Festival Previews, Week Six

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Festival Previews, Week Six

Brad Mehldau Trio (Larry Grenadier, Brad Mehldau, Jeff Ballard) photo courtesy of International Music Network

Brad Mehldau Trio

Friday, November 13, 8pm | Town Hall Seattle
$26 general | $24 members & seniors | $13 students & military | $36 preferred seating
Presented by Earshot Jazz and 88.5 KPLU

One of the greatest of modern jazz pianists, prodigiously inventive, equally riveting whether exploring formal structures or improvising with abandon, has for more than two decades excelled in trio performance, since 2005 with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums.

Over the last two decades, pianist Brad Mehldau has forged a unique path which embodies the essence of jazz exploration, classical romanticism, and pop allure. His unquestionable leadership across domains has grown quietly as he has transformed the paradigm of jazz and classical performance. In recent years, Mehldau has expanded his international exposure in genre-crossing commissions and notable collaborations with Pat Metheny, Anne Sofie von Otter, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Renée Fleming, Britten Sinfonia, Kevin Hays, Jeremy Denk, Chris Thile, and Joshua Redman. With his rigorous intellect feeding an inspired range of expression and intensity, Mehldau leads one of the world’s top jazz trios.

Bassist Larry Grenadier attended Stanford University, where he received a degree in English Literature. After moving to the East Coast, he played in the Gary Burton Band, touring the US and Europe. He moved to New York City and played with Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Pat Metheny, and the John Scofield Group. When not touring and recording with the Brad Mehldau Trio, Grenadier tours and records with the Pat Metheny Trio.
Drummer Jeff Ballard grew up in Santa Cruz, California. He toured with Ray Charles from 1988 to 1990, moved to New York in 1990, and since has played and recorded with Lou Donaldson, Danilo Pérez, Chick Corea, and Joshua Redman, to name a few. Currently, as well as being a member of the Melhdau Trio, he is co-leader of the collective group FLY, featuring Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier, and Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band.

Larry Fuller Trio

Friday, November 13 & Saturday, November 14 | Tula’s Restaurant & Jazz Club
$18 general | $16 members & seniors | $9 students & military

The always-in-demand New York pianist who “swings like a beast” returns to Seattle, where from 1988 to 1993 he was Ernestine Anderson’s music director. He excels in the hard-driving traditions of mainstream jazz, as he demonstrated with legendary bassist Ray Brown’s Trio, and John Pizzarelli.

Raised in Toledo, Ohio, Larry Fuller began his musical studies at age 11, immediately showing a talent for jazz. At 13, Floyd “Candy” Johnson, a veteran of the Count Basie and Duke Ellington Orchestras, took Fuller under his wing, hiring him for regular paying gig. In his early years, Fuller became a regular on the Midwest jazz circuit, performing frequently in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Fuller has performed with Harry “Sweets” Edison, Stanley Turrentine, Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Herb Ellis, Marlena Shaw, Kevin Mahogany, John Clayton, John Heard, Bennie Golson, Emily Remler, Jimmy Witherspoon, Eddie Harris, Anita O’Day, Steve Allen, Regina Carter, Nicholas Payton, and John Legend.

Today, Fuller performs as bandleader. His self-titled album dropped last year, and received consistent, exceptional praise. All About Jazz says: “Chops, class, and in-the-pocket ensemble playing are all on full display. There’s plenty to marvel at.”

Scott Amendola Band w/ Nels Cline & Jenny Scheinman

Saturday, November 14, 7:30pm | Triple Door
$26 general | $24 members & seniors | $13 students & military

It was written long ago in the now-defunct San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly, but the wisdom still stands: “If Scott Amendola didn’t exist, the San Francisco music scene would have to invent him.”

Certainly it’s true that virtually every notable Bay Area creative musician has crossed paths with drummer and composer extraordinaire Amendola, but that quote could now be comfortably extended to include not just the West Coast, but the entire US. Amendola is justifiably revered coast to coast for his relaxed and funky groove, and for a broad conceptual base of poly-genre freedom anchored by prodigious chops that never overshadow the feel and stylistic integrity of whatever music he’s driving on a particular night.

Just as comfortable providing sensitive support for a singer-songwriter as he is bashing a rock wall of avant-noise, Amendola’s sideman credits are staggering, and include such luminaries as Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Mike Patton, Wadada Leo Smith, Madeleine Peyroux, John Scofield, and Rodney Crowell.

Fresh off recent tours with Regina Carter and his long-running duo with guitarist/groove machine Charlie Hunter (with whom Amendola first started attracting serious notice in the ‘90s Bay Area jazz and funk scenes), Amendola has also built an impressive resume as a bandleader and composer. Starting in 1999 with Scott Amendola Band, he has released a string of creative and eclectic solo albums with shifting bands of collaborators, including the unit he will bring to the Earshot Jazz Festival. It’s a powerhouse ensemble of long-time associates, who have been playing together off and on since 1998: the contrasting yet complementary guitar titans Nels Cline and Jeff Parker, in-demand violinist Jenny Scheinman and the formidable Bay Area bass wizard John Shifflett. The breadth of firepower and stylistic flexibility in this group will make for a riveting and groove-intensive evening of music for adventurous listeners, a party with a purpose.

Chris Potter Trio

Sunday, November 15, 7:30pm | Triple Door
$26 general | $24 members & seniors | $13 students & military

Saxophonist Chris Potter – on his way to becoming a living legend – lights up our closing week in a burning trio with Drew Gress (bass) and Adam Cruz (drums).

Potter’s name has already been cemented in the legacies of jazz as one of the key faces of his generation. His vocabulary is fluent and deep in both old school and new school. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Ray Brown, and many others. He’s led bands with many other contemporary masters.

As “one of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet” (DownBeat), he’s done just about everything you can do as a jazz musician. Yet Potter is never satisfied. There is always room to explore, learn, and grow. And for a saxophone, it’s hard to open things up for the uncharted more than the sax, bass, and drum trio setting.

Potter, as accomplished and experienced as he is, will be playing right alongside bandmates that are equally so. They’re every bit of the word “prolific” and are highly sought after. Since immersing himself in jazz as a teenager, Gress has worked alongside the likes of Cab Calloway and Buddy Hackett, as well as contemporaries including Tim Berne and Tom Rainey. Though best known for his work with Danilo Pérez, Cruz has also performed, toured, and recorded with artists including Charlie Hunter, Chick Corea, Steve Wilson, and the Mingus Big Band. His debut album as a leader, 2011’s Milestone, received critical praise from DownBeat and JazzTimes.

Sara Gazarek & New West Guitar Group

Monday, November 16, 7:30pm | triple door
$20 advance | $25 door | $30 front row
Presented by Triple Door

Seattle-born jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek has established herself as one of today’s great musical storytellers. Dan Bilawsky of All About Jazz says, “Gazarek balances fancy free notions, effervescence, carefree whims, fragile emotions, precocious pondering and humor in her work.” She effortlessly blends jazz influence with soft, contemporary stylings, appealing to wide audiences.

Los Angeles-based guitar trio New West Guitar Group is made up of John Storie, Will Brahm, and Perry Smith. DownBeat’s Bill Milkowski says their collaboration involves “shimmering arpeggios, collectively strummed chords…tight cracking interplay and complementary playing.” Their juxtaposition of through composed and improvised sections, electric and acoustic guitars, and beautiful simplicity and virtuosic display keeps their style fresh and their audiences guessing.

These two acts come together to perform work from NWGG’s newest release, titled Send One Your Love. The album features five of today’s most impressive jazz vocalists, one of which is Gazarek. On the album, Gazarek gives a “hauntingly gorgeous performance” of the classic ballad “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “a moving rendition” of James Taylor’s “Secret o’ Life.” The project’s goal is to tell “a story about the highs and lows of love through the timeless tradition of guitar and voice.”

Hugh Masekela

Tuesday, November 17 & Wednesday, November 18, 7:30pm | Triple Door
$30 advance | $35 door | $40 front row
Presented by Triple Door

Legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela is an innovator in the world music and jazz scene and continues to tour the globe as a performer, composer, singer, producer, and activist, enjoying world renown for almost 50 years after rising to prominence as a voice of opposition to apartheid rule in his homeland.

This iconic artist is best known for his Grammy-nominated hit single, “Grazing in the Grass,” which sold over four million copies in 1968 and made him an international star. He later played an integral role in Paul Simon’s tour behind the classic album Graceland, which was one of the first pop records to introduce African music to a broader public.

Born in the Witbank, South Africa, in 1939, Masekela received his first trumpet at the age of 14, from Father Trevor Huddleston, the deeply respected advocator of equal rights in his country. Soon after, the Huddleston Jazz Band was formed. Masekela began to hone his now signature Afro-Jazz sound in the late 1950s during a period of intense creative collaboration, before moving to New York in 1960 and enrolling in the Manhattan School of Music.

There, the young Masekela immersed himself in the New York jazz scene where nightly he watched greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus, and Max Roach. Under the tutelage of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, Hugh was encouraged to develop his own unique style, feeding off African rather than American influences – his debut album, released in 1963, was entitled Trumpet Africaine.

His subsequent solo career has spanned five decades, during which time he has released over 40 albums (and been featured on countless more) and has worked with such diverse artists as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and the late Miriam Makeba.