swing” convention and offers workshops, instructional series, and a Step-by-Step West Coast Swing dance class for the public. Four levels of classes, taught by professional instructors in the area, are offered throughout the year.
Aria Ballrom, 15300 NE 95th St (Redmond)
Take a trek to our Redmond neighbors via the 405 or 520 highways, and visit the massive 3,000 square foot Aria ballroom custom designed with sprung hardwood, surround sound, and air conditioning (a dancer’s saving grace)! With live music week, the Aria Ballroom is well worth the journey. Just $12 gets you in the door, including an absolute beginner’s lesson. Student and military discounts also available.
Savoy Swing Club
Lief Erickson Lodge,
2245 NW 57th St
Savoy Swing Club (SSC) is a member supported non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and spreading vintage swing dance throughout Seattle. Memberships start at just $10 a month, which gets you into the weekly Monday night dance and the Tuesday night practice at Dance Underground, plus discounts to their annual Lindy Extravaganza, and other regional Lindy Hop competitions including Camp Jitterbug. Unsure about membership? Be their guest for a Monday evening to try it out before making a commitment.
Did we miss your favorite venue or opportunity? Are you a veteran musician with tips, or a younger musician with questions? We want to hear from you! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. –Rayna Mathis