Adam Kessler & Phil Sparks photo by Colin Brynn
By Andrew Luthringer
In case you needed a little uplift, here’s a reminder: Seattle music makers and fans are a lucky bunch. The city is blessed with and supportive of a music scene bursting with jam session opportunities and convivial music hangs. From up-and-coming (Beaver Sessions at the Angry Beaver), to experimental/free improv (Café Racer), burning straight-ahead (Owl ‘n Thistle), eclectic Latin (EntreMundos at Capitol Cider), or funky groove (Mo’ Jam at Nectar), there is always great music playing somewhere. But even in a crowded field like this, drummer Adam Kessler and bassist Phil Sparks’ Live Jazz Thursday at Barca on Capitol Hill stands out.
Each week for the past 10 years, Kessler and Sparks have hosted a different musician drawn from a who’s who of Seattle jazz royalty, rounding out to form a stellar new trio each time. Live Jazz Thursday has developed its own special vibe and waves of devoted regulars. Kessler describes the sessions as a collaborative relationship:
“You’ll see show after show, the same folks, almost as dedicated as the artists themselves. They make a real effort to be there. There is a real community at Thursday nights…Some still come every week, since the beginning 10 years ago. It really does feel like a collaboration – between the band, the audience, and definitely the staff.”
Kessler gives kudos and credit to Barca, who have helped to nurture the scene. “They’re so supportive, almost more than any other place I’ve played.”
One enthusiastic regular is Tim O’Shea, who’s been attending for about two years.
“I stumbled upon Barca’s jazz night on a night that I was feeling low, and it picked me up right away,” he says.
O’Shea notes that the format keeps it fresh. “I like watching those two [Kessler and Sparks] play every week with somebody else…It’s fun to watch the relationship between these two guys, and then see how they play off of somebody new.”
To mark this notable occasion of the 10-year anniversary, Kessler is putting together a compilation album of highlights from the sessions. Live at Barca Vol. 1 will feature a slew of Seattle’s finest, including Thomas Marriott, Alexey Nikolaev, Mark Taylor, Jay Thomas, Tim Kennedy, and many others. The album features 11 tracks recorded over the past year, and will be celebrated with an album release party on December 22 at Barca.
Underscoring the collaborative nature of the Live Jazz Thursday scene, Kessler has enlisted O’Shea, who is a painter, to create album cover art from paintings made at Barca during the sessions. Another regular will be doing the graphic design, and Kessler is soliciting accompanying writings from other loyal patrons.
Kessler’s notion of community plays out in other tangible ways too: All proceeds from sales will be donated to the Sanctuary Art Center, a local organization that provides a space for homeless youth to experience creativity and success through making art.
“I hope this project will be a way to use music and art to help folks that can’t attend our Thursday nights, or go to the theater, or buy a CD,” says Kessler. He considers music to be a “helping profession,” and wants to serve others when he performs. “I’m looking for a way to use it to help folks that don’t have those resources.”