Concert Preview: Gary Peacock with the Keith Jarrett Trio

Originally published in Earshot Jazz October 2011

Not only does bassist Gary Peacock supply harmonic and rhythmic foundations for the trio with pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette, he also provided the catalyst for their first recording together. In 1977 Peacock recorded six of his compositions with Jarrett and DeJohnette on Tales of Another. At the time Peacock lived in Seattle and taught music at Cornish College.

Concert Preview: Evan Flory-Barnes and Acknowledgement of a Celebration

Earshot Jazz
October 2011

Evan Flory-Barnes stands six foot three, in suit and tie, in front of a thirty five member chamber orchestra at Seattle’s Town Hall. He scans the musicians. Left. Right. He rubs his palms together. No baton. He smiles broadly and adjusts his jacket. He glances down at the score. His head tips back. His eyes close. He whispers in a slow tempo, “One, two, three, four...” as he conducts with both hands, fingers gently closed. The count off is more like a jazz ensemble leader starting a familiar ballad than a conductor launching a symphony debut.

Violas and cellos sway back and forth in unison between two notes. A celeste chimes like an old fashioned clock. Glissandos rise from a harp. Dense chords drift in from wind instruments. An oboe moans. French horns herald an opening melody. Acknowledgement of a Celebration, a ten movement, fifty five minute opus commissioned by Meet the Composer, rises into the air.

So begins the initial scene from a video recording of the 2009 premier of Celebration. Copies of this DVD and audio CDs will be available at this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival performance of the piece.

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Concert Preview: Nelda Swiggett's Stringtet

Earshot Jazz
October 2011

Clumps of notes. That’s how pianist Nelda Swiggett describes musical shapes that are the basis of her compositions. But don’t be misled by the word clump. The notes are not dissonant, grating, or random. Her music is precise without being dry, clean without being dull, and light without being fluff. The sound is as clear, direct, and crisp as the gaze of her piercing blue eyes. And behind those eyes teems a sharp mind that leaves plenty of air within and around those clumps.

Swiggett finds material for composition by improvising at the piano. Her hands strike the keys, she finds pleasing sounds, and figures out harmony and time signature later. But the improvisations do not grow from the blues like much of jazz. Her roots penetrate classical music. “I was a serious classical pianist growing up, and now have my own piano students playing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. I'm rediscovering all that great music as well. It's all fodder for the imagination. But everything goes through the jazz filter.”

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Concert Preview: Scrape with Jay Clayton


Earshot Jazz
October 2011

Scrape together eight violins, three violas, three cellos, one bass, one harp, and one guitar, feature a violin soloist with equal parts jazz, punk, ambient, and classical influences, add one mercurial vocalist, sprinkle with lyrics from jazz standards and poetry, stir gently over original compositions and arrangements, then pour into an intimate resonant venue. What do you get? Two sets of transcendent music.

Branching from jazz improvisation and instrumentation, swing and blues are replaced with lushness and subtlety. Imagine composer Gil Evans deep in the Hoh Rainforest, entranced by Snoqualmie Falls, or following a sunset behind snow capped Olympic Mountains.

When Seattle sampled the new sonic cocktail served up a year ago by composer Jim Knapp and his former student, violinist Eyvind Kang, heads turned, palettes whetted, and ears tickled. This performance of the novel acoustic chamber ensemble will add singer Jay Clayton, celebrating her seventieth birthday. Jay lives in New York but was on the Cornish faculty with Knapp for twenty years.

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Concert Preview: Jim Knapp Tribute

Earshot Jazz
October 2011

Jim Knapp makes music, mentors musicians, and likes laughter. For the past forty years, Knapp fed the Seattle jazz scene with his compositions, improvisations, ensembles, and students. And he shows no signs of slowing down. This concert is an opportunity for the community to give back for all of Knapp’s selfless gifts to the Seattle music environment.

All of Knapp’s music expresses his dry wit, experimental outlook, and meticulous craft. As a composition student, one of his early works for the University of Illinois jazz band was titled "Summertime." After quoting the first three notes of the Gershwin opera tune, the melody is abandoned for a lush exploration of harmonies and textures hinted at from just that fragment.

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Julian Priester: Spirit Child

Originally published in Earshot Jazz September 2011, Vol. 27, No. 09

Outside room 209, on the second floor of Kerry Hall at Cornish College, flattened cardboard boxes and a hand cart lean against the wall. They await Julian Priester, Professor of Trombone and Jazz History. He retired on May 14th, 2011 with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts after thirty two years of service. With the help of a student, the boxes will transport Priester’s teaching materials from his studio back to his south Seattle home.


Inside the studio, nine boxes full of scores, books, recordings, trombone mutes clump in the far corner. Sun filters through two tall south facing windows that gaze over the corner of Roy and Boylston streets. Cracked and chipped white paint ornament the stark walls, high ceiling, and radiator. A crisp black Kawai baby grand piano rests atop utilitarian grey industrial carpet.


Silence hangs in the air. On a small chalk board, neatly written scales and rhythms hint at the sounds that filled this studio. Here, and in nearby rehearsal rooms, Priester shared his skills, stories, and studies. A quiet end to this chapter in his career belies the length of experience, depth of artistry, and breadth of creativity Priester carries forward into every situation.