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Earshot Jazz Festival 2010, Part 1

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Earshot Jazz Festival
Seattle, WA
October 15-November 7, 2010
Part 1 | Part 2

Now in its 22nd year, the 2010 edition of Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival presented audiences with a healthy mix of local musicians from Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest in addition to the performers that made the trip from locations as diverse and far-reaching as New York, Europe, and Central Asia. Indeed, this year's list of performers featured MURAL, a trio based out of Oslo, Ordo Sakhna, a "folk ethnographic theater" group from Kyrgyzstan currently on their first American tour, and Japanese pianist and electronics composer Ryuichi Sakamoto performing within days of Seattle jazz residents such as pianist Dave Peck, saxophonist Richard Cole, and trumpeter Thomas Marriott.

As would be expected from the list of locations that the players hail from, the forms of music that the festival attracts are equally unpredictable: Earshot never fails to cast a wide net, inevitably reeling in a lineup of groups that alternately focus on groove, experimentation, tradition, showcasing unusual instruments, and practically anything else that the term jazz is even remotely related to. Jazz is the focus, but Earshot isn't picky. Eager to satisfy jazz fans of all tastes, the organization managed to cram names as manifold as DJ Spooky, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Bill Frisell, and Chicago Underground Duo into the same schedule, amongst a host of others. In order to more thoroughly spread understanding of the ideas that are guiding their music, many of the musicians led workshops the day before, of, or after their performance, which were free of charge and open to anyone who is interested.

The Earshot Festival also provides a unique opportunity for a concentrated run of displays by the musicians involved in the local Origin Records label. Drummer John Bishop started Origin in 1997, with drummer Matt Jorgensen and trumpeter Chad McCullough joining him on the management team in 2002 and 2006, respectively. Together, the three of them have developed the label into a thriving focal point for Seattle jazz. At 13 years old, Origin has released hundreds of albums by a small army of different artists playing all kinds of instruments in every jazz direction; a jazz festival anywhere near Seattle wouldn't be complete without it. This year, Earshot audiences had the opportunity to see amongst many others pianist Randy Halberstadt, The Ziggurat Quartet, saxophonist Mark Taylor, and the live debut of Tattooed by Passion, Jorgenson's own recent series of pieces based on paintings by his late father-in-law, Dale Chisman.

One recurring theme in Earshot's programming, year by year, is the homebound migration of jazz musicians whose history is closely linked to Seattle. The prodigal crowd for 2010 included tenor saxophonist Roxy Coss and pianist Carmen Staaf, both of whom grew up in Seattle and honed their skills in the legendary Garfield High School Jazz Band (both the Garfield and Roosevelt High School Jazz Bands had performances of their own on the festival calendar, the former of which featured a guest appearance by Coss) and master singer Jay Clayton, who taught for 20 years at Cornish College of the Arts.

True to what has become the festival's tradition, the vast majority of Earshot concerts featured an introduction by Earshot Executive Director John Gilbreath, who manages to appear, seemingly out of thin air, at the beginning of most shows to talk briefly about the evening's concert, administer thank yous, and point out enticing concerts coming up in the next few days. As the face of an organization that delivers a three-week festival with only two full-time employees (himself and Program Manager Karen Caropepe) and a tireless squad of volunteers, Gilbreath always carries an aura of gracious excitement as he makes his address in his trademark sports coat and jeans.

Although performances are held at venues around the city over a period of three weeks, persistent festival attendees generally find themselves showing up numerous times at familiar spots such as Tula's Restaurant and Jazz Club in Belltown, The Triple Door in the heart of Downtown, Poncho Concert Hall in Capitol Hill, and the Chapel Performance Space in Wallingford. In short, the festival offered audience members with the unique opportunity to expose themselves to all different kinds of jazz in settings that will familiarize out-of-towners with several of Seattle's most popular and thriving neighborhoods, while locals enjoyed the chance to welcome non-native musicians to Seattle and revisit favorite venues.

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