Earshot's annual festival embraces a broad and brave notion of jazz—from the straight-ahead sound that accompanies almost everyone's notion of film-noir cool to scabrous, shrieking clusters of notes.

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Opening night features Jerry Gonzales and the Fort Apache Band (Sat Oct 18, Triple Door, 9:30 pm, $24). Gonzales brings Afro-Cuban smarts and rhythms to the music of Thelonious Monk; I love his weirdly angular cover of the theme to I Love Lucy, too.

I'm also looking forward to the blazing double bill of the Billy Bang Quartet and the Paul Rucker Quartet (Sun Oct 19, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 8:30 pm, $15). Bang, a singular violinist, makes his instrument squeal and shiver. He's like a long-lost blues guitarist or a theremin virtuoso conducting a séance. Cellist and installation artist Paul Rucker debuts a new group, which I hope will be as mighty as his seismic Large Ensemble.

I confess to getting sucked in by the chittering electric piano that opens Hyper (Challenge), the latest disc by Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans (Sun Oct 19, Tula's, 8:30 pm, $15); I thought I was listening to a vintage Return to Forever LP. Vloeimans refashions the '70s and '80s fusion vibe—Miles Davis is an audible influence—with lushly sustained keyboards and anthemic lead lines, all of which are often redeemed by the sudden appearance of meaty solo sections.

There's another double bill that's essential for fans of the avant: Marilyn Crispell (Wed Oct 22, Chapel Performance Space, 7:30 pm, $20) performs solo, then in a trio with percussionist Paul Lytton and trumpeter Nate Wooley. A pianist who collaborated with Anthony Braxton for over a decade, Crispell's recent music live and on disc—I recommend her new album, Vignettes (ECM)—ranges from Webern-like squiggles to lyrical, unadorned hymns. Her thoughtful keyboard touch will sound lovely in the chapel. Lytton and Wooley open the show with a duo set; trumpet and percussion is an unlikely combination, but both Wooley and Lytton, a longtime compadre of legendary saxophonist Evan Parker, find so many new sounds in their instruments that it might prove difficult to tell who is doing what. Expect whispers, rumbles, and other fleeting tones dappled with silence.

The Earshot Jazz Festival runs Sat Oct 18–Sun Nov 9, see www.earshot.org for a complete schedule and venue locations, $12–$350.

Classical, Jazz & Avant Calendar

Fri 10/17

McTUFF

Kicking off a West Coast tour, Hammond organist Joe Doria and saxophonist Skerik front this fabulous and faithful reincarnation of the grits 'n' soul organ groups of the 1960s. Lo-Fi, 429B Eastlake Ave E, 254-2824, 9 pm, $7.

HANSON AND KONG

Pianists Paul Hanson and Joanne Kong commemorate a pair of centennials with the pealing crystalline chords of Visions de l'Amen for two pianos by Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) and pieces by Elliott Carter (1908– ), including "90+" and Night Fantasies. Sherman-Clay Piano & Organ, 1624 Fourth Ave, 8 pm, $5–$15.

Sat 10/18

ELEKTRA

Not the defunct corporate parent of the seminal Nonesuch label, this Elektra is Richard Strauss's sizzling retelling of the tragedy by Sophocles. Anticipating the early 20th century avant-garde (i.e., Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Bartók), Strauss wreathed this opera with wiry dissonances and glittering, over-the-top orchestration that out-Mahlers Mahler and outdoes just about everybody else, too. Through Sat Nov 1; see www.seattleopera.org for details. Sung in German with supertitles in English. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St, 389-7676, 7:30 pm, $25–$172.

Mon 10/20

GARTH KNOX

My nominee for sleeper gig of the week. Seven years ago this violist, beloved for his stint with the Arditti Quartet, stunned a gathering of Seattle viola students with Salvatore Sciarrino's masterpiece for solo viola, Three Brilliant Nocturnes. Awestruck by Sciarrino's sorcery of near-silent bow strokes and gossamer harmonics, students crowded the stage afterward for a look at the sheet music. I can't tell you what shocked me more—that a piece composed in 1974 enthralled so many young musicians or that their viola teachers were too out of touch to tell them about Sciarrino in the first place. Anyway, Knox returns to Seattle on a mini-tour to tout his stately new disc, D'Amore (ECM), which highlights works for the little-known viola d'amore, a rustic, woodier-sounding cousin of the viola. Knox reprises the Three Brilliant Nocturnes and also performs the "Prologue" for viola and virtual resonators by the late French spectralist Gérard Grisey as well as UW composer Richard Karpen's Solo/Tutti for amplified viola and real-time computer processing. The second half of the concert presents Iannis Xenakis's La Legende d'Eer, an electroacoustic classic infested with gritty rasps and other squirming textures. Not to be missed. Meany Hall, UW Campus, 543-4880, 7:30 pm, $5/$10.

Tues 10/21

TIERNEY SUTTON

Free of the histrionic, swoop-to-any-note vocals so prevalent in jazz today, the sultry Sutton sings terrifically, sassing and swinging on an as-needed basis through well-chosen standards. Also Wed Oct 22. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, 7:30 pm, $23.50.

EMERSON STRING QUARTET

Sure, I've got a stack of ESQ discs—all of which I like very much—yet to my ears Meany Theater is too big for a string-quartet gig. Or am I merely addicted to the close-up sonic details like the scrape of the bow or the blooming boom of an emphatic pizzicato heard in acoustically intimate halls and on recordings? Although the hermetic Six Bagatelles by the master miniaturist of the 20th century, Anton Webern, will aurally evaporate, Schubert's String Quartet No. 14, aka "Death and the Maiden," should shine. Prokofiev's first string quartet and Ravel's proto-neoclassical String Quartet in F round out the program. Preconcert talk at 7:10 pm. Meany Hall, UW Campus, 543-4880, 8 pm, $20–$34.

Support The Stranger

FUTURE COLLECTIVE

This new (to me, at any rate) collective presents an evening of new and new-ish music, including live electronic performances by Jeff Bryant and Ryan Jobes along with premieres of music by Jarrad Powell, Hanna Benn, and Elijah Clark. McLeod Residence, 2009 Second Ave, 441-3314, 10 pm, free.