Last year, jazz guitarist Mike Stern broke just about every bone in his upper body—or at least, the ones that count—in a fall. He pushed himself to get back to playing, but he had to switch out of no-longer-possible techniques he'd used for decades, playing with Miles Davis, Blood Sweat & Tears, Béla Fleck, Eric Johnson, Dave Holland, his wife Leni Stern, and others. Through all of it, though, he sounds like himself. A strong but subtle personality who draws you in close and gets to know you. ANDREW HAMLIN
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove, appearing with saxophonist Justin Robinson, bassist Ameen Saleem, drummer Quincy Phillips, and pianist Sullivan Fortner, sometimes starts a set out with slow, low, murmuring discussion between instruments. And the deeply mystical jazz musicians believe, at least, that they can talk on their horns—which, given their affinity for one another and serving, so to speak, in the trenches with one another, I wouldn't doubt. The band expands this aesthetic, though, so as to keep speaking through more conventional selections—things that sound like bebop, mournful soul, sad lyricism, frenetic testifying—all caught up in the concept of conversation. Since they number five, such conversation must feature complications. And it'll go on for a while. AH
Dec 9 & 29
My favorite drummer in Seattle, D'Vonne Lewis, received his initial formal training at Roosevelt High School's prestigious jazz program and is the drummer for Industrial Revelation (a group that won a Stranger Genius Award in music in 2014). D'Vonne Lewis always makes you aware of the ground (or grund) beneath the beat. But he is not simple, raw, or purely emotional. There is a richness in this drumming. CM
Tula's, Vito's Restaurant & Lounge
The Strawberry Theatre Workshop will host the José "Juicy" Gonzales Trio as they bring you the entire A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack at this annual party.
Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center
Sweet Honey in the Rock started out in 1976, the year our increasingly bizarre country turned 200. Forty-one years later, they're still black women singing about important stuff in close harmonies, with the urgency of soul and the devotion of gospel. They added an ASL interpreter, Shirley Childress Saxton, who stayed with the band from 1981 until her death. I hope they plugged in another ASL interpreter. You can snicker at inclusiveness, but that's what it comes down to (short form). "We are America... Those other people are not America." So said RNC Chairman Richard Bond in 1992. And it still is news. AH
In America, a jazz giant like trombonist/composer Julian Priester must periodically rely on benefit shows to help him deal with high medical bills common to people in their 80s. It's a disgraceful situation, but thankfully, Priester—best known for his stellar work in the '70s with Herbie Hancock's paradigm-shifting Mwandishi group and for his 1974 fusion classic, Love, Love—has talented friends willing to step up and play their challenging jazz-fusion compositions to raise much-needed funds. DS
The Royal Room
Prolific composer Ron Jones has composed and arranged the music for Duck Tales, Family Guy, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now he's back with his Jazz Forest, a collective of 12 highly skilled musicians attempting the synchronicity of a string quartet with the future-thinking joy of iconic jazz artists.
You cannot separate these parts: Kareem Kandi, jazz saxophone, and the Pacific Northwest. Each part is tied closely and complexly interacts with the other parts. All three parts make a whole career that began in Pierce County, was consolidated at Cornish College of the Arts, and has long been at the center of the region's vibrant jazz scene. Kandi currently teaches jazz composition at Tacoma School of the Arts, and he performs free jazz, trad jazz, modern jazz, funk, and blues. To get a good idea of his talent (he has a smart, swift, agile sound), download the album See What I'm Saying. CM
Musician/composer Mike Owcharuk will play tight/loose jazz piano. As Charles Mudede describes him: "Michael Owcharuk is a very talented and entertaining local pianist who has collaborated with almost all of the leading figures in our productive and accomplished jazz scene. His play has an experimental edge that's coupled with a strong sense of swing."
Vito's Restaurant & Lounge
In a reimagining of contemporary pop hits in the styles of jazz, ragtime, and swing classics of the '20s though the '50s, Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox busts genres with a rotating collective of musicians and vocalists who attempt to cross all musical boundaries and generations.
I'm not big into jazz guitar. But what breaks this dumb feeling in me every time is when a jazz guitarist performs with a jazz vibraphonist. Those wondrous, vaporous, Venusian sounds of the vibraphone seem to magically transform the licks and picks of the guitar into something that's utterly necessary and meaningful to the jazz home. For example, when Susan Pascal, Seattle's great vibraphonist, plays with Milo Petersen, a local jazz guitarist and educator, I honestly fall in love with an instrument that does almost nothing for me on all other occasions. Pascal, an artist who really knows her instrument and handles her sticks in the way that all masterful vibraphonists do (like wands casting warm spells), also frequently performs with Bill Anschell, an established and very productive pianist. CM
Dec 18 & 20
The core tune of A Charlie Brown Christmas is, I think, one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz ever composed. CM
The Royal Room
Seattle string trio the Senate will reunite for the holiday season with two nights of barn-burning Dionysian folk and rock-infused jazz.
It's doubtful anyone saw this coming: Stranger Genius Award winners Industrial Revelation will be covering Icelandic singer/songwriter/producer Björk's Homogenic in its entirety. Released in 1997, Homogenic is a richly orchestrated electronic song suite that stuffs 10 pounds of fraught emotions into a five-pound bag. Homogenic is the record on which Björk became really serious. Why is a band most people consider "jazz"—albeit one of the more voraciously eclectic ensembles in that genre—covering a 20-year-old Björk album? Initially, the premise seems surprising. But when you ponder how both artists share inclinations to bust outside of genre constrictions and blur stylistic conventions, the decision doesn't seem so left-field. "For me," explains Ahamefule Oluo, the Industrial Revelation's trumpeter and composer, "1997 was just as much defined by Bjork's Homogenic, and it made me think a lot about the way we treat masterpieces made by men versus masterpieces made by women, how we idolize them, and how we choose to honor them, and how rarely men celebrate the music of women. And it got me thinking about what Industrial Revelation would sound like playing those incredible tunes and the sound in my head told me immediately that we had to make this happen." DS
Now in its third year, the Snow Globe will bring a flurry of holiday spirit with a live soundtrack provided by Kristin Chambers's dulcet tones, and the Mack Grout Trio playing Vince Guaraldi's score from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Grammy-winning guitarist Norman Brown is known for being unusually adept at fusing strands of pop and jazz into lithe new shapes. He'll be joined by Bobby Caldwell and Marion Meadows on this R&B and jazz-centric "Joyous Christmas Tour."
Jazz trumpeter Thomas Marriott has won the Golden Ear from Earshot Jazz seven times.
Not to over-editorialize, but Grace Love is a thoroughly invigorating vocal powerhouse and a Seattle treasure, and she deserves all of our money.
Vito's Restaurant & Lounge
Last time I caught Sara Gazarek here in town, at the Triple Door, I thought I knew what she was about: warm, elegant jazz vocals caught up in ever-novel and stimulating arrangements. Boy was I wrong! She was all about warm, elegant jazz vocals caught up in ever-novel and stimulating arrangements, but she sang high, she sang low, she sang heartbreak, she held notes for mystifying lifetimes. She dropped beats, added intros, swirled songs into medleys, blew notes out like candles, and let them die away like sustain-pedaled tones from Josh Nelson's piano. Her latest album with Nelson, Dream in the Blue, was 2016's best album. Gazarek is already the best, and she just keeps getting better. AH
Poncho Sanchez, whose band won a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2000, is one of the foremost, if not the biggest, percussionists in Latin jazz right now. He will perform with his air-tight band, drawing from a decades-long repertoire.
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. He was, in short, a Spinozist. And so was, for that matter, John Coltrane. The theology of Spinoza, a 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher, has many features that agree with jazz spirituality. CM
University Christian Church
The Royal Room Orchestra brings you the swing of yesteryear, with a jazz dinner and swing dancing. The evening's entertainment will include sonic renderings of pieces by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Sun Ra, and more.
The Royal Room
Allow yourself to be swept away on a sonic journey of over a century of great piano hits, led by pianist and singer Tony DeSare. After the performance, stay for the post-concert party, which will include a glass of champagne, a live musical performance, and dancing to the midnight countdown and beyond.
Sink into decades of lush soul and jazz music history with this theatrical evening tribute to "Dark Divas," the black women who changed the industry with their art, including Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt, and Nina Simone.
According to jazz guitar virtuoso Pat Matheny, Martin Taylor is "one of the most awesome solo guitar players in the history of the instrument." Join Martin for two nights as he proves Pat right.
LA funk/soul ensemble War have split into two camps: One goes by the name the Lowrider Band, while original lead singer and keyboardist Lonnie Jordan has retained the War moniker. It's not an optimal state of affairs, but War's hit-laden '70s catalog is so potent and redolent of greasily groovy good times and carefree summers (except for the ominous "Four Cornered Room," which I consider one of War's peaks) that you can be assured no matter which unit's playing them, they're going to transport you to a better, warmer place. So, great timing for War to do a four-night run in mid-January. DS
Ladysmith Black Mambazo have a whole bunch of guys singing bass. That's the secret to their success. Okay, Paul Simon "found" them, and that's been the secret to their success in what we loosely term "the West." By 1986, though, when Ladysmith Black Mambazo recorded and performed with Simon, they already had more than 20 albums in their native South Africa. Now they have more than 50 albums. They never stop touring, and they've outlasted the racist apartheid system under which the older members grew up. They're still ambassadors to South African culture. And they make people happy—boldly, unironically, and enthusiastically. AH
Contemporary sax thriller Mindi Adair will rip through Seattle over Valentine's Day week with her bluesy, jazzy band of bad boys, the Bone Shakers.
Led by a mentoring faculty team of professional musicians, UW student jazz ensembles will pay homage to the many varied icons of jazz and tackle new and progressive orchestral jazz compositions.
Back in the 1980s, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) only operated between five in the afternoon and midnight, and in the hour or so before programming started, their station would accompany the transmission test pattern with music. Often this music was by Abdullah Ibrahim, and often the tunes that flowed from the TV's speakers were either Ibrahim's exquisitely affirmative "Zimbabwe" or his masterpiece of jazz-jive "Mannenberg." All around me was the sorrowful, lyrical, loop-like jazz of the great South African pianist. What Ibrahim accomplished as an artist was to end the split between lyrical sensitivity and aggressive percussiveness. He is one of the giants of Africa. CM
Don't listen to jazz purists: The albums and live performances from Miles Davis's electric era (1969 to 1975, from In a Silent Way to Pangaea) represent some of the most exciting, innovative music in any genre, in human history. Their convergence of humid funk and volcanic psychedelia, plus Davis and producer Teo Macero's radical use of space exploded conventional notions of how jazz could progress after hard bop. The 11-strong Miles Electric Band includes alums from the legendary trumpeter's ensembles, such as tabla player Badal Roy, P-Funk guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight, and drummer Vince Wilburn Jr. In addition, Rolling Stones/Sting sideman Darryl Jones contributes bass. There's no way this can't be amazing. DS
Grammy-winning jazz-fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy, whose many members qualify as solo heavy-hitters in their own right, are known for taking their jams to the next level, cornering the genres of funk, world, and soul, all with a jazzy filter.
Yes, you probably confuse Dr. Lonnie Smith with Lonnie Liston Smith, as they're both crucial cogs in the jazz-fusion continuum. Both came to prominence in the late '60s and '70s during soul-jazz and celestial funk's peak years, and their head-nodding beats and atmospheric keyboard tones frequently found their way into hiphop productions via the wonders of sampling. However, you will know Dr. Lonnie Smith by his turban, his articulate, earthy Hammond B-3 organ vamps, and his swanky cover of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman." DS
A jazz-fusion keyboardist at McCaw Hall? What is this, 1973? Only a musician with the stature of Herbie Hancock could land such a gig. Their fantastically funky, rococo inventions with Miles Davis's electric bands still makes heads reel, and their stint leading Head Hunters elevated fusion to unprecedented heights of creativity and popularity. This deft septuagenarian will likely finesse less fiery pieces from their fingers, but you can expect serpentine streams of beautiful virtuosity all night. DAVE SEGAL
Evan-Flory Barnes, celebrated bassist of psych-jazz juggernauts Industrial Revelation, will perform "On Loving," his new full-length work modeled as a variety show in the tradition of the Nat King Cole Show or Dean Martin Show. The piece is described as a "post-patriarchal celebration of life through music and the multitudinous forms of human relationships."
On the Boards
Vijay Iyer, son of Tamil immigrants to the United States, plays mostly piano, got a degree in physics from Yale, and went to UC Berkeley. He's smarter than most of us will ever be and focuses on the psychology of music, and he reads at least as well as he sounds, but he still swings. He bends classical constructions to make them sound a bit like jazz, and the other way around. AH
Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center
Michigan-born jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater boasts an agile, dulcet voice that's charmed its way onto sessions with some of the genre's most interesting artists, including Roy Ayers, Stanley Clarke, Cecil McBee, Norman Connors, and Carlos Garnett. Bridgewater's at home in spiritual-jazz settings that allow her to improvise with serene poise and silky ebullience. Now 67, she's one of the most revered vocalists in jazz and a key ambassador for the music thanks to her 23-year stint hosting NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. DS
In 2016, inventive jazz drummer Bobby Previte, keyboardist Wayne Horvitz, and violinist Alex Guy performed an improv experimental-electronic set that blew my mind. No matter that it was in front of a couple dozen people on a Monday night; the trio flexed the sort of virtuosic chops and shock-tactic moves that make for a singular listening experience, a rare feat in any genre. Since that night, I've made a mental note not to miss any Previte gigs. He's an exceptionally adaptable player who's worked with a wide range of upper-echelon musicians such as John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Butch Morris, and Iggy Pop, and also formed the Voodoo Orchestra to interpret Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. Previte excels at taking compositions or improvisations to fascinating places most drummers wouldn't conceive of. DS
The best musician in the Dave Brubeck Quartet was not the pianist, Dave Brubeck. Indeed, I'm of the opinion that Brubeck was a second-rate pianist. The brilliant musician in the quartet was Paul Desmond, the alto saxophonist. Two things made him great; the clarity of his sound and the ease of his swing. Desmond could blow a beam of sound that had the appearance of having no imperfections. And he had enough blues in his bones to give that beam the swing not of a stiff pendulum (that's Brubeck at the keys) but a body attuned to the rhythms of life and of the streets. Let's celebrate Desmond with Brent Jensen. CM
Resonance at SOMA Towers, Bellevue