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The New Cool: Favorites of 2017

Abe Beeson
Abe Beeson's new record shelves inspire a look back at the past year's music.

I'm not crazy about "best of" lists. Who could possibly listen to enough music to produce an objective list of the best recordings in a year? I prefer to list "favorites", and on this week's New Cool, you'll hear two hours of Abe Beeson's favorite modern jazz from 2017. I hope you enjoy it as much as I will!

The most notable thing about this list is the number of groups from the Northwest represented here. We are truly living in a golden age of jazz around Puget Sound, and The New Cool is happy to celebrate amazing new music from our incredibly talented, hard working neighbors.

Make note of these names and take the time to check them out in live performances, always the best way to experience their music.

The show begins with a song that jumped off the terrific new album Caldera by Seattle's Polyrhythmics. As the band told me in their KNKX studio session last Fall, "Spider Wolf" sounded like a hit to them from the beginning. Bouncy, groovy, catchy and a whole lot of attitude from an experienced ensemble at the top of their game. Catch 'em at their Mardi Gras show at Nectar in Fremont on Fat Tuesday with DJ Abe Beeson opening the show!

One of several terrific drummer-led bands in modern music, the Barrett Martin Group is less practiced than Polyrhythmics, but full of all-stars. Transcendence, Barrett's first album with his Group in six years features Skerik's saxophonics, Andy Coe's guitar pyrotechnics and driving, hooky compositions that transport you to exotic places. The official album release show is at the Crocodile in Seattle March 8th.

Jessica Lurie's first release with her ensemble had us waiting just as long, and was similarly well worth the wait. Teaming up with Seattle friends for her KNKX studio session, the album includes musicians in her new hometown of New York City. Long Haul is a fantastic example of the breadth of Lurie's talents on saxophone and flute, with a varied collection of musical moods. The common thread is the wonderful trombone playing of Missoula-based Naomi Moon-Siegel. To our good fortune, both of whom return to Seattle often.

The New Triumph were featured at the debut of the New Cool stage at Seattle's Folklife Festival last Spring, and they make their studio session debut Tuesday at 12:15 on 88.5. Their new album Keep on Push'n included a standout single that immediately got my attention. "Count Dracula's African Vacation" is just what the title suggests, slightly spooky afro-beat that breaks into full-on classic fright-flick music midway through and finishes with a funky strut. The Count is dead, and loving it. Find the New Triumph opening for Industrial Revelation at Nectar on January 13th.

The DLO3, Delvon Lamarr's organ trio with Jimmy James and David McGraw on guitar & drums, will return to the spotlight in 2018 with a vinyl reissue of their debut Close But No Cigar from early last year. The vintage soul grooves are straight out of the late 60s/early 70s, and yet feel just right in our modern world. These energetic young men are poised to take the world by storm in the new year. Don't miss the DLO3 headlining the Tractor Tavern on February 17th.

45th St Brass are breaking with the brass band tradition, moving past marching rhythms to embrace more funk and soul elements. Another angle that separates them from other modern brass ensembles are the many guest vocals on their excellent new release, The Curtain Show. Annie Jantzer knocked us out when she joined in on a tune for the 45th St Brass studio session on KNKX, but we'll focus on the band with a tasty instrumental on this week's show. Their next gig is February 2nd at the Tractor.

I talked up the intriguing new "avant-jazz, post-rock, folk-jazz" album Getting to Know You from Seattle's Hunter Gather in a recent web posting. The members of this quartet are busy in many different groups of various styles around town, but when you see news of a Hunter Gather show, don't miss it. Their pensive, moody, beautiful song "I Want to Be an American" features on The New Cool this week.

On a final local note, a Seattle-based group that never disappoints - musically, anyway. It was a long wait for their debut album Baba, finally released to eager fans last Fall, but Happy Orchestra kept them happy with a regular schedule of always-fun live shows around the Northwest. Drummer (and bass player) Tarik Abouzied is one of the great entertainers in town, and the joy he's having onstage is contagious. Catch him with the soon-to-be-legendary local organ trio McTuff at the Seamonster Lounge Tuesday night, and that same band at that same club on January 30th.

My favorite music from out-of-towners this year include drummer Mark Guiliana's wonderful quartet, mandolin player Chris Thile's duets album with pianist Brad Mehldau, the new generation of Blue Note All Stars, Kamasi Washington's new EP, singers Emily McCormick, Rohey Taalah, and Zara McFarlane, plus a lot of coolness from the UK.

It's a packed two hours of hot modern jazz from the year that was, promising a bright jazz future for us all.

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.