The Jazz Walk is my favorite part of the Ballard Jazz Festival (Wed–Sun April 22–26, www.ballardjazzfestival.com): Nineteen groups pack into a dozen venues clustered around Market Street and along Ballard Avenue. The Jazz Walk (Fri April 24, 7 pm, $25) harks back to a half-century ago when, as Paul de Barros recounts in Jackson Street After Hours, almost a dozen clubs presented jazz regularly.
Make sure to check out the Hadley Caliman Quintet (Conor Byrne Pub, 9 pm) and Hans Teuber Trio (Egan's Ballard Jam House, 10:30 pm). Caliman unfurls sinewy bop lines that retain an intensely funky feel. Teuber, a saxophonist and flutist, offers a singular, intimate kind of chamber jazz. I'm overdue to hear the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra again (Leif Erikson Hall, 8:45 pm), and don't miss the winsome-voiced Kelley Johnson (Bad Albert's 8–11 pm), who coltishly scampers through standards and forgotten chestnuts with ease. Ben Thomas, Cynthia Mullis, Bill Ramsey, and a slew of other fine musicians make the Jazz Walk essential to any jazz lover.
If you prefer a sit-down gig, catch vibraphonist Joe Locke, who leads a quintet that includes stellar trumpeter Thomas Marriott and Origin Records honcho John Bishop on drums (Sat April 25, Nordic Heritage Museum, 7:30 pm, $35–$55). Locke was a knockout at the 2005 festival: His jaw-dropping speed makes up-tempo pieces burn, and he ruminates with a yearning urgency on ballads, too. Reminiscent of the Seattle "Jam for Breakfast" morning jazz concerts of the late 1950s, the festival concludes with a Sunday Jazz Brunch (Sun April 26, Nordic Heritage Museum, 11 am, $12) with saxophonist Brent Jensen fronting the Bill Anschell Trio.
After the weekend, Earshot Jazz serves up two concerts in its spring series: the Thing (Thurs April 30, Kerry Hall at Cornish College, 8 pm, $15) and the Peter Brotzmann Trio (Tues April 28, Kerry Hall at Cornish College, 8 pm, $15). Norwegian for "assembly," the Thing (pronounce it "ting") is an all-star trio with reedman Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. Together, they punk up free jazz with spazzed-out electronics and thrashy, start-stop, metal-inspired riffs. I'm intrigued to hear Brotzmann; at a concert several years ago, his young bandmates were reduced to near-mute accompanists as Brotzmann wailed interminably. I hope for more interplay—and combative jousting—with Eric Revis on bass and the ubiquitous, no-bullshit drummer Nasheet Waits.
Fans of the avant must not miss guitar legend Fred Frith (Sat April 25, Chapel Performance Space, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation), who, through an array of pedals and other devices, transforms the guitar into an orchestra that crackles and shimmers. Also, Bay Area clarinetist and composer Matt Ingalls visits the UW's DXArts program (Wed April 29, Meany Theater, 7:30 pm, $5/$10) to perform Steve Reich's Reed Phase, Clarinet Threads by Dennis Smalley, and his own CrusT for clarinet and electronics. Jonathan Harvey's electro-acoustic classic, the haunting Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, rounds out the program.