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The New Cool: Coolness In The KNKX Studios

Parker Miles Blohm
McTuff guitarist Andy Coe, about to catch fire live on 88.5.

Looking back at the year behind us, the newly christened knkx studios were home to a bevy of top young jazz talent, and on this week's edition of The New Cool, we'll remember four of our favorite groups who explored the limits of improvisation live on 88.5.

We were still worried about our station's survival when the Tacoma-based quartet Velocity performed in our Seattle studios in February, and we dove deep into their catchy grooves and forgot our worries for awhile. You'll hear their original tune "Etheric Density" on the program this week, a fascinating blend of tricky time signatures with progressive rock leanings, with a melody that evokes the soulful 70s. Perhaps this was our good-luck session, as the movement to save 88.5 was picking up steam!

The legendary Seattle organ trio McTuff made their second appearance in the studios at the end of May when our spirits were high, and they took them higher still. This "OG" version of the group saw drummer D'Vonne Lewis return to the drum kit to join guitarist Andy Coe and organ whiz Joe Doria, and they knocked us out with an emotional version of the Prince tune "The Beautiful Ones" just weeks after The Purple One had passed. On this week's New Cool, you'll hear a McTuff original, the funky "Mama Told Me So", a groovy party tune to prepare you for your New Year's Eve party later in the evening. (I'm hoping to catch McTuff at the Highland Park Improvement Club in West Seattle!)

Next up, our friends from Portland, Trio Subtonic made a second trip to knkx in August, and as the summer was winding down, they serenaded us with a pair of tunes from their groovy new album Fiction. Along with Galen Clark's fluid electric keys work, Bill Athens worked both acoustic and electric bass into some complex pockets with drummer Russ Kleiner. Today's show features a song from Trio Subtonic they haven't released - a very cool cover of "Little Black Submarines" by The Black Keys.

Our fourth and final studio session exclusive comes to us from far off Oahu. Jake Shimabukuro, who I think of as the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele, came through Seattle this Fall to celebrate his newest release, Nashville Sessions. Jake brought the album's bass player Nolan Verner with him, filling out his sound and setting the table for an amazing tune called "Dragon". You'll hear Jake loop an acoustic riff, then he rips out a burning amplified uke solo that will have you suspecting a guitarist has snuck into the room - nope, it's Jake, nodding furiously to his heavy metal guitar heroes Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. The ukulele has never sounded like this before!

What new sounds will emerge in 2017 to be discovered and presented on The New Cool? It's an adventure I hope you'll join with us, and stay connected for a wonderful New Cool Year!

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.