A Preview of the Bellevue Jazz Festival May 22-24

bjf_logoOne of the things that you can often run into at jazz festivals is being drawn in by the one or two big name headliners that the festival boasts, only to be let down by the rest of the lineup. So much focus and money gets put towards the main stage shows, that it doesn’t leave much else to look forward to or listen to.

Fortunately, living in the Pacific Northwest allows for wonderful performances that don’t make the main stage, as we are blessed with a bounty of fantastic local musicians and groups.

The 2009 Bellevue Jazz Festival has pieced together a great three-day lineup that can and will peak the interest of a listener no matter what his or her taste.

The featured artist lineup alone suggest a program that is diverse and artistic. Dianne Reeves continues her Strings Attached tour, and will be singing Friday night at 9 PM, joined by guitar masters Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo. The festival is not limited to one first-tier vocalist. Other vocal headliners include Kurt Elling, Patricia Barber, and Mose Allison with his trio.

Fans of instrumentalists are not to be disappointed by the list of headliners. One of the biggest names in jazz piano, Panimanian born Danilo Perez brings his wonderful blend of Pan-American jazz to the Theatre at Meydenbauer Center Saturday afternoon. Two big bands are highlights as well. The high energy Mingus Big Band (featuring the likes of Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff, Ronnie Cuber, and James Carter) is a highlight on Saturday night, while the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra performs Sunday evening, boasting some of the best soloists in the region.

Looking deeper into the schedule, the festival showcases some of the best high school combos in the country. Friday combos from Sammamish, Newport, and Edmonds-Woodway high schools perform, while Saturday combos from Bellevue, Shorewood, and Ingraham high schools take the stage.

Local favorites loaded with talent are also slated for the festival, free of charge. The Trish Hatley Trio performs at El Gaucho on Friday night, while Saturday features The Greta Matassa Quartet, The Bill Anschell Trio, and The Thomas Marriott Trio. The festival closes out Sunday night at 10 PM with the Hadley Caliman at the Twisted Cork Wine Bar.

With most concerts free (and certainly worthy of a cover charge), this lineup should make for an increadibly enjoyable three days worth of jazz.

For complete details, visit www.bellevuejazz.com.

Building a “Trendy” Dream Big Band Part 1 of 2

I recently made a post talking about trendiness in jazz, and in previous posts I constructed my own personal dream big band, consisting of my favorites of all time, living or deceased.

I’ve decided to mix the two. I’ve created a big band that consists of living musicians that I consider to be some of the trendiest or hippest or most visible musicians today. Just like my original dream big band posts, this is purely my opinion, and no doubt every person out there might construct something different (which is why I always ask for you to post yours).

That being said, enjoy (or hate) this grouping of musicians that I think are doing what it takes to keep jazz entertaining, edgy, fun, exciting, trendy, hip, etc., etc., etc. In part 1, the trumpets and saxes!

The Trumpets

Lead Trumpet: Arturo Sandoval

Arturo is still the big name these days in screaming trumpet players. It is rare to attend a show of his and not be a part of a excited, roaring audience.

Watch Arturo Sandoval play Groovin’ High:

Second Trumpet: Wynton Marsalis

I don’t know if it helped or hurt his “trendiness rating” by recording with Willie Nelson recently, but appearances on shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report still make him the most visible jazz musician alive.

Wynton’s trendiness shown in an IPod ad:

Third Trumpet: Roy Hargrove

Roy represented all trumpeters in 2008 with an album that was likely the best jazz album of the year. Always with a hip band and getting better all the time.

Hargrove’s solo on Impressions with Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker:

Fourth Trumpet: Terence Blanchard

This guy oozes cool. Someone who absorbed every minute he spent with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and made his trendiness known by writing and recording scores for multiple Spike Lee films.

Terence in Tokyo 2005:

Fifth Trumpet: Nicholas Payton

He has a tendency to become your favorite trumpet player after you see him perform live. He is extremely versatile and his recordings show a wide range of talents.

Watch Nicholas Payton play Bags Groove:

The Saxes:

1st Alto: Kenny Garrett

Whatever it was that he picked up from working with Miles Davis, I’m happy he did. He is extremely inventive and entertaining, and has managed to soak up some of that edginess from Miles in the 80’s.

Kenny playing Wayne’s Thing:

2nd Alto: Maceo Parker

So what if he advertises himself at 98% funk and 2% jazz? Every band needs some funkiness (Just ask James Brown when Maceo was his music director). His shows are as entertaining as it gets.

Watch Maceo Parker perform Pass the Peas:

1st Tenor: Branford Marsalis

Although he might have been considered a little bit dry during his short run as Jay Leno’s band leader on the Tonight Show, it was network exposure of a great jazz musician, earning him trendy points. He also continues to produce some of the most artistic albums in modern jazz.

Branford shows off his trendiness playing Roxanne with Sting:

2nd Tenor: Joshua Redman

The coolest man holding a sax these days, and maybe the smartest. The Ivy League grad has put out some of the coolest recordings in the last decade.

Joshua Redman and Stevie Wonder pay tribute to Duke Ellington:

Baritone Sax: Ronnie Cuber

A ton of power and energy. No wimps in this all star band!

Ronnie plays Filthy McNasty:

The rest of the band next time!!!