Neil Welch: Multiphonic Monk

Originally published in Earshot Jazz April 2014, Vol. 30, No. 04

By trying every day for a year, how many sounds can be made from a saxophone? What if you stayed away from conventional fingerings and melodies? What combinations of open and closed saxophone keys produce more than one note at a time? Neil Welch was determined to find out by searching through these multi-phonic textures alone, like a private meditation.

Eric Verlinde: Honoring Music's Core Values

Originally published in Earshot Jazz June 2013

At 10:00pm, the Tuesday night jam session at the Owl and Thistle launches into “Solar.” Eric Verlinde sits Buddha-like on stage behind a battered electric piano tagged with the letters “des,” all that remains of the Fender Rhodes logo. His mouth hangs open and he nods along with the brisk tempo. Under the dim stained glass ceiling lights, a small audience listens intently. Several have instrument cases next to their chairs, awaiting an invitation. Across the room at the bar, conversations are buried by the saxophone solo bouncing off the brick walls.
Verlinde’s piano solos explore melodic and rhythmic motives through repetition and variation. His playing doesn’t dazzle with technical fireworks, instead it smolders with joyful energy and balanced clarity. “I don’t always have preconceptions when sitting down to play,” Verlinde says. “But something always happens.”

2013 Demiero Jazz Festival

Originally published in Earshot Jazz February 2013

More than 80 student and adult jazz vocal ensembles will congregate in Edmonds, Washington from Thursday, February 28 through Saturday, March 2 for the 2013 DeMiero Jazz Festival. Daily performances and clinics from 8:30 to 4:00 are free and open to the public. Evening ticketed concerts start at 7:00 and feature internationally acclaimed guest artists.

Most educational jazz festivals center on a competition adjudicated by notable guest teachers and artists. Frank DeMiero had attended some festivals and judged at a few. “A lot of people didn’t get to take home a trophy,” he says. So 37 years ago, DeMiero originated a non-competitive vocal jazz festival with one goal – to give every participant an opportunity to be inspired, learn and take home helpful advice to advance their artistry. “What [all learners] need at those impressionable years is exemplary opportunities.”

Buster Williams / Ernie Watts

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

The big guns roll out for this festival concert. Bassist Buster Williams locks and loads the jazz love cannon with pianist Patrice Rushin, saxophonist Mark Gross and drummer Ndugu Chancler.

As a boy Williams heard bassist Oscar Pettiford solo on a record and the rest is history. His bass playing father “Cholly” was a fan of Slam Stewart and, like Stewart, strung his two basses at a higher pitch so that he didn’t have to reach as far to play high notes. Buster recalls that his father said, “If I restring my bass for you [to the normal tuning], you better be serious!”

Tamarindo / Tom Varner

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

Tamarindo, a trio from New York, made their self titled debut on Clean Feed Records in 2007. Five years later, Tucson born tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby brings his project to the festival. Malaby is a frequent flyer to Earshot events, appearing on stages here since the late 1990’s.

Bronx native bassist William Parker anchors the harmony for Tamarindo. Parker studied with bassists Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilbur Ware and Jimmy Garrison. He performed with pianist Cecil Taylor for more than a decade. Parker is a published composer, playwright and poet with more than 20 recordings as a leader.

Susan Pascal

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

In this performance for Earshot, one of Seattle’s busiest vibraphonists, Susan Pascal, celebrates the 1960’s work of mallet masher Cal Tjader (1925-1982). Pascal will be joined by pianist Fred Hoadley and percussionist Tom Bergersen from Seattle’s Afro-Cuban jazz band Sonando. Pascal’s Soul Sauce ensemble is rounded out with bassist Chuck Deardorf and drummer Mark Ivester from Jovino Santos Neto’s Brazilian jazz band Quinteto.

Swedish American drummer Callen “Cal” Radcliffe Tjader, Jr. learned how to play the vibraphone while performing with pianist Dave Brubeck. His good vibes got him a job with pianist George Shearing. Later, Tjader sought out Cuban musicians to ply the warm waters of the late 1950’s Mambo craze. The title track of his 1964 album Soul Sauce, a cover of a Dizzy Gillespie song, climbed the radio charts and sold more than 100,000 copies.

Pascal began collecting music for this project in 2009 and the program has grown ever since. The Mambo music in the band’s book and mondo talent on stage create an embarrassment of riches.  “It's tough to decide which tunes to use,” Pascal says. “There are so many great ones to choose from. It's a balancing of mixing familiar hits with unknown gems. We start with the ground-breaking work of Mongo Santamaria and Dizzy Gillespie, then add collaborations of Cal Tjader and Clare Fischer with modern twists from Chick Corea and Don Grolnick.”

Pascal studied with Tom Collier, Director of Percussion Studies at the University of Washington since 1980 and newly appointed Chair of Jazz Studies. In addition to performances in Seattle clubs and concert stages, Pascal has toured Singapore multiple times. She appears on motion picture soundtracks for The Blind Side, The Wedding Planner and Office Space.

The audience may have a problem staying in their seats at Tula’s, especially after a few mint laced Mojitos. Pascal says, “Expect everything from solo vibraphone cadenzas to languid cha-chas and up-tempo mambo jams.

Roosevelt and Ballard High Schools

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

Students from two Seattle Public High Schools share the spotlight this year with the festival’s high caliber line up of professional performing artists. Veterans of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington contest – Roosevelt High School under the direction of Scott Brown – and first-time participants – Ballard High School under the direction of Michael James – bring their road-tested exuberance within earshot of this year’s festival audience.

Roosevelt returns from a two week summer European Festival Tour and second place finish at New York’s Ellington contest last May. “With loads of new talent and a strong core of veteran leadership,” Brown says, “this year's band is sure to be swinging!”

Brown, a trombonist, loves his job. “As a director, I am blessed to have so many wonderful musicians attending Roosevelt High School. When everyone in the band is ‘on the same page’ musically and spiritually, there is nothing better than to hear them swinging their tails off!”

Robert Glasper

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

This year’s festival ends with a slap to the face. Not an angry slap, a “wake up, you were asleep” tap. Blue Note Records pianist Robert Glasper lifts a U.S. tour leg up the West Coast in Seattle before jumping off to Zurich and points beyond. Fresh on the heels of the Black Radio remix, Glasper brings a quartet of East Coast bad boys with their dials tuned to gospel, hip hop, rap, jazz, rhythm and blues and rock. Do they cross genres? Well, Kanye West and yasiin bey crashed their recent New York club date.

Glasper was born in Houston 34 years ago. He attended the city’s High School for Performing Arts and then The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan. He hooked up with singer Bilal Oliver and mixed with Mos Def, Q-Tip, Kanye, J Dilla, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z and Talib Kweli. His early recordings cover tunes by Herbie Hancock and Duke Ellington.

St. Louis drummer Mark Colenburg attended Mannes School of Music in Manhattan on scholarship where he studied with Lenny White, Joe Chambers, Michael Carvin, Carl Allen and Andrew Cyrille. He has performed on The Tonight Show, The Chris Rock Show, Late Night with David Letterman and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Murl Allen Sanders with Warren Rand

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

Murl Allen Sanders describes his music as “zyfusico” – a fusion of jazz, pop and zydeco. He sings and performs on accordion, piano, and harmonica. Joining him are Seattle bassist Clipper Anderson, Tacoma drummer Mark Ivester and Portland saxophonist Warren Rand. “This is a high energy ensemble combining modern and traditional aesthetics,” Sanders says
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Sanders’ accordion repertoire stretches across many musical genres – Latin, swing, funk, even orchestral. His “Accordion Concerto No. 1” premiered in 2003 at University of Washington’s Meany Hall. A grant from Seattle’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs supported his “Accordion Concerto No. 2” that premiered in 2007. The program for this festival performance won’t include an orchestra, but will include original material, straight-ahead jazz and some blues.

As a student, Sanders played jazz piano at Nathan Hale High School and Seattle Community College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education at the University of Washington. Now he teaches privately, performs publicly, records movie soundtracks and has won awards for his compositions.

Sanders derives satisfaction from “playing with excellent musicians for an appreciative audience, providing enjoyment for people and myself.” He draws on the “communicative loop” between artist and audience. “I like to evoke different emotions and responses from the audience, my fellow musicians and myself.” He finds it challenging to be “listening and responding in the moment and always being aware of what my fellow musicians are doing as I pay attention to my own sound and the overall sound in the room.”

Sanders says, “If you haven't heard jazz accordion, come to this show!

Mundell Lowe / Mike Magnelli

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2012

Mundell Lowe is one of the most seasoned artists performing at this year’s festival, and his jazz roots reach the deepest. Born in 1922, Lowe worked as a young musician on Basin Street in New Orleans. Upon moving to New York he performed, recorded, and toured with saxophonists Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Ben Webster, singers Billy Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett, pianist Mary Lou Williams and bassist Charles Mingus. He picked up a gig on the Today Show band with bassist George Duvivier and drummer Ed Shaughnessy and worked with pianist Hank Jones in the NBC and CBS orchestras. Eventually he composed for News and Special Events at NBC.