Piano Starts Here: The Music of A Charlie Brown Christmas
It is, I think, one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz ever composed. Listening to it is like watching falling snow through a window. The room is warm, something is roasting in the oven, and outside, the flakes are falling faintly through the universe and upon the trees, the hedges, the water gutters, the telephone poles, and the rooftops of a thousand apartment buildings. This is where you want to be forever. This is Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental)." It opens with a trembling bass, like someone coming out of the cold, stamping their feet, brushing the snow off their shoulders, hanging the winter coat, rubbing and blowing on numb fingers, and entering the living room where there is a window, watching the flakes falling faintly upon all the buildings and the living.
Tonight, the Piano Starts Here series, which is curated by Wayne Horvitz and Tim Kennedy, features music from Vince Guaraldi's score for the TV special (and American cultural institution) A Charlie Brown Christmas, which was first aired in 1965. Tim Kennedy, Dawn Clement, Chris McCarthy, and Michael Stegner are some of the musicians who will provide interpretations of this jazz and American classic.
Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave S, 906-9920, theroyalroomseattle.com, 5:30 pm, all ages
Ellington's Sacred Music: Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra with Everett Greene, Nichol Veneé Eskridge, NW Chamber Chorus
This is the annual concert of Sacred Music by Duke Ellington. Ellington was, of course, the greatest and most creative figure of the big band era. He had, one could argue, three main musical projects: One was the production of dance-hall hits, two was the production of serious black music (music that would represent the 400-year history of African descendants in the world that was new to Europeans), and three was the production of pieces that expressed his religious/existential feelings.
Tonight is devoted to the third and in many ways most profound of Ellington's projects. Anyone who has heard his composition "Come Sunday" instantly understands that Ellington felt God as something that's inside and not outside of (or remote from) the human experience.
Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 652-4255, townhallseattle.org, 7:30 pm, $35, all ages
Terence Blanchard Sextet
In Terence Blanchard, a trumpeter and composer, we find the perfect marriage of two forms of art that the icon Clint Eastwood recognized as American originals: jazz and cinema (when not talking to chairs, he can make some sense). Blanchard has composed for jazz and for films, the most recent of which was Red Tails (a movie produced by George Lucas that concerned black American fighter pilots in World War II). Blanchard even has an album that celebrates the moments when the two American forms were united: Jazz in Film—check out his interpretation of Quincy Jones's score for The Pawnbroker and Duke Ellington's for Anatomy of a Murder. To watch Blanchard is to see and hear not only a jazz legend, but also a film one.
Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, jazzalley.com, 7:30 pm, $23.50, all ages
WED 12/4: Eldar Djangirov
If you are in the mood to hear some serious jazz piano virtuosity, then this is the show for you. Eldar Djangirov, who is based in New York but was born in the former Soviet Union, is just simply and honestly a brilliant musician. By honestly, I mean his gifts are transparent, comprehensible, and immediate. No gimmicks with Djangirov, just flat-out genius.
2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, jazzalley.com
Tula's is a joint where you can see lots of local genius jazzers—Marc Seales, Bill Anschell, Greta Matassa—on almost any night.
2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, tulas.com
The Triple Door
THURS 12/5: D'Vonne Lewis
The young and very gifted jazz drummer D'Vonne Lewis does his thing in the magic room with the big fish tank. Lewis, who comes from a family of talented musicians, is also the founder of the powerhouse quartet Industrial Revelation.
216 Union St, 838-4333, thetripledoor.com
The genius of this venue is its atmosphere: classy and yet cozy.
2043 Eastlake Ave E, 323-0807, serafinaseattle.com
THURS 12/12: Brazil Novo
The genius of classical bossa nova is that it effortlessly blends rootsy African rhythms with a kind of urban cosmopolitanism that's almost futuristic. To get a good sense of this genius, check out Brazil Novo, a local group that performs bossa nova gems by João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, and Caetano Veloso. The group's vocalist, Michel Navedo, sings in Portuguese.
927 Ninth Ave, 397-4053, vitosseattle.com
TUES 12/31: New Year's Eve at the Royal Room
What's happening tonight (the last night of 2013) at the Royal Room? Big band jazz from the '30s, '40s, and '50s. And who was a genius of the big band movement? The elegant and sophisticated composer Billy Strayhorn. "Take the 'A' Train," a Strayhorn composition, is the signature tune of the whole big band era.
5000 Rainier Ave S, 906-9920, theroyalroomseattle.com
This lovely bar, which presents jazz (Phil Sparks and Adam Kessler) on Thursdays, has had a string of genius-like bartenders.
1510 11th Ave, 325-8263, barcaseattle.com
It's nothing but genius to devote a Monday night (the first night of the week) to jazz and oysters. Pork Chop Trio (sax, bass, drums) fills the air with sweet music, and the raw oysters fill the mouth with memories of the sea.
429 15th Ave E, 322-1145, coastalkitchenseattle.com