Jazz at Lincoln Center announced this morning the 15 finalist bands and one winning community band for its prestigious 17th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. Among the finalists were three bands from Washington State, including Ballard High School, Mountlake Terrace High School, and Roosevelt High School. The bands will compete and participate in workshops, jam sessions, and more, during a three-day Competition & Festival in New York City May 4th through the 6th. The three top-placing bands perform with Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis, as guest soloist, followed by a performance by the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra ‟ whose members serve as mentors for the finalist bands throughout the weekend. The Festival’s finale is an awards ceremony honoring outstanding soloists, sections and the top three bands. The Competition & Festival is the culmination of the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Program (EE), which also includes regional festivals, teaching resources, a summer Band Director Academy, monthly newsletters, and more.
Last year, Roosevelt High School took second place, while Mountlake Terrace finished third.
In both cases, the bands sounded excellent. Mountlake Terrace, directed by Darin Faul opened the program, moving musicians around on stage almost every song in order to get the right musician playing the right part to get the right sound. Featuring compositions by Duke Ellington and Benny Carter (among others), the band took full advantage of the use of mutes and the occasional full flugelhorn section. A highlight includes a wonderful arrangement of the Bob Florence composition, Evelyn, Queen of the Racquet Club.
Scott Brown directed the impressive Roosevelt High School jazz band after intermission, with the band playing compositions ranging from John Clayton to Oliver Nelson, to two compositions by current Roosevelt Band members. Their opening tune, That Old Feeling, set a great tone for an exciting, energy filled program.
But the highlight of the program had to be the performances by the pianists in both band. Taylor Griffin, the pianist for Mountlake Terrace showed his ability to accurately interpret the styles of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, while demonstrating his own unique personality as a soloist. For Roosevelt, pianist Chris McCarthy delivered a powerful performance. His performance on John Clayton’s The Jazz Calling was compelling, and his creativity was demonstrated not only in his solos, but also in his original composition, Something Small, which the band performed.
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The Earshot Jazz Festival kicks off this Friday, Oct. 14, and runs through Nov. 6, and through the duration of the festival Groove Notes will be delivering in-depth ongoing coverage throughout.
Leading up to opening night, we will be posting posts and questions as part of a preview to the festival, and during the festival we will be bringing you reviews, updates, and most importantly, your feedback.
Heading to a show? Did you see an amazing performance, or have a chance to chat with one of the musicians from the festival? Be sure to share your thoughts with us, and use the hashtag #earshot when you do.
We start our preview of the Earshot Jazz Festival today with an interview with the executive director of Earshot, John Gilbreath. John gives us an overview of the festival, talks about local artists on the schedule and how some of them will be collaborating with national recording artists. He also shares with us information about some of the films being screened, some sub-thematic things scheduled to happen, the headliners and a few surprises.
The festival will feature 60-plus concerts at 15 venues over the course of 24 days this year. Shows range from large concert halls to small clubs to community centers. There are some educational programs and a film series. There will also be a healthy emphasis on local artists, some who are currently local, some who have left town and returned for the festival, and some who will be teaming up with national and international recording artists.
“There is so much that wants to be done and needs to be done and should be done, and this is our attempt to do as much of it as we can.” – John Gilbreath
The festival begins with a celebration, featuring both the Roosevelt and Mountlake Terrace high school jazz bands that placed this year at the Essentially Ellington festival in New York. Immediately following that show, musicians Chris Speed and Jim Black return for a performance after originally meeting in Seattle high school bands in the 80’s.
Local musicians collaborate with national recording artists
Four films will be screened at the festival this year: And I Ride, And I Ride, A freewheeling improvisation on virtuoso guitarist Rodolphe Burger; Ne Change Rien, a Seattle premiere of a meditation on entrancing French chanteuse Jeanne Balibar; In My Mind, Seattle premiere of a portrait of Jason Moranʼs 2009 tribute to Thelonious Monk, with Eugene Smith’s just-unearthed photographs and recordings of Monk rehearsals; and Black February, Seattle premiere, with director in attendance, about legendary avant-gardist Butch Morrisʼs 2005 series celebrating 20 years of his revolutionary “conductions.”
A couple of shows will highlight the music of Robin Holcomb, who moved to the area from the East Village with husband Wayne Horvitz. Nov. 2 will feature the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra performing her music, as well as a small group featuring Robin and her music. Longtime collaborators Thomas Marriott (trumpet), Mark Taylor (sax), and Matt Jorgensen (drums) will be doing a live recording at Tula’s for an upcoming release on Origin records.
Pianist Keith Jarrett returns with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette and is certain to be at the top of the heap for the festival this year. Also, pianist Brad Mehldau will be doing a solo concert at the Nordstrom Recital Hall, and The Bad Plus will be in concert at Town Hall.
“At the top of the mountain, the pinnacle, the peak, the Mt. Everest of any jazz festival has got to be Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, and in my mind judging by any set of criteria is the finest ensemble and made of the finest individuals in that kind of setting that is working in jazz today.” – John Gilbreath