I phoned Seattle trumpeter Thomas Marriott with just one question about his latest disc, Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (Origin): Why Willie Nelson?
As if anticipating my question, Marriott reflected, "In jazz, we have a lexicon of songs—the repertory of standard tunes. Many of them," he added, "come from movies made in the 1930s. The repertory needs updating."
And why not with country songs? Aside from experimental music, I can't think of any other genre so damaged by easy clichés. The outsize cowboy hats, the big (and usually bad) hair, and visions of Bud Light–swilling fans who have never stacked bales of hay or slopped hogs (I did both growing up) belie the sophisticated construction and melodic richness of country music.
Having combed through Nelson's albums, Marriott agrees: "There's so much there. I picked tunes that would lend themselves to different treatments."
Crazy does much more than merely update Nelson classics such as "Crazy" and "On the Road Again." The trumpeter and his bandmates—bassist Geoff Harper, drummer Matt Jorgensen, saxophonist Mark Taylor, and Ryan Burns on keyboards—rebuild the songs entirely.
"Write Your Own Songs," begins with a rubbery synth line borrowed from Weather Report's "Black Market." But Marriott and Taylor heat up the tune into riotous, Dixieland-inspired polyphony; both solo simultaneously until guest keyboardist Wayne Horvitz unleashes an amazing ring-modulated solo that whoops and sizzles.
By contrast, "On the Road Again" opens with an annunciatory gong. While Burns's Moog warbles and wobbles in the background, Marriott drenches his trumpet in slow-motion echo. The result is a valedictory farewell as well as a hymn-like fanfare celebrating the rediscovery of music that is fresh and new.
Catch the Willie Nelson Project on Wed Feb 27, The Triple Door, 216 Union St, 838-4333, 7:30 pm, $15.
This fine bassist has gigged with just about everybody, most notably Count Basie and Frank Sinatra. Here, Catlett anchors a quintet stocked with fellow Seattle jazz legends Clarence Acox (drums), Hadley Caliman (saxophone), Bob Hammer (piano), and Julian Priester (trombone). Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave, 684-7171, noon—1 pm, free.
SIDE BY SIDE
Not the Stephen Sondheim musical revue, but a free coperformance of Mahler's titanic Symphony No. 1 by the Seattle Symphony and the UW's University Symphony. Meany is just the right size for a Mahler symphony to roar (as it should) right into your ears. Rie Ando is the piano soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20. Meany Theater, UW Campus, 543-4880, 7:30 pm, free.
Chiefly known for singing with the much-missed chamber group Sorelle, Wechkin stars in a one-woman show, Charisma. The soprano portrays a hospital patient who sings and plays the violin simultaneously while coping with a cavalcade of unusual characters. Also Sat Feb 23, Fri Feb 29, and Sat March 1. ACT Theatre, 700 Union St, 292-7676, 8 pm, $10/$20.
Dragon's Eye Recordings honcho Novak shares a triple bill with labelmates Kamran Sadeghi (aka Son of Rose) and Wyndel Hunt. All perform with video and in sumptuous quadraphonic sound. Novak riffs on his latest release, In Residence, a gorgeous collection of drones and striated textures. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.
JACK GOLD-MOLINA GROUP
A passionate advocate of freely improvised music, drummer Gold-Molina teams up with composer/guitarist Chris Pugh, Sunship saxophonist Michael Monhart, and PK on bass. Sureshot Espresso, 4505 University Way NE, 632-3100, 2—4 pm, free.
The composer-as-critic has a noble but invisible lineage. Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy, Roberto Gerhard, and many other composers great and small wrote about music to clarify and propagate their aesthetic beliefs, discover and publicize fellow musicians, and of course, put food on the table. Until recently, most readers usually remember the critic, not the composer; now the composer-critic's bio lurks just a mouse click away. Frank Oteri, editor of the essential NewMusicBox.org, presents two of his compositions, including a song cycle based on the poetry of Margaret Atwood. Harpsichordist Trudy Chan, the Seattle Chamber Players, and a slew of Cornish faculty also tackle pieces by alumnae Eyvind Kang, Gretta Harley, and Zachary Watkins. PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College, 710 E Roy, 325-6500, 8 pm, $7.50/$15.
Wryly billed as "hot Latin music, circa 1500," the Early Music Guild has imported this outfit to showcase work by Juan de Encina, Diego Ortiz, Miguel de Fuenllana, and anonymous Sephardic Jewish composers. With countertenor Jose Lémos. Preconcert talk starts at 7 pm. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 325-7066, 8 pm, $15—$35.
The ear-bleeding series resurfaces with a collaboration between Herpes Hideaway and Red Squirrels. Bring earplugs. Rendezvous, 2320 Second Ave, 441-5823, 10 pm, $5.