Jazz and Blues

News about jazz, blues, Studio Sessions, and music samplings from jazz artists in the northwest and around the world.

Mongo Santamaría plays the conga drums at the Super Jazz Concert at the Apollo Theater in New York, 1988.
William I. Ballinger / AP

Ramón "Mongo" Santamaría Rodríguez is probably the most recognized of the Cuban-born conga drum players associated with American jazz and R&B.  To many, Mongo represented the pinnacle of Afro-Cuban percussion.

Seventeen year-old Holden Predmore plays bass at Nathan Hale High School. He shares an hour of his favorite jazz with Abe Beeson on October 5 from 8:00-9:00 pm.

The New Cool: Ben Allison, Bass Up Front

Sep 29, 2017
Photo: Courtesy Ben Allison

When you live in New York City, you don't need to travel much. The world comes to you, as it has for bassist Ben Allison, who's just released his 12th album as a leader, Layers of the City.

Cuban pianist and bandleader Omar Sosa
Massimo Mantivani / Courtesy of the artist

October is shaping up to be an outstanding month for Cuban music and Latin Jazz in the Seattle area.  Here's a preview of  some upcoming shows and artists.

Reda Kateb as Django Reinhardt in the 2017 French film "Django"
uniFrance Films

SIFF  presents its mini-festival "French Cinema Now" September 28-October 5th.  The opening film on September 28th is "Django." No, definitely not the one with cowboy hats and six-shooters. 

This beautifully constructed French film directed by Etienne Comar is about the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

The New Cool: Modern Jazz In The KNKX Studio

Sep 22, 2017
Abe Beeson

This week in the KNKX studios brings two more fresh approaches to non-traditional jazz. Modern music from the Barrett Martin Group and Freudian Slurp is informed by the sounds of rock, electronic music, funk and soul. Both are based in the Seattle area, where The New Cool has been finding plenty of inspiration and material for the show.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra on stage at Lincoln Center's "Out of Doors" concert series, 2017
Luxe Creative Imaging / Courtesy of SHO

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is on tour celebrating its 15th year of performing and recording.  All of their albums have been nominated for Grammy awards and they've collected two awards so far.  Their shows sell out all over the US and the world.  They'll be at Jazz Alley next week, Tuesday September 26 and Wednesday September 27.

What makes this group so special?  Most likely, it's the vision of excellence held and shared by the band and its pianist/music director/leader Oscar Hernández.

The New Cool: Beyond Jazz and Bluegrass

Sep 15, 2017
Michael Wilson / http://www.michaelwilson.pictures/

Brad Mehldau plays piano and Chris Thile plays mandolin and sings a bit. Their new album is self-titled and is a blend of jazz and free-flowing bluegrass, but it shouldn't be defined by either genre. Brad and Chris are simply making great music.

Cuban jazz player Arturo Sandoval plays during a concert in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Cuban trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Arturo Sandoval returns to Seattle this week, playing Dimitriou's Jazz Alley Thursday 9/14 through Sunday 9/17. 

Arturo Sandoval first studied classical trumpet, then turned to jazz.  In his live shows, he radiates the joy of music, much like his mentor Jazz Master Dizzy Gillespie.

John Watson jazzcamera.co.uk

Manchester trio GoGo Penguin make their Seattle debut at the Triple Door on Tuesday September 12.  I recently spoke with the band's bass player Nick Blacka.

Abe Beeson

Sixteen year-old Aaron Korver plays piano with the Roosevelt High School jazz band.  He shares an hour of his favorite jazz with Abe Beeson on September 7 from 8-9 p.m.

Seattle JazzEd
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Twenty-eight teenagers filled several rooms at KNKX's Seattle studios to perform in 4 groups as a sort of graduation from the Seattle JazzED Summer Advanced Institute. On paper, it looked like disaster... but the kids made it work.

The New Cool: Charles Lloyd, Live and Kicking

Sep 1, 2017
From left: Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers, Charles Lloyd, Eric Harland
Photo/Daniel Sheehan

Now approaching his 80th birthday, sax and flute player, composer and band leader Charles Lloyd leads his quartet of young stars on a new live recording of free flowing improvisation and uplifting energy. It's no longer a mentor and his students, this is a band of four men working as one.

The New Cool: Polyrhythmics Erupting Again

Aug 25, 2017
Seattle funk-soul-jazz group Polyrhythmics
Kelly Robbins Photo & Film

Their ambitious new double album Caldera comes out September 22nd, and Seattle's Polyrhythmics begin a West Coast tour shortly after which is sure to cement their reputation as one of the country's most efficient blenders of jazz, soul, funk, psychedelic rock and afro-beat.

Paquito D' Rivera with clarinet
courtesy of the arist / paquitodrivera.com

The music of saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval has been censored from Cuban airwaves for decades now,  since they both defected to the U.S.  

Band mates in the groundbreaking Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and founding members of the legendary Cuban group Irakere, both musicians took advantage of world tours to make their escape.  Both have also gone on to make incredibly successful international careers, but still, it has to hurt to know that your name has been erased from your native country's cultural history.

The New Cool: Modern Voice of Gretchen Parlato

Aug 18, 2017
Modern jazz singer Gretchen Parlato.
Jeaneen Lund, used with permission of the artist.

After more than a dozen years in the heart of the jazz world in New York City, Gretchen Parlato has become one of the most mesmerizing voices in modern jazz. And in a time when modern jazz singers seem to have at least one foot in soul and r&b, Parlato is blazing her own trail.

Ray Barretto plays the congas at the Tito Puente Auditorium in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2002
Andres Leighton / Associated Press

This week's Jazz Caliente includes music from conguero, composer and bandleader Ray Barretto.  One of the first musicians to introduce Latin percussion to American be-bop, he was known as Manos Duras (Hard Hands), a true power-hitter of the congas. 

Robin Lloyd takes the stage at Hermann's Jazz Club during their Save KPLU fundraiser, May 2016
Brenda Goldstein-Young / KNKX

As Canada’s longest continuously operating jazz club, Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria BC has held an important position in the West Coast jazz scene for 37 years. 

It’s been a source of work, a laboratory for experimentation, and a friendly hang-out for local musicians.  It’s also an education center for jazz students, who can listen, learn and participate with professionals.  And it’s an intimate venue for visiting national and international jazz acts.

Since the death of the club’s founder Hermann Nieweler in 2015, the future of this community resource has been uncertain.  Now there’s an urgent effort to save Hermann’s Jazz Club.

The New Cool: Fresh Grooves Triumph in Seattle

Aug 11, 2017
Seattle band The New Triumph.
Courtesy of The New Triumph.

The New Triumph has released their 2nd album Keep On Push'n, but their official CD release party is Friday night, August 11th at the Pono Ranch in Ballard.

Musican playing a bamboo horn called Vaksen
Alfonso Lomba / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

In the early 1800s French slave owners fled the revolution in Haiti and many settled in Cuba.  They brought approximately 27,000 Haitian slaves with them to work on the coffee and sugar cane plantations.

Haitian culture is closely linked to Cuba’s because of their shared African heritage.   Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, after Spanish, and it has its roots in Haiti.  The Haitian language, religions and music and dance traditions remain a large part of Cuban culture.

The New Cool: Singer Meets Drummer, Revisited

Aug 4, 2017
Zara McFarlane sings on Later with Jools Holland in 2014
Rex Features via AP Images

As the modern jazz scene continues to bloom in England, a powerful young singer is gaining greater attention. With a recent cover of a classic Abbey Lincoln collaboration with Max Roach, she should be catching the ears of vintage jazz fans as well.

Pablo Menéndez and Mezcla
courtesy of the artist

Guitarist Pablo Menéndez takes fusion to the next level.  His band Mezcla (meaning "mixture") blends jazz, blues, rock and several styles of Cuban and African music into one raucous, joyous expression of life.

DVD cover of "Saxophone Colossus"
MVD Visual

A new 4K transfer of the 1986 film “Saxophone Colossus” will be available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital platforms starting today, August 4. 

Sonny Rollins has intrigued and delighted me since I first saw him in concert in 1978.  His power and stamina, his robust improvisational skills, and the joy he exuded on stage still fascinate me. 

Abe Beeson

Seventeen year-old Manny Aldape will be a senior at Lake Stevens High School.  He shares an hour of his favorite jazz with Abe Beeson on Thursday, August 3 from 8-9 p.m.

The New Cool: Jazz in Rock Clubs

Jul 28, 2017
Live at Nectar Lounge with Living Daylights and Skerik
Abe Beeson

In my formative years, catching live music around Seattle was a lot more beer-and-cigarettes than coffee beans-and-iPhones. It wasn’t just the heavy rock tagged as “grunge”, either – clubs in Seattle also offered some of the best jazz in town.

Mambo steps on the street
John Henderson, Flickr / Creatiive Commons (CC BY 2.0)

According to Rebeca Mauleon's indispensable "Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble,"  the Mambo is:

An up-tempo dance style, developed through the 1940s and 1950s, which blended several elements of North American instrumentation and harmony with the Cuban son (a style of popular dance music that combined Spanish and African elements).

The New Cool: Sub-mission Part 2

Jul 22, 2017
Skerik's Bandalabra live at Nectar July 21, 2017.
Abe Beeson

KNKX Music Director Nick Francis subs once again for Abe Beeson this week, back to regular hosting duties next time, hep cats!

Jerry Gonzalez in 2012
By Andrea Zapata Girau (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Andy and Jerry Gonzalez changed the face of Latin jazz—in fact, they defined that hybrid.” — Arturo O’Farrill

The New Cool: The New Host?

Jul 18, 2017
KNKX Music Director Nick Francis
Parker Miles Blohm

Your intrepid host of The New Cool since the show began last Fall, Abe Beeson is taking a couple much needed weeks off. He'll be back on 88.5/knkx.org Monday the 24th.

album cover "Patato Valdes Live at the Canal Room"
USA Records, 2006

Conga drummer Carlos Valdés carried his nickname with pride.  "Patato" in Cuban slang means "potato,"  in the sense of something small and low to the ground.  Valdés was small in stature, but the Little Spud was a giant in Afro Cuban jazz.  

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