Earshot Jazz Festival Preview: Ed Reed and Anton Schwartz

November 3, 2015
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

Singer Ed Reed and saxophonist Anton Schwartz met almost 10 years ago in the SF Bay area.  Ed was 78 years old at the time, and just getting recognized as a jazz singer.

Partly due to his love of jazz, Ed has survived drug addiction and multiple prison terms.  Four CDs later, he’s been on the Downbeat Critic’s Poll list of “Rising Stars” for six years, topping that list in 2014.  Read more about Ed’s amazing life at

“I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, and I was thinking Coltrane, I wasn’t thinking about Johnny Hartman.  I was thinking about the ballads that Coltrane played, and as soon as I opened my mouth, everybody said ‘Hartman’.  That’s the way it evolved, and it’s really been a lot of fun, people have appreciated it,” says Ed.

The 1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album is an iconic romantic ballads recording which was re-introduced to music lovers through the 1995 Clint Eastwood film “The Bridges of Madison County.”  Ed and Anton will be playing the songs from that album on November 6 and 7 at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club for the Earshot Jazz Festival.

“I came of age with that recording,” says Anton Schwartz.  “It helped me through some of my dark hours when I was in college.  I’ve listened to it dozens, if not hundreds of times.  So there’s that ages-old question of how do you honor something without trying to duplicate it.”

Ed:  “We’re doing ‘Lush Life’ in a way that nobody’s done it, just saxophone and voice.  I wanted to do it with just me and that one instrument, and Anton is ideal. And I feel like we’re still growing into it.  It’s all new each time we do it.  And that goes for the rest of the songs, too.  I don’t think we’ve done any of it the same way twice.”

Anton:  “I have to go at it each time without any pre-conception, because you’re telling the story, and it’s my job primarily to be in the moment and see where you’re leading things.”

Ed:  “We try to stay close to the original arrangements, but everything else is kind of free-flowing.  It’s exciting.”

Anton:  “Coltrane and Hartman only recorded six songs, so we’re doing a bunch of other things, all of it from Coltrane, a few that maybe people aren’t as familiar with.”

Ed and Anton will perform at Tula’s this Friday and Saturday with Dawn Clement on piano, Michael Glynn on bass and D’vonne Lewis on drums.


Earshot Jazz Festival Preview: Chano Domínguez

October 19, 2015
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Pianist Chano Domínguez   credit: el diario archive

Born and raised in Cadiz, this remarkable Spanish pianist recently moved his family to Seattle, adding a flamenco touch to our outstanding musical scene. “I have played in so many places around the world and in the USA, and for me, Seattle is one of the most wonderful cities.  We are very happy to be here,” he says.

“I grew up in a poor family in the south of Spain, in Andalusia. It was hard, because I didn’t have an instrument, and I cried every year for a flamenco guitar.  I finally got a guitar when I was eight years old, and I started playing the music of the city of Cadiz, where flamenco was born.  So that was my first instrument.  But when I was a teenager, I discovered the music of  Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Return to Forever, and I started to play keyboards and to transcribe from the records.  They were my first jazz teachers.”

Chano was already a star in Europe when he made his appearance in Fernando Trueba’s 2001 film Calle 54, which introduced him to American audiences. He won a Latin Grammy for his part of the soundtrack for that movie, and his 2012 Blue Note recording Flamenco Sketches was Grammy nominated for Best Latin Jazz album.

“Flamenco Sketches was recorded in the Jazz Standard club in New York. It was a great experience for me to play the Miles Davis music I’d been listening to for 30 years, to play it in the way I like to play my own music, with the flamenco rhythms like bulería, soleá, tanguillo or tango, in the flavor of my childhood.”

His most recent recording is with flamenco guitarist Niño Josele. It’s a collection of melodic standards by Michel LeGrand, Henry Mancini and others “with the flamenco blend inside.”  Another CD releasing soon is Chano with Europe’s premier big band, the WDR Big Band.  Chano composed all new music for the band, and he’s very excited about the recording.

For his Earshot Jazz Festival première, he wants to “show the music I’m doing now as well as the music I’ve done in the last 30 years. So selections from my recordings from 1993 forward, selecting the songs that are most important to me.”

Chano is delighted to have talented Seattle musicians like bassist Jeff Johnson, percussionist Jose Martinez and saxophone master Hans Teuber in the band for this concert. “They understand my music very well,” he says.  He’s also thrilled with the venue for the concert, the grand magical cabaret/circus tent of Teatro ZinZanni.  “I love it!”  And he let drop that there will be a surprise performance involving Chano’s son Pablo.  I won’t say anymore…it’s a surprise, after all.

This concert will be recorded by Jim Wilke for a future Jazz Northwest program, which airs Sundays at 2pm on KPLU.

Listen for Chano’s music on Jazz Caliente this week, at 2pm on Thursday during KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.

Hear the Chano Domínguez Quartet and more on Wednesday October 28 at Teatro ZinZanni, part of the 2015 Earshot Jazz Festival.





Earshot Jazz Festival Preview: The Journey of Charles Lloyd

October 14, 2015
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Charles Lloyd                 photo credit: Dorothy Darr

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd is a mystic, a nature lover and a sound-seeker.  He seems to inhabit an enchanted space, and considers himself in service to the music, which he must share.  “It changes the molecules,” he explains. “People seem to brighten up, and I brighten up, and we all get blessed.”  He also has an uncanny ability to look backward and forward at the same time, which makes for some interesting conversations.

His latest CD “Wild Man Dance” resulted from a commission by a Polish jazz festival, asking for a large work utilizing a symphony orchestra and choruses, and whatever he wanted to do.  Charles added a Hungarian cimbalom, a large dulcimer.  “I’m a big fan of Hungarian music, Bela Bartok and all of that.  (Guitarist) Gabor Szabo used to play with me, he’s from over there.  I have this deep connection with that music,” he says.   “The Wild Man Dance, that name comes from all those great wild men that I played with throughout my life.  The Wild Men are the guys who go inside and face the mirror of their inadequacies, face the Creator and ask for the divine elixirs.”

“I started out in Memphis, my hero was Phineas Newborn, my first mentor; Booker Little was my best friend.  I went to school with Harold Mabern and Frank Strozier…we were just dreamers and we were trying to get up into the heavens with the music.

“I also played these blues gigs with Howlin’ Wolf and Johnny Ace, Bobby Blue Bland, Junior Parker, BB King, Roscoe Gordon.  That early information from Memphis was very powerful because those guys were great masters.  Also coming through town were Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Lionel Hampton.”  Charles’ mother had a big house and the bandleaders would stay there.  “Duke did tell my mother, don’t let that boy be a musician, let him be a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief, this life is too hard, but by that time I was already bit by the cobra, and there was not much choice.  They couldn’t talk me out of it.  I’ve traveled around the globe and played with all the great musicians.  I’ve been really blessed.”

For the Earshot Jazz Festival, he’ll be appearing with his latest crop of young musicians:  Gerald Clayton at the piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums.

“I’ve been coming to your beautiful area for a long time, I have lots of dear friends there, I’ve played the festival several times.  I’ve been coming to Seattle since the 1960s…before you were born.”

I protest, “Not quite before I was born, but before I knew you,” which starts him on the “Younger Than Springtime” theme that he’s been using in conversations lately.  “I have these young musicians who want to serve with me now, and I remember the time when I was the youngest musician, and all the elders were bringing me along.”

“I’m really enamored with this group, we just played two concerts in Memphis, and then I’ve been in the studio, mastering and mixing various things of mine.  So I’m always busy, and I love that I can still find elevation in the music and I still love it and it makes me to be almost like you, younger than springtime.  I just love to go on this journey of playing music.”

For his next project, Charles is working on recordings from a recent tour with guitarist Bill Frisell, which he expects to be released in January.

Journey with the Charles Lloyd Quartet this Saturday October 17 at 8pm in Seattle’s Town Hall, it’s part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.




Earshot Jazz Festival Preview: Edmar Castañeda’s Well-loved Harp

October 12, 2015
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Edmar Casteñeda (credit: YouTube)

Edmar Castañeda
(credit: CANAL+)

Edmar Castañeda plays the arpa llanera, a traditional folkloric instrument from Columbia and Venezuela. Classical harps have 46 or 47 strings, but the smaller llanera has only 32. That makes it lighter, swifter and somehow more versatile…at least it sounds like it in the hands of this master from Bogotá.

Edmar comes from a musical family, and at age 7 started folkloric dance classes along with his sister. The thing he liked best about the classes was the music, and the harp in particular. “As soon as I heard it, I knew I was born to play the harp!” he says. When he was 13, he was given an instrument by his aunt, after constantly asking her to let him come over and play hers.  He’s been playing harp ever since.

When he moved to New York in the 1990s, he delighted in the multi-cultural blend of music he found there. He studied trumpet and discovered jazz, and then decided to make his harp an instrument of exploration: mixing jazz and music from around the world.

When I asked him if the llanera requires any special care or maintenance, he laughed. “Just play it! The harp gets sad if you don’t play it.  If you play it all the time, it knows you love it.”

Castañeda has also designed a harp that’s being produced by the French harp builder, Camac.  He’s proud of the finished product and the innovations that have been adopted to the traditional arpa llanera.

Edmar will be playing solo for his first appearance in Seattle, showcasing his original music with influences from Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and New York.  The concert is Friday October 16 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts. It’s part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

Listen for Edmar Casteñeda’s music on Jazz Caliente this week, Thursday afternoon at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!

Drummer/composer Antonio Sanchez: Movies, Meridians and More

June 29, 2015
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Antonio Sanchez

Antonio Sanchez

Drummer Antonio Sanchez has been getting a lot of press lately, including a cover story in the July issue of Downbeat magazine.  His award-winning, propulsive drum-solo score for the film “Birdman, Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” and the controversy of it being disqualified from the Oscar Awards had the unexpected virtue of introducing Antonio to audiences beyond jazz enthusiasts.

“You know, I think the controversy helped more than hurt, in a way.  It gave the score way more attention than it probably would have gotten otherwise.  That was the silver lining in that cloud,” Sanchez told me in a phone interview last week.

Antonio has been in good musical company for most of his career, and he’s grateful for that.

A native of Mexico, he started playing drums at the age of 5 and began performing professionally early in his teens.  Antonio pursued a degree in classical piano at the National Conservatory in Mexico and in 1993 he moved to Boston to enroll at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Jazz Studies, and relocated to New York City in 1999.

“I think nowadays, musicians have to become bandleaders very, very young, because there are not too many apprenticeship gigs anymore.  The business of music, and jazz, has changed so much in the last few years.  I was very glad that I caught the tail-end of that, being under the wing of people like Danilo Perez and Pat Metheny, Gary Burton and Michael Brecker, David Sanchez… all these great musicians.  That was my real school, my real education, to be on tour with these guys, to play their music.  I feel like I learned so much from them and I try to bring a distilled version of everything I absorbed from all these great musicians into my music, into my band, and into my shows.”  He feels his time in the conservatories and at Berklee gave him the tools to get to the next level, but his actual experience on the road contained the best lessons.

“I was there to witness and experience how these musicians led their bands and presented their music to the audiences all over the world.  It’s a priceless education.”

He’s always been a composer, as well.  “I always wrote music, ever since I can remember, ever since I had a piano, I came up with little melodies and little riffs, but I was always very shy about taking my compositions outside of my practice room and having other people play them.  When I started playing with really accomplished jazz musicians, I became even more shy, because these guys were amazing composers and bandleaders and I felt inadequate in the presence of these giants.  But, little by little, I started writing more and getting more confident in my pieces.  I did my first solo record “Migration” in 2006, with Chick Corea and Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, David Sanchez and Scott Colley, I though ‘OK, it’s now or never.’  I brought some tunes and we played them.  Everybody seemed to like them and that gave me more confidence to keep writing.”

Sanchez has two CD projects out right now.  “Three Times Three” is comprised of three different trios:  a piano trio, a guitar trio and a saxophone trio.

  “The trio is like the Ferrari of jazz,” says Antonio.  “You get into that thing and you can go anywhere you want, as fast or as slow as you want.  It’s such a malleable and versatile context to play in.”

“I wanted to pay tribute to my three favorite kinds of trio by enlisting some of the musicians that I haven’t got to play with yet, but I was always a big fan of.  I really wanted to write music specifically with these musicians in mind.”  His admired artists are pianist Brad Mehldau with bassist Matt Brewer, guitarist John Scofield (“one of the funkiest human beings alive today”) with bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Joe Lovano (“one of the most beautiful tenor sounds on the planet”) with bassist John Patitucci.  “These were some of the most fun recording sessions I’ve had in my life,”  he says.  Composing for these musicians gave him the opportunity to write things he wouldn’t have written for his own band, or in any other context.  “Listen to the last tune on the record, my arrangement of Monk’s ‘I Mean You’ and you’ll hear Lovano and Patitucci laughing hysterically at the end.  We did one take of that tune, it came out so perfectly, so loose, exactly what I wanted, to represent the fun of it all.”

The other CD, “The Meridian Suite,” he likens to writing a novel instead of writing short stories.  “I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t have the standard time restrictions of a regular jazz recording, which is like 8 or 9 short pieces.  I just started writing to see where it would take me.  You get a lot more time to develop your story and your characters and your themes and your melodies.”  The idea is that meridians are imaginary lines that cross the celestial sphere, the earth and our bodies and minds.  “They interact and intertwine in many different ways that we cannot even see.  Accordingly, the motifs and ideas and melodies in the suite intertwine and meet in different places of the composition.”

The Meridian Suite played live takes about an hour and 20 minutes.  Sanchez invites the audience to participate by clapping and cheering whenever they like.

“It’s not like a classical piece, when the first movement ends and you’re not supposed to clap, because the piece is not over.  It’s really not like that.”

Antonio’s next project?  “I have many, many ideas, but the next thing…is top secret.  I can’t tell you yet.”   I’m convinced that whatever this talented young man produces next will be well worth waiting for.

Antonio Sanchez and Migration present The Meridian Suite at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday,  June 30 and July 1.

Latin Jazz, Brazilian and Cuban Music in Seattle

May 7, 2015
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Eddie Palmieri brings the sunshine to Jazz Alley later this month

Eddie Palmieri brings the sunshine to Jazz Alley later this month

Here’s our periodic listing of Latin Jazz, Brazilian and Cuban music coming to Seattle, get out and enjoy!


Monday nights
Entremundos Quartet Jam Session at Capitol Cider
This high-energy, Brazilian-flavored quartet is just what you need to recover from Monday.

Third Thursdays at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club
Fred Hoadley’s Sonando
Fred Hoadley founded the Seattle-based Afro-Cuban jazz band, Sonando, whose 1994, 1998 & 2006 releases received critical acclaim throughout the country. Sonando received The Earshot Golden Ear Award for Best Acoustic Jazz Band of 2007, and was featured in a cover story in the November 2008 issue of Earshot Jazz Magazine. This is the real deal.


This Friday night May 8 at Tula’s
Jovino Santos Neto Quarteto
Master pianist, composer and arranger Jovino Santos Neto is among the top Brazilian musicians working today. “Joyous” is the word that comes to mind when you see him play. Just watch this, and if you don’t at least smile, please see your doctor:

This Friday night May 8 Ballard Jazz Festival Jazz Walk
Conor Byrne Pub 10:15pm and 11:30pm
Doug Beavers Sextet
Doug Beavers – trombone; Thomas Marriott – trumpet; Oscar Hernandez – piano; Joe Santiago – bass; Ricardo Guity – percussion
New York trombonist, composer and arranger Doug Beavers has performed and arranged for the likes of Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Eddie Palmieri, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Don Omar, Sheila E., Pete Escovedo, Ruben Blades and countless others. Make this your last stop on Friday night and you’ll be dancing all the way home.

Jazz Alley Shows:

This coming Tuesday and Wednesday, May 12 and 13:
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque
The name Maqueque is from an ancient Cuban dialect that means “the spirit of a young girl” –joyful exuberance and the celebration of life. This all-female group’s first recording won Canada’s 2015 Juno Award for Best Jazz Album (Group) of the year.

Tuesday through Saturday May 26-30
Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band
10x Grammy winner, NEA Jazz Master and Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement recipient Eddie Palmieri is known as “The Sun of Latin Music” and is one of the finest Latin jazz pianists of the past 50 years.

Thursday June 11 through Sunday June 14
Arturo Sandoval
Mentored by jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, Cuban trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, 10x Grammy award winner and an Emmy award winner.

Thursday July 30 through Sunday August 2
Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band
Poncho and the band bring the party with their mix of Afro-Cuban, jazz and soul music. Mr. Sanchez was presented with the Legend of Latin Jazz (Keeper of the Flame) award by the Jazz Education Network earlier this year.

Triple Door Brazilian Nights Series Friday May 22

Two legends of Brazilian jazz together!  Pianist Antonio Adolfo and harmonica master Hendrick Meurkens appear for an enchanting evening.


Paramount Theatre on October 2
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club: The Adios Tour
The remnants of los viejos (the elders) who ignited the Cuban music craze of the 1990s are making their final appearances in a world-wide tour. I predict this show will sell out!

Don’t forget to listen for Latin jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursday afternoons at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!

Meet the 2015 Seattle Jazz Hero: Mack Waldron

April 6, 2015
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Mack Waldron in front of his jazz club, Tula's.  Photo by Daniel Sheehan (

Mack Waldron in front of his jazz club, Tula’s. Photo by Daniel Sheehan (

On April first, the Jazz Journalists Association announced its list of 2015 Jazz Heroes: advocates, altruists, activists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities. The ‘Jazz Hero’ awards, made annually on the basis of nominations from community members, are presented in conjunction with the JJA’s annual Jazz Awards honoring significant achievements in jazz music and journalism and with the month-long celebration of JazzApril.

Elliott “Mack” Waldron is the proprietor of Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club in Seattle, which for two decades has featured local and regional jazz musicians seven nights a week, filling an important cultural niche here.

“It had always been my dream to own a jazz club,” he’s said.

He acknowledges difficulties in keeping Tula’s open for the past 21 years, but has always accepted them as a personal challenge. He’s quick to credit the support of his family and abundance of highly talented players in the region for the club’s success.

Wynton Marsalis has ranked Tula’s among his top 10 clubs in the nation for USA Today, saying “This is a cool place.” Tula’s has been featured in DownBeat’s guide to the world’s “150 Great Jazz Rooms,” too.  Mack has been honored with Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award for providing a key showcase for our local musicians.

And he’s trying to make sure there are more of them to come. In support of music education, Mack invites high-school bandleaders to bring their bands to the club. “Seattle has a wealth of good high-school band directors and music teachers,” he believes. “The parents are also very supportive of music education. We have a wonderful education system here. It’s very exciting to participate and I feel like I’m contributing something to further young musicians in the Seattle area.” Which makes Mack Waldron a Jazz Hero for everyone in hailing distance, and even further.

Please join Seattle’s jazz community for the Jazz Hero award presentation and appreciation of Mack Waldron at 6:30pm on Thursday April 30 at Tula’s.  This event is free and open to the public.  If you wish to stay for dinner and an evening of great music featuring the Bill Anschell Trio, please make a reservation:

2214 Second Avenue
Seattle, WA  98121


What is the Seattle Jazz Experience?

March 10, 2015
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Christine Jensen, composer-in-residence for the 2015 Seattle Jazz Experience

Christine Jensen, composer-in-residence for the 2015 Seattle Jazz Experience

Initiated last year by Kent Devereaux, the former Music Department Chair of Cornish College of the Arts, the Seattle Jazz Experience is a youth jazz festival that presents two full days of workshops and performances this Friday and Saturday at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.  It’s  collaboration between Cornish, Earshot Jazz, Seattle JazzEd and Seattle Center.

Dr. David Deacon-Joyner, Director of Jazz Studies at Pacific Lutheran University is on the steering committee for the festival.

“The idea was to have a local jazz festival that’s on a national level. The real intention, primarily, was to bring at least regional attention to the Seattle jazz scene,” says Joyner. “Seattle has a world-class jazz scene. And it’s as distinctive as New York or LA or any other place would be. We wanted to showcase that, and the myriad of styles that jazz covers in Seattle, from straight-ahead to very experimental.  We wanted to bring both high school and college ensembles to the region so they could take a look at Seattle and its jazz scene.”

Hence the name “Seattle Jazz Experience.”

There are a number of high school jazz band festivals and performance opportunities all over the country, but far fewer at the college level.

This festival is built around a featured composer-in-residence, who provides compositions for the bands to work on, and who will do clinics with selected ensembles. This year’s featured composer is Christine Jensen, the Canadian saxophonist and composer who is a recipient of 5-star reviews in Downbeat Magazine and a Juno Award  (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy).

This year’s impressive list of guest artists who will do clinics and concerts:  the genre-defying group Kneebody, guitarist Julian Lage, trombonist Robin Eubanks, pianist Darrell Grant, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Scott Colley.

“Last year’s inaugural festival was just the greatest vibe in the world,” says Dr. Joyner. “The interaction with the kids, the after-hours jam sessions, the ensembles, it was absolutely electric. They did such a beautiful job. We know that this year it will be another knock-it-out-of-the-park experience.” He hopes the Seattle Jazz Experience will become a feature of Seattle’s arts community. “Seattle deserves to have a festival like this, one that showcases its local jazz scene, but also puts the invitation out to high schools and colleges worldwide. I think it’s important to highlight this region between Portland and Seattle as a bottomless pool of talent.”

The Seattle Jazz Experience is Friday March 13 and Saturday March 14 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.  You’ll find the list of this year’s participating schools, the concert schedule, tickets and information at

Christine Jensen plays her composition “Blue Yonder.”

Remembering Clark Terry

February 22, 2015
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March 1980

One of the best things about my work is that I get to meet, talk with and even hang out with some of the greatest musicians of all time.  I’ve found that the artists who leave indelible impressions are the ones for whom the playing of music is a practice of spirituality.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have made that spiritual connection with some of the giants who took the time to share a bit of their world with me, and who live in my heart.  And then, there’s Clark Terry.

Many of us who are “of a certain age” will remember the treat of being allowed to stay up late, watching Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and seeing Clark Terry featured with the band.  What we probably didn’t know is that Clark was the first black musician to be hired as a staff musician on a major TV network.  By the time that happened, he’d already had a very successful career that included working with Duke Ellington as well as the Count Basie band.  By then, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie had all said “Clark Terry, he’s the guy.  He’s the best.”

Clark had also discovered what he considered his true calling of music educator.  He’d seen the formalization of jazz study, the academic side, and thought something was missing.  That something was the type of one-on-one mentoring that was the way jazz had traditionally been passed down.  It was something he was very good at.  Thousands of his students will tell you that Clark had a way of believing in you that made you believe in yourself.  That was his genius, and it all came from his love of people and music.

The brief time I spent with Clark Terry in 1980 doing an interview for radio is a treasured memory that has inspired me for decades.  I still feel that connection.  And I know that everyone who ever met him feels it, too.

Thank you, Clark, for your music, your humor, your spirit and your great big heart.

Clark Terry died February 21, 2015.  He was 94.

Read Clark Terry’s autobiography.

See the movie “Keep On Keepin’ On” about Clark and his student Justin Kauflin.

A Lot Of “Firsts” For Saxophonist Melissa Aldana

February 2, 2015
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Melissa Aldana

Melissa Aldana, courtesy of

Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio will be making their first appearance in Seattle tonight at Jazz Alley.  The 26-year-old Chilean saxophonist was the first female and the first South American to win the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 2013.

Melissa’s father, Marcos Aldana, is a well-known saxophonist in South America, and her grandfather Enrique was a virtuoso saxophonist as well.  She grew up surrounded by the sound and by the time she was six she started playing too.  “I always felt attracted to the instrument, and the first time I played, it just felt really good.  I never really stopped playing after that.”

Learning by listening to the greats–Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Michael Brecker– Melissa discovered Sonny Rollins and knew she had to switch from alto to tenor sax.  “I play alto and sometimes soprano, but my main instrument is the tenor.  I feel more connected to it, somehow,” she explains.  She often plays and records with the tenor saxophone passed down to her from her grandfather.

About the Thelonious Monk award, she says:  “It was a big honor and I was so happy to become part of the Monk family.  And it’s been opening a lot of doors.  I’ll always feel proud about it, but  I don’t have the feeling that people just know me only because I won the Monk competition.  I feel happy with the way people have been reacting to my album.”

The Crash Trio is a pianoless trio, like Melissa’s hero Sonny Rollins recorded with in the 1950s, as did Joe Henderson, Ornette Coleman, and, more recently Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman.  “I love this kind of trio so much,” says Melissa.  “One of the reasons I did it was to become stronger as a musician.  I felt like it would be a good way to learn more about how to play strong melodies and be strong on the harmony by myself and be able to express whatever I’m feeling.”

Melissa listens to other styles of music besides jazz:  Argentinian rock, Brazilian bossa nova.  She finds beautiful melodies and harmonies she can use to influence her own compositions.

What does she see in her future?  “I see myself keep growing as a musician, practicing, developing what I want to say.  Getting as many possibilities to play everywhere and with different people and get that into my music, and to keep playing with my band, too.”

“I’m really looking forward to my first time in Seattle.  I hear a lot of great things about it.  I’m excited to come there with my band, we’ll be presenting some brand new music as well as some music from the trio recording.”

Catch Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio at Dimitrious Jazz Alley tonight.

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    Robin’s Nest

    A blog about Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, New Orleans, musician's stories and more. My name is Robin Lloyd and I've been involved in jazz radio and the music business for over 30 years. This is my personal blog.

    Jazz April


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