Some of That Jazz
What I'm Most Looking Forward to This Season
Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet
Ambrose Akinmusire is a brilliant jazz trumpeter who was born in 1982. His mother is from Mississippi, his father is from Nigeria, and he was raised in the Bay Area. His advanced education in music took place at the Manhattan School of Music, the University of Southern California, and the Monk Institute in Los Angeles, where he was taught by two giants of jazz: Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Akinmusire has released three albums as a leader so far, two of them with the prestigious Blue Note Records. And his most recent album, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint, is by far his most ambitious work—not so much as a trumpeter but as a composer.
The Imagined Savior has three guest singers (Becca Stevens, Theo Bleckmann, and Al Spx of Cold Specks), the OSSO String Quartet (they have performed with Jay Z, Kanye West, Ravi Coltrane, and the New Pornographers—to name but a few), and his amazing quintet (which is performing this evening at Seattle Art Museum). The compositions are lush and sometimes cinematic, and the track "Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child (Cyntoia Brown)," which is performed by Al Spx, is a masterful work of the "doom soul" genre—it's deep, dark, and mournful, and has a grim subject (Cyntoia Brown was sentenced at the age of 16 to life in prison for killing a 43-year-old man she claims tried to rape her—she was a prostitute at the time).
The top tracks on the album, however, involve the straight jazz of Akinmusire's quintet, which features saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown. All of these musicians are accomplished, and when performing with Akinmusire, they generate the kind of jazz that has the modern moment (1958 to 1969—indeed, the peak moment for Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter) as the point where it starts and as the language, thinking, and feeling that it expands. The final track of the album, "Richard (Conduit)," captures best the quintet in full effect. Recorded live at a bar (we hear people chatting in the background, glasses clinking, and hands clapping at short solos), the piece shows exactly why Akinmusire is a trumpeter worth talking about. He never plays the instrument as a beam of sound, never perfectly blows the thing, but is always in the mode of suggestion and abstraction. He is not so much about the trumpet but the idea of a trumpet. Sometimes he rises with rapid bursts and then lets the sound collapse in a wonderful mess of heaves and squeaks. Sometimes he reaches the point where he is about to play something clear and direct—and then he suddenly swerves away from the temptation. He will not give us that easy pleasure. He wants us to work and think with him—it isn't about the thing but the thing-in-itself. In this way, Akinmusire provides a kind of philosophy of his instrument and performance. His is a philosophy of a jazz trumpet's trumpetness. Do not miss his show.
Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium, 1300 First Ave, 547-6763, earshot.org, 8 pm, $24/$10 students
Jeff and Anne Barnhart
Jeff Barnhart is an American jazz pianist and a scholar of Fats Waller and early 20th century jazz (swing and ragtime). He is not only a master of that early sound, but also continues the tradition of the entertainer as a charmer, a gentleman. Meaning, he plays with the dual goal of making you happy and dazzling you with his it-ain't-no-thing dexterity. To get a good sense of the mode and manner of his art, one only has to read the opening to the liner notes for his CD Starry, Starry Nights: "For years I have wished to compile tunes for a recording around the theme of the night: a nocturnal paean to the quietest time on the clock. I kept hesitating, as many songs having to do with the absence of sun tend to be quite 'dark' in both subject matter and musical content. The dilemma of how to ameliorate the inky blackness eluded me until I began to think of a list of songs involving stars, those distant spheres of brightness capable of penetrating even the thickest blanket of night if the sky is clear... If you have the CD and have come here looking for comments on the tracks, you are in the right place!! Put it on, grab a nighttime quaff (anything from whiskey to warm milk—but please not in the same glass...)" What a charmer!
Kenyon Hall, 7904 35th Ave SW, 937-3613, kenyonhall.org, 7:30 pm, $5–$14
Pupy y Los Que Son Son
Pupy y Los Que Son Son are an orchestra that was created by its musical director, the famous pianist and composer César Pedroso, in 2001 in the city of Havana. A performance by the orchestra very much looks and feels like what one would imagine of a spontaneous party on the streets of Havana. It's lusty, rich, percussive, and all about burning the energy of life. Indeed, this is music as pure physical expenditure, as the discharge of human heat. Recall, if you will, the original meaning of the word "funk": the strong smell of good sweat (sweat from sex or dancing), and not bad sweat (working hard on a low-paying job or killing somebody). Pupy y Los Que Son Son are about the former.
Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, jazzalley.com, 7:30 pm, $24.50
This famous joint is on the border between downtown and Paulallentown. It is in the twilight of the past and the future of Seattle.
2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, jazzalley.com
On June 14, the local and classy vibraphonist Susan Pascal does her Brazil Project with Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardorf, and Jeff Busch.
2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, tulas.com
THE TRIPLE DOOR
Any jazz that happens here has to love that fish tank and also the stars on the main stage. Indeed, on August 8, those stars will shine on Brazilian sounds performed by Alexandre Ribeiro and friends. Show starts at 7:30 p.m.
216 Union St, 838-4333, thetripledoor.com
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
A lot of young and internationally recognized jazz talent, like the Dawn Clement Band (they appear on June 28), plays at this venue. Visit Earshot Jazz's website to keep updated on the brilliance streaming through here.
1300 First Ave, 547-6763, earshot.org
All I have to say: always good food and often good jazz music.
2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, serafinaseattle.com
Playing here on July 23 is Lamar Lofton, a local bassist who has played in almost every venue in Seattle, has worked for Seattle's reggae master Clinton Fearon, and is a well-rounded human being. Indeed, his style of playing cannot be separated from his personality, which is at times boisterous, always honest, never too confident or shy, and humorous. Lofton is tall and distinguished by his glasses.
927 Ninth Ave, 397-4053, vitosseattle.com
Nearly every night, there is jazz at the excellent Royal Room. And every first Monday of the month, there is wine tasting starting at 6 p.m.
5000 Rainier Ave S, 906-9920, theroyalroomseattle.com
Happy-hour wine here is tasty and affordable. It's also affordable after happy hour and during the free live jazz sets every Thursday.
1510 11th Ave, 325-8263, barcaseattle.com
The bar, OutWest Bar, is in West Seattle. And every Tuesday, it hosts a jazz quartet that has the very significant name Tutu—it happens to be the title of a late (but sadly unimportant) album by the jazz god Miles Davis, and is the surname of a black South African religious and political leader. As far as I know, and I could be wrong, the Tutu Jazz Quartet does not play South African jazz (a vital branch of the form), but instead American standards. The bar itself provides specials on wine and little plates with cheese. The whole event is free for you and me.
5401 California Ave SW, 937-1540, outwestbar.com
A regular at this U-District joint is Ian Hughes, a jazz guitarist whose thing is the moods and colors and cool of lounge. Another regular is the Fade Jazz Quartet, whose thing is modern and classic jazz standards.
5241 University Way NE, 402-3042, lucidseattle.com
EGAN'S BALLARD JAM HOUSE
This place is in Ballard. Check out their website to see if someone is playing jazz there.
1707 NW Market St, 789-1621, ballardjamhouse.com