Festival Previews, Week Five

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Festival Previews, Week Five

Ed Reed photo courtesy of artist

Ed Reed & Anton Schwartz Play Hartman & Coltrane

Friday, November 6 & Saturday, November 7, 7:30pm | Tula’s Restaurant & Jazz Club
$18 general | $16 members & seniors | $9 students & military

Last year, with I’m a Shy Guy, this late-blooming, fast-rising star vocalist consolidated the surprise of his 2007 album debut at age 78. For the Earshot Festival, he salutes one of the great vocal-jazz albums of all time – John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – with tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz, acclaimed for his “warm, generous tone, impeccably developed solos, and infectious performance energy” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Ed Reed’s yearning to be a jazz vocalist began at his Los Angeles high school in the 1940s when Nat King Cole visited. Reed committed virtually all Cole’s recordings to memory. But Reed’s own rise to jazz-vocal prominence would wait 60 years. He has followed his acclaimed debut album, which made him a DownBeat readers rising-star vocalist, with many more critics, readers, and editors nods, and a slough of albums.

Reed’s journey has been an astonishing one: reared in Watts, he performed in talent shows with soul prodigy “Little Esther” Phillips and Bobby Nunn of the Coasters, learned to sing chord changes from Charles Mingus while the jazz-great-to-be was babysitting his sister’s kids across the street from where Reed lived, dropped out of high school and joined the army, and became addicted to heroin for 40 years. That condemned him to four stints in San Quentin and Folsom. In and out of jail, he schooled himself in sessions with Art Pepper, Wardell Gray, Art Farmer, Hampton Hawes, and Dexter Gordon. Since his release from addiction in the 1980s he has been a fixture on the San Francisco-area scene.

Soulful, distinctive, and seasoned, Reed has built captivating skills of vocal craft and art. He says he sings songs that “are some of the most beautiful I have ever known. Most of them have haunted me since I first heard them many years ago.”

He and Schwartz perform here with a particularly fine rhythm section: Dawn Clement, piano; Michael Glynn, bass; and D’Vonne Lewis, drums.

Torsten Mueller & Phil Minton

Saturday, November 7, 8pm | Chapel Performance Space
$5-15 sliding scale
Presented by Nonsequitur and Polestar

Whether you’re among the Seattle listeners who miss the days of show after show featuring accomplished European free improvisers, or you’re simply looking for another festival adventure, this duo of exemplary practitioners of the form exploiting the pristine acoustics of the Chapel should be just the ticket.

First-generation British free improviser Phil Minton is one of the very few vocalists whose technique and sensibility make him a true virtuoso instrumentalist. His commanding presence, seemingly impossible multiphonics, and irrepressible humor have confounded and delighted audiences around the world for many decades. Glenn Astarita writes, “Minton’s vocal range and ability to mimic echo and reverb bestows uncanny similarities to elements of an electronics-based DJ mix.”

Torsten Mueller, the German double bassist living in Vancouver, B.C., is one of his instrument’s masters of extended techniques in the service of making exhilarating improvised music. It’s no wonder he has long shared the stage with a who’s who of creative musicians from across Europe, Canada, and the States. “Mueller wields his bow to tease the upper register,” says Sean Patrick Fitzell. “He avoids obvious lines, preferring to color abstractly and shape the proceedings with thick notes and percussive flourishes that sound like prepared piano.”

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra presents Lush Life: Celebrating Billy Strayhorn’s 100th Birthday

Saturday, November 7, 7:30pm | Benaroya Hall, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall
Sunday, November 8, 2pm | Kirkland Performance Center
Monday, November 9, 7:30pm | Edmonds Center for the Arts
$10-48
Presented by SRJO

SRJO joins forces with Earshot Jazz to salute the marvelous talents of “Swee’ Pea” – Ellington’s right-hand man, composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn. The concert includes some of Strayhorn’s greatest works, including “Isfahan,” “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing,” and, of course, “Take the A Train.” SRJO trombonist Dan Marcus is featured, playing his favorite Strayhorn ballad, “Lush Life.”

Founded in 1995, the 17-piece big band is made up of the most prominent instrumentalists, educators, and bandleaders in the Seattle area. The SRJO’s extensive repertoire is drawn from the 100-year history of jazz, including works by America’s most famous jazz composers, like Fletcher Henderson, Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Thad Jones, and of course, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Their repertoire grows each year as the ensemble adds previously unpublished works to its library.

Jay Clayton in and out

Sunday, November 8, 8pm | PONCHO concert hall, Cornish College of the Arts
$16 general | $14 members & seniors | $8 students & military
Co-presented with Cornish Presents

Vocalist Jay Clayton is not new to the Northwest – she lived, performed, and taught in the area for 20 years. Now a New York fixture, Clayton perennially topped vocals polls while teaching at Cornish College of the Arts. She returns to perform originals, standards, electronics, poetry, plus a tribute to Ornette Coleman, with fellow Cornish players Julian Priester and Dawn Clement.

An impressive vocalist, composer, and educator, Clayton has performed and taught across the world. She has collaborated with many big names, including: Fred Hersch, Norma Winstone, Bobby McFerrin, Steve Reich, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Jane Ira Bloom.

Clayton is known and respected for her experience with free jazz and improvisation. “More than 20 years after her debut recording All Out, Clayton is still the most adventurous singer in jazz, a specialist in wordless improvisation who’s also expert in distending and finding new meanings in the melodies and lyrics of classic popular songs,” writes Francis Davis of The Village Voice.

Her work, incorporating both jazz and new music, is creative and demonstrates her extreme vocal prowess. JazzTimes’ Fred Bouchard says, “As far as vocal innovation goes, Jay Clayton is precariously on the cutting edge.”

James McBride & the Good Lord Bird Band

Monday, November 9, 7:30pm | Town Hall Seattle
$10-70
Co-presented by Seattle Arts & Lectures and the Seattle Times

James McBride was a professional saxophonist for decades before he took up writing. His most recent work of historical fiction, The Good Lord Bird, was the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 2013. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years.

The Good Lord Bird tells the story of a boy named Henry Shackleford, an enslaved 12-year-old who winds up traveling with John Brown during the abolitionist’s most tumultuous years. “Many books have been written about [Brown], but I wanted to write a book that people like me would read,” he tells Kurt Andersen. While faithful to the outlines of history, McBride’s account of Brown offers ample comic relief. “He was seen as a nut. He’s still seen as a nut,” McBride explains. “I don’t want to write depressing books. Books cost a lot of money. If people are going to invest that kind of money in your work, they should at least be moved to some semblance of happiness, even if briefly.”

Like McBride, the young protagonist loves to break out into song. McBride created a catalogue of fictional songs for him, but also relies heavily on the spirituals of the era. McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band is a gospel jazz quintet that will perform original and historical spirituals interspersed with brief, lyrical readings from the novel.

The Good Lord Bird Band consists of Show Tyme Brooks on drums and vocals, Trevor Exter on bass and vocals, Adam Faulk on piano and vocals, Keith Robinson on guitar and vocals, and McBride on saxophone and vocals.

Anat Cohen Quartet

Monday, November 9 & Tuesday, November 10, 8pm | PONCHO Concert Hall, Cornish College of the Arts
$30 general | $28 members & seniors | $15 students & military
Co-presented with Cornish Presents

Conversant with modern and traditional jazz, classical music, Brazilian choro, and Argentine tango, the Israeli clarinetist has established herself as a leading voice in jazz moving forward. And with it, she “reaches a state of musical ecstasy…as her clarinet moans, sighs, soars and wails with passion and emotion,” wrote All About Jazz.

Nat Hentoff observed that Anat Cohen “tells stories from her own experiences that are so deeply felt that they are very likely to connect listeners to their own dreams, desires, and longings.”

With her touring quartet – keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tal Mashiach, drummer Daniel Freedman – she demonstrated this year on Luminosa, her seventh album, why DownBeat would call her “a woodwind revelation of dark tones and delicious lyricism, but also a dynamic bandleader.”

The Tel Aviv-born US transplant began clarinet studies at 12, also plays tenor saxophone, and studied at Berklee College. In New York, she joined Brazilian ensembles like Duduka Da Fonseca’s Samba Jazz Quintet, and performed the music of Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, and their pan-American contemporaries. Her reputation spread as one of the most engaging of modern jazz musicians, and one of a group of Israelis spicing the New York scene.

Recognized with nine consecutive Jazz Journalists Association awards for clarinetist of the year and multiple DownBeat critics and readers polls honors, she achieves a rare accomplishment in jazz: seamlessly merging early and recent styles, and geographically diverse forms, into personal expression.

Billy Strayhorn Project

Thursday, November 12, 5:30pm | Seattle Art Museum, Brotman Forum
Free
Co-presented with Seattle Art Museum and 88.5 KPLU

Vocalist Tyrone Brown hails the music of William Thomas “Billy” Strayhorn, the composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger who is celebrated for his almost-30-year collaboration with Duke Ellington. Brown, Nate Omdal (director/bass), Michael Owcharuk (piano), and Jacques Willis (drums) play arrangements of classics like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and “Lush Life.”

Wayne Horvitz @ 60

Thursday, November 12, 8pm | The Royal Room
$18 general | $16 members & seniors | $9 students & military

Here’s the third of three events marking Wayne Horvitz’s 60th birthday and his considerable contributions to Seattle jazz culture.

In a fascinating triple bill, the renowned keyboardist/composer plays in three settings: solo piano with electronics; his Snowghost trio, where Eric Eagle, a drummer adept in many genres, and Geoff Harper, who is among the region’s most cherished bassists, complement Horvitz’s processed piano and synthesizer with results he says have surprised even him; and a new Seattle sextet in which he, Eagle, and Harper appear with three expansive innovators: trumpeter Ray Larsen and saxophonists Ivan Arteaga and Greg Sinibaldi.

Horvitz says Snowghost, and then its sextet extension, stem from a recording trip he, Eagle, and Harper made to Whitefish, Montana, last year. Months later, while listening to the tape, he realized it ended with a recording of a live gig they had done after the studio session, a sort of house concert. “And it was pretty bad-ass,” says Horvitz. “Piano trio but the piano is processed and amplified and I also play synthesizer. Sounded beautiful. I was frankly sort of taken aback.”

This is an evening that promises transporting music from a master Seattle’s jazz world has welcomed, valued, and embraced for now more than 20 years.