I was grumpy at last November's Ballard Jazz Walk, but I blame myself: I arrived quite late and as I walked along Ballard Avenue, the event's main corridor, every venue was crowded, if not almost full. At Bad Albert's, a corner restaurant nestled along the aptly named Dock Street, I crammed myself into a crowd savoring singer Greta Matassa, who after announcing, "The only foreign language I speak is scat," let out a long "bop-bah," and growled her way into "Stompin' at the Savoy."
Matassa returns to the Jazz Walk this year (Bad Albert's, 8 pm) as does the superb Hadley Caliman (Conor Byrne Pub, 8 pm) and his quintet. Once nicknamed "Little Dex" due to his study and friendship with tenor saxophone titan Dexter Gordon, Caliman, now nearing 80, remains robust and lyrical. Last November at the Jazz Walk, Caliman smoldered his way through Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" with ace trumpeter Thomas Marriott. In addition to his continuing partnership with Caliman, Marriott fronts drummer Matt Jorgensen's quartet (Conor Byrne Pub, 9:30 pm).
The Walk also features two unusually configured groups. The adept vibraphonist Ben Thomas leads a trio with bassist Jon Hamar and clarinetist Erik Likkel (The Collective, 7 pm); Likkel complements Thomas, shading the latter's effervescent vibraphone solos with dusky color and added heft.
Fans of the avant: Don't miss trumpeter Cuong Vu's group Speak (Sunset Tavern, 11 pm). A longtime collaborator with Pat Metheny, Vu charges his trumpet with electronic processing: echo, distortion, and countless layers of microscopic delays. More than just a latter-day Don Ellis, Vu has a gift for smartly inserting his sound anywhere in the music, thus inverting the relationship between soloist and accompanist in surprising ways. Earlier that night (Sunset Tavern, 8 pm), Wayne Horvitz helms a quartet with saxophonist Mark Taylor, stalwart bassist Geoff Harper, and Eric Eagle on drums.
I'm also eager to hear Brent Jensen (New York Fashion Academy, 8 pm). The Boise-based soprano saxophonist is a master of the notoriously difficult and finicky member of the saxophone family; he has a lovely, breathy, mellow tone, ably breathing with his instrument without swerving out of tune. Jensen has a formidable quartet behind him—pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Jeff Johnson, and festival honcho/drummer John Bishop—the same group from his fine 2007 disc One More Mile (Origin).
The next generation of jazz musicians opens the Walk: Trombonist Andy Clausen, a junior in Roosevelt High School's renowned jazz program, leads a hard-charging sextet (Egan's Ballard Jam House, 6:30 pm).
Check out the Ballard Jazz Walk on Thurs Nov 20, www.ballardjazzfestival.com, 219-3649, 6:30 pm–midnight, $18 adv/$25 DOS or a five-person group pass for $75.
Theories abound for the famous "Seattle Freeze," that transethnic compendium of ostensibly friendly gestures (e.g., the "flake 'n' fade") that ultimately results in a cool yet smiling indifference among friends—friends whom you eventually recognize are cheery yet passing acquaintances. Some fault our region's Scandinavian heritage, while others blame the mild, gray weather that crops up year round. As a Seattle native, I hear a sonic parallel to the freeze in the second symphony of Jean Sibelius; the Finnish composer embedded the work with calm, throbbing lines whose well-greased transitions into seemingly unrelated sections belie an aloof, gelid calm. It's gloomy but noble, just the kind of scared self-pity resting at the root of the freeze. Anyway, Vassily Sinaisky, one of the BBC Philharmonic's legion of regular conductors, visits to lead the band in the Symphony No. 2 of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy. Yevgeny Sudbin is the piano soloist in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Also Fri Nov 21 at 1 pm, Sat Nov 22 at 8 pm, and Sun Nov 23 at 2 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7:30 pm, $17–$105.
Translated, "juum" is Mayan for "noise." This aptly named duo blends voice, violin, video, and gritty, software-propelled sound. Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 789-1939, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation.
MESSIAEN ORGAN CYCLE
While his contemporaries in the avant-garde all but bleached rhythmic pulsation and luxurious melody out of their compositions, Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) grandly intermingled chant-based hymns, transcriptions of birdsong, and Hindu rhythms. The penultimate installment of this cycle devoted to the master's complete organ music continues with the Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte Trinité. The title is daunting but the 80-minute work's nine relatively short movements make it an ideal spot from which to plunge into Messiaen's singular sound-world. St. Mark's Cathedral, 1245 10th Ave E, 323-1040, 7:30 pm, $12/$18.
I love musical miniatures; short pieces offer an excellent chance to discover unknown or plainly not-so-famous composers. Mack, the faculty piano guru at Cornish, saunters through over three dozen short works under rubrics such as "War," "Pieces for Left Hand Alone," and "Jazz." Composers include Muzio Clementi, Debussy, Madeleine Dring, Gershwin, György Kurtág, Billy Mayerl, Satie, and many more. PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College, 710 E Roy St, 325-6500, 8 pm, $7.50/$15.
This poet and pianist—I have several of his obscure LPs from the 1970s—remains a sterling exponent of ragtime and stride piano. New Orleans Creole Restaurant, 114 First Ave S, 622-2563, 5–8 pm, $10.
Intriguing titles have emerged as a surprisingly alluring byproduct of this enigmatic series. Cellist Paul Rucker performs Not a Single Statue, Memorial, or Certificate Exists... at this monthly antiperformance curated by Seattle School. Strikethrough's refusal to admit attendees pries open a crepuscular space for you to surmise what might be happening, what should happen, and what will never happen. Yes, you can go into the theater and ponder what the performer is doing inside the walled box onstage, but when I went earlier this year, I simply sat at the bar and imagined. Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater, 2318 Second Ave, 441-5823, 8 pm, free.