Earshot Jazz Spring Series

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Earshot Jazz Spring Series

Marc and Jesse Seales photos by Daniel Sheehan

The Seales Brothers Band

Saturday, May 28, 8:30pm
The Royal Room

After tearing it up at last year’s festival, Marc and Jesse Seales, brothers and leading figures of separate Seattle scenes, take the Royal Room stage for an encore performance.

Jesse Seales, a Bellingham blues- and rock-drenched jazzer and educator, was a founder of Stypes, one of the most notorious bands based out of Tacoma at the time. They worked the circuit for 15 years. As an avid traveler and Francophile, he has lived and studied in France, and expanded his knowledge of non-Western musical forms over the past two decades, further broadening his experience as a recording artist. He joined the pop-rock cover outfit Notorious 253 in May 2014.

Joining him is the celebrated Marc Seales, jazz professor at UW, bandleader, and Seattle Jazz Hall of Famer. The force behind the Marc Seales Quartet’s expansive trilogy, American Songs, he has been described as sounding like a pre-funk Herbie Hancock, with hints of Bill Evans. Adding gas to the fire tonight are tenor saxophonist Stuart MacDonald, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes, and LA drummer Lucas Moyes Jr.

Tickets $11-22, available at StrangerTickets.com.

John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet

Tuesday, June 21, 8pm
PONCHO Concert Hall

This innovative group, a repeat visitor to Earshot shores, has over the last 18 years issued seven highly regarded discs, and along the way its percussionist leader has won acclaim for his host of compositions for band and orchestra formats.

Claudia Quintet is a compelling grouping of individual stars whose music defies categorization. Hollenbeck says he wanted to “explore the edge without alienating the mainstream,” as a way of showing that “genre-defying music can be for everyone.” To achieve that outcome, he has deployed knowledge of musical forms from around the world, from jazz to chamber music to varied folk forms. He orchestrates compelling, idiosyncratic, ambitious music. DownBeat wrote that he “has traveled among jazz, contemporary classical, and pan-ethnic folk music with the agility of a seasoned commuter on the New York City subway.”

In Claudia Quintet, he has ideal fellow travelers: Matt Moran is a vibraphonist with a revolutionary approach. Seattle-raised Chris Speed, who performs on clarinet and tenor saxophone, is one of the leading horn players on the New York scene (and also appears in this series with Endangered Blood). On accordion and piano is Red Wierenga, while Drew Gress and Chris Tordini alternate in the bass chair.

Tickets $16 general / $14 Earshot members & seniors (60+) / $8 students & military/veterans available here.

The Thing / Cortex

Wednesday, June 22, 8pm
The Royal Room

The Thing is the real thing, built by three towering figures in European jazz – in fact, in jazz and its progeny, anywhere: Mats Gustafsson plays multiple saxophones with live electronics; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten in on bass; and Paal Nilssen-Love is on drums of a torrential variety.

The “Scandinavian garage jazz punk” trio formed in 1999 as a Don Cherry recording project, but soon emerged as one of the most important European jazz groups, playing a variety of compositions, ranging from free jazz to the noisiest of musical invention. Gustafsson and co. took material not only from jazz innovators like Albert Ayler and Steve Lacy, but also from independent thinkers from other corners of musical free-thinking, like PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, The Stooges, and The Ex, and they developed their sound in startling trio performances as well as in collaborations with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Sonic Youth, David Grubbs, Pat Metheny, and Neneh Cherry.

Opening is Cortex, a leading Norwegian quartet of Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer Berre Alberts (sax), Ola Høyer (bass), and
Gard Nilssen (drums), whose “avant-garde party music” has been praised for what critics have described as the sleek, muscular propulsion of its agile and robust high-velocity improvisations and tight ensemble playing.

Mats Eilertsen Trio

Tuesday, June 28, 8pm
PONCHO Concert Hall

Here’s a not-to-miss, mesmerizing small group that breathes fresh life into the piano-trio format. With a bassist leader, it emphasizes a group dynamic ahead of featured soloing to create meditative, atmospheric, restrained yet soaring moodscapes. Joining Eilertsen on piano is Harmen Fraanje, from the Netherlands, with the bassist’s fellow Norwegian Thomas Strønen on drums. As Stuart Nicholson wrote in JazzWise, “each idea, each nuance in the music, is an instant distillation of countless possibilities shaped to the requirements of the moment” and “what emerges is often profound and always rich in meaning.” Such praise typifies critics’ responses to this riveting revelation in forward-facing jazz.

Eilertsen has been a member of three ECM-associated groups: Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, the Source, and Wolfert Brederode Quartet, and recorded and performed with a host of big names, while also leading several outfits of his own. Fraanje has the world’s piano music under his fingers, as he has demonstrated not only with Eilertsen, but also groups led by trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and American-Dutch saxophonist Michael Moore, and in a trio with cello grand master Ernst Reijseger. As for drummer Strønen, he is all over the place on the fertile Scandinavian scene, and in Food, with British saxophonist Iain Ballamy, and has appeared on 60 albums since emerging from the Trondheim Conservatory of Music in the late 1990s.

Tickets $14 general / $12 Earshot members & seniors (60+) / $7 students & military/veterans available here.

Endangered Blood

Sunday, July 3, 8pm
The Royal Room

Edgy, tight, thrilling, and accessible, Endangered Blood is four long-time colleagues and friends who call themselves a “neighborhood band” on the strength of living within three blocks of each other in New York. Their closeness emerges in the music as highly intuitive interplay and purpose that make Endangered Blood a highly gripping and coherent small combo. The quartet took its names from playing at a seriously ill friend’s benefit concert; from there, its health flourished. With elements from bebop, post-bop, free jazz, New Orleans funeral marches, mariachi, and much more “all seamlessly strung together” (AllAboutJazz), its “high-energy, melody-driven themes exploded into all-out jams, hammered home by Jim Black’s aggressive drumming,” as TimeOut NY said of one of its gigs. Well more than a decade ago, drummer Jim Black established himself as one of the most inventive drummers around; in addition to Endangered Blood, he leads his own trio as well as post-rock/jazz group Alas No Axis. Bassist Trevor Dunn has featured in various Mike Patton and John Zorn projects for skills equally as honed on electric bass as on upright acoustic. Alto saxophone and bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega emerged as a member of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil quartet, plays with an inspired sense of purpose, and in this group perfectly complements tenor saxophone and clarinetist Chris Speed, another stand-out on the current scene.

– Peter Monaghan