See a complete list of jazz concerts in Seattle this summer on our Things To Do calendar.
The one thing I can say about Bad Plus, a technically sophisticated but open-minded jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) from Minneapolis, is that their rendition of Tears for Fears's new-wave classic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" proves that great musicians are defined not so much by their ability to play difficult music in a canon but to raise simple music, pop tunes, to the level of a high and difficult art. CM
Al Di Meola's current show should give jazz-fusion geeks exactly what they want. Billed the "Elegant Gypsy Meets Romantic Warrior Electric Tour," these performances will feature the flamboyant guitar hero in his most extravagantly expressive and rococo guises. His 1977 solo LP Elegant Gypsy flaunts fluid, swift leads that explore prog-rock and flamenco modes with great tenderness. More of Di Meola's peak moments should come to vivid life via the tracks on Return to Forever's 1976 fusion classic Romantic Warrior. The mercurial dynamics and piquant tones Di Meola conjures here rival those of his masterly collaborator, John McLaughlin. DAVE SEGAL
If you are into getting to the core of an artist (meaning, coming to understand what makes him/her great), in the case of Fred Hersch, I recommend listening first to Bill Evans's "Spartacus Love Theme," which is on the jazz classic Conversations with Myself, and then listening to Hersch's version on Let Yourself Go: Fred Hersch at Jordan Hall. What do you hear? Evans, the pianist responsible for the jazz canonization of "Spartacus" (the other famous version of this tune is by the recently departed Yusef Lateef), plays the piece with all the mystery, magic, and messiness of French impressionism. Hersch's version, on the other hand, is actually played with greater sensitivity and mastery. The great Bill Evans sounds like a raw or unpolished genius when compared with Hersch. Tonight, the great Hersch plays with Anat Cohen, a New York-based jazz clarinetist. CM
In my review of Don Cheadle's recently released biopic of Miles Davis, Miles Ahead, I complained that it was very disappointing to see one of the most brilliant American musicians "characterized as a gangster and not an intellectual." My point is that the mastery of jazz takes years upon years (what I call aristocratic time), which is why the 12-year-old jazz pianist Joey Alexander (who is playing Sept 13 at Jazz Alley) is so freaky. How did he pack into himself so much information in such a short amount of time? But one of the things that jazz does is transform musicians into intellectuals. An intellectual is simply someone who has absorbed a large body of knowledge—such a body is jazz. Indeed, one of the musicians in the Joshua Redman Quartet, the technically brilliant pianist Aaron Goldberg, not only studied music but also holds an advanced degree in philosophy (he studied under the noted American philosopher Daniel Dennett—this is something to think about while he is playing). This kind of thing makes perfect sense. Goldberg, as with the leader of the quartet playing tonight, the famous jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, is a man of the mind. And so was Miles Davis. And so is Joey Alexander, who I can't get enough of. CM
Triple-threat vocalist, poet, and songwriter Gregory Porter showcases his ability to turn a phrase into soul-jazz fluidity.
With trumpeters, the thing to figure out is the area of feeling they are trying to articulate. Is it a very inward place? Or a place that is very present, very close to and about the body? Or is it very outward, extroverted? With the local trumpeter Lloyd Chisholm, it is very much the second of these three. He plays with a sense of his body. He does not try to hide it. You feel/hear the meat of the mouth, the air of the lungs, all of the constraints of the physical in his playing, which has its moments of sweetness but is most often about the honesty of the body. CM
Sara Gazarek is a jazz singer who has roots in Seattle. She got her proper start in jazz at Roosevelt High School, expanded her knowledge of the art form at Thornton School of Music, released her debut, Yours, in 2005, and has won many awards. What makes her interesting to me is that she has a style, a manner of singing, that has an eroticism that's not exotic at all but instead draws from what many would consider to be an unexciting region of American life—the white middle class. Gazarek can swing, for sure, and there is a lot of soul and technical sophistication in her work, but it also has a flame, a passion, that's wonderfully, even beautifully plain (by US standards). This is not an easy thing to express. I do not want you to get me wrong. I'm a fan of her approach. Maybe one should just hear her albums, and in particular Return to You, to get a sense of my meaning. But know that a weaker artist would never turn to middle-class-white mode for this kind of lusty inspiration, turn to the comfortable home, the two-car garage, the dinners at restaurants with favorable Yelp reviews, and so on to excite the Eros of a listening audience. A weaker artist would appropriate the easily recognizable and coded passions of the South, of the sunny climes. Gazarek is not breathy or even bluesy. She hides and makes up nothing. She sings as exactly who she is—a sensual white American. CM
Joey Alexander is only 12 years old and plays like a pro. In short, he is a child prodigy. And it is not just a matter of his having mastered the piano in technical terms, but he plays with a great amount of feeling. Being able to play the piano is one thing; being able to express complicated emotions and ideas with the piano is another. Alexander plays like a person who has had years of experience with the instrument and with life itself. Indeed, when watching him, you get the impression that he is channeling some ghost who lived a long life, died long ago (in the bop era), and takes possession of this boy when he is on the piano. How could he know and feel so much at such a young age? It's just so baffling. Alexander was born in Bali, Indonesia, in 2003. His whole life has happened in the 21st century. CM
The Jim Cutler Jazz Orchestra, which was formed in 2004 and meets on Sundays at Tula's, mostly performs compositions by locally known and unknown musicians. Do not underestimate the importance of this. It not only helps to keep the works of local artists in circulation—works that might be overlooked or never see the light of the public—but it provides our regional tradition with a sense of seriousness and legitimacy. CM
Weinstein, a local pianist, is a perfect fit for Vito's, a First Hill venue that cultivates a specific mode and mood — jazz melancholy, after-hours blues, world-weary dandyism. When Weinstein plays, he really goes for the soul, goes to the bottom of things, but not in a rootsy or earthy way. This is music for the type of souls who are sad when walking down a busy city street but soon bored when hiking in the woods. CM
Vito's is the perfect place to impress your relatives (of any age) and a more perfect place to take a new date—especially when 94-year-old jazz legend Ruby Bishop is sitting at her spot at the piano. Bishop will instantly melt your heart when her fingers hit the ivories. Her piano playing channels greats like Duke Ellington, and she even can do a righteous impersonation of Louis Armstrong's voice. KELLY O
Self-taught jazz organist Delvon Lamarr, who has a weekly residency at the Royal Room, is, along with Joe Doria of McTuff, perhaps the leading practitioner of the style in Seattle. His tunes and improvisations swing with startling clarity and funkiness, with solos that sneak up on you until they crescendo in a controlled chaos of arpeggios and digressions. Any true jazz fan will not leave a Lamarr performance unmoved. KYLE FLECK
Every Second Wed
The jazz label Tables & Chairs curates this show every second Wednesday. The label, which is based in Seattle, and was established by "musicians for musicians," is about the production of jazz that cannot be easily commodified or described. CM