Groove Notes begins Earshot Jazz Festival coverage with an interview with John Gilbreath

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.

Festival Overview

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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

Local artists return

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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

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Jay Clayton, Jerry Granelli, and Travis Shook are just a few musicians who have made a name on the national scene that will be working with local musicians such as Matt Jorgensen.



Jazz in film

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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.”

Sub-thematic elements

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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.

Festival headliners

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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

Happy Thursday from Robin Lloyd

Here are some fun videos from KPLU’s Midday Jazz Host Robin Lloyd. Have a great Thursday, and be sure to tune in to and hear Robin today from noon-3 PST!

Otis Redding, Ray Vega and Thomas Marriott, and Steve Turre playing shells with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra


Review of the KPLU Jazz Cruise with The Thomas Marriott Quartet

Getting the bad news out of the way right off the bat, the weather was less than spectacular.

OK, now that we have that out of the way…

I’m not sure why, but I always wonder how musicians are going to handle settings that have the possibility of removing them from their comfort zone. Being on a boat, where people are talking, moving around, the waves causing the occasional rocking…will that throw the band off of their game? Will removing musicians from a club into an entirely different setting change the whole dynamic of the show?

Not in this case. The first of three KPLU Sunday Jazz Brunch Cruises featured Thomas Marriott and his quartet, and again, aside from overcast skies and the occasional rain, it was a success.

I know the quartet to be talented, but what I found more impressive was the ability the band had to continually own the attention of the audience in a setting like this. Generally speaking it can’t be all that easy. Any band has an easy possibility of simply becoming background music for an audience that could become far more interested in the wonderful brunch or the scenery on all sides of the boat. And there is a social element too, where a musician could become frustrated that conversation is constantly happening while they play.

But in this case, Marriott and his group never presented a song that allowed the audience to forget that they were the highlight of this three hour cruise around beautiful Elliott Bay. As each song passed, the band never lost the attention of the listeners, and they never became background music.

And why would they? The Thomas Marriott Quartet presented creative arrangements performed by a band made up of some of Seattle’s finest musicians. Marriott in particular seems to be getting better all the time. Switching between trumpet and flugelhorn, Thomas boasts a warm tone blended with excellent improvisation that never seemed to repeat itself.

As the emcee of the cruise (not to mention an employee of the organization presenting it), the clouds and rain immediately set in fear that people would have a bad time. It was more than wonderful to watch The Thomas Marriott Quartet completely draw all of the attention to their wonderful performance and allow the audience to forget about any dark skies.

Below are some photos from the cruise. If you missed it, be sure to catch the next Jazz Brunch Cruise with Pearl Django on July 26th. Details at