They planned it out and executed flawlessly. The teens of drummer Elijah Baradi's Quintet were well prepared for their KNKX School of Jazz studio session. Unlike most groups of a high school age, this talented group from Interlake High in Bellevue played live on 88.5 without an adult mentor. They didn't need one.
Drumming since age 6, Baradi drives a strong rhythm section. The sophomore teams with seniors Mert Selcuk on piano and Kai Wagner at the upright bass, an instrument this electric bass player only recently picked up.
Kai's brother Kenji forms the "brass section" on trombone and trumpet, with fellow sophomore Ishaan Ghose on tenor sax. Both horn players held nothing back, blowing rapid-fire solos that only caffeinated 16-year-olds can manage.
As Ghose explained, the band put a lot of thought into their session setlist. Start with a standard everyone knows to get the audience hooked. Then slow the room down with a meditative groover, and finish with an uptempo "banger" to bring the house down.
"On the Sunny Side of the Street" checked the first box, but only hinted at what was to come next. Pianist Selcuk's original composition "Kites" was a soulful and catchy number that sounds like a lost Roy Hargrove piece. I thought it might be an original as they rehearsed it before the live broadcast, but I was still surprised when I asked them who wrote it and all hands pointed to the piano chair.
The "banger" finale, Chick Corea's "Spain", began with the familiar lovely piano introduction, and then they were off. The song's tricky theme only served to show how much these five have worked together, and the solos burned at mid-40s bebop speed. Baradi kept things from flying off the rails and brought them to a close with a leader's confidence.
Jazz is a journey of constant discovery, and the KNKX School of Jazz continues to discover talented young musicians. They seem to always be getting better.