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The New Cool: Modern Jazz in the PNW

Michael Goude, Vibe Vision Seattle
Golden Ear nominee Marina Christopher in the KNKX studios, check her out w/Bad News Botanists this week!

The Pacific Northwest has a long musical tradition going back to vaudeville acts during the Gold Rush, and this corner of the country became home to early jazz, garage rock pioneers, the so-called "grunge" movement and many less-recognized but incredibly talented musicians. In the 2nd decade of the 21st Century, the Puget Sound region is filled with creative jazz musicians pushing their music past easily categorized genres. You'll hear a group of our Northwest neighbors in every set this week on The New Cool.

Adapted into the improvisational jazz realm, you'll hear folk music, Americana, the brass band tradition, soul & funk, progressive rock and hip hop in the modern jazz of these groups. As I often wonder about the end of new musical styles, jazz improv and a diverse collection of musical influences makes this modern jazz scene one of the brightest hopes for exciting modern music.

The show begins this week with the B-side of a new 7" single from the funk/soul ensemble The True Loves. The local funk-centric We Coast label releases "The Dirty" b/w "Mary Pop Poppins" at the Crocodile this Thursday night with a live performance from the band, which includes guitarist Jimmy James and drummer David McGraw of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. The horn section brings this group to life, in the mode of the Daptone label's roster of retro soul and funk groups. Trombonist and composer Jason Cressey leads a group of talented players who make the most of their solo opportunities.

Next up Saturday will be 45th St Brass, a group who've updated the brass tradition with a more indie-rock attitude. Vocals are featured on many songs, like Annie Janzter's powerful performance with the band live in the KNKX studios last Fall. The band journeys to Idaho next weekend, and you'll hear the low-end heft of baritone sax, tuba and trombones on their terrific instrumental "Keep It Up, Keep It Real" this week.

Seattle's enigmatic Zubatto Syndicate is an all-star collective led by guitarist and songwriter Andrew Boscardin, featuring Beth Fleenor's incomparable clarinet, David Marriott on trombone, and the saxes of Mark Taylor, Greg Sinibaldi and Jim DeJoie. Debuting in 2009, the group is on extended hiatus, but there have been rumblings of a reformation with a vague Facebook post, "Contact has been made with something beneath the surface." You'll hear their theme song on this week's show, and Steve Treseler - featured on the band's second album - will lead his own group live on 88.5 Thursday at 12:15.

The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, featuring Jimmy James and David McGraw of The True Loves, is riding a wave of popularity on the heels of Colemine Records' vinyl reissue of their excellent debut, Close But No Cigar earlier this year. A new Live at KEXP release is due on April 21 for Record Store Day. One of today's finest retro-soul groups in a crowded field, the DLO3 kick off a big tour with a free show that night at Sonic Boom Records in Ballard.

The Bad News Botanists have received a lot of good news this year, the band and their debut album have been nominated for Earshot's Golden Ear Awards, as have their saxophonist Frank Vitolo and bassist Marina Christopher. We're very excited to welcome the band to The New Cool stage at this year's Folklife Festival with Tacoma's 322 and another act to be announced soon. I know you'll dig "Snake Eyes" from the Venomous Nightshade album on the show Saturday. Check 'em out at Conor Byrne in Ballard March 30th.

Tyrant Lizard is a trio who take their time. Not slow, exactly, but deliberate and intentional collaborations mark the band's interactions. They allow space and require intense listening within each song, a musical conversation between three people who enjoy each other's company. Two thirds of the group are now based in New York, but we expect a Seattle show from Tyrant Lizard sometime this Summer. They've been teasing new music online, here's a video of their latest, "Bluey Tootie", and you'll hear their exclusive studio session performance of the traditional American song "Shenandoah".

The Hughes Brothers are at the forefront of Freudian Slurp, the Seattle outfit who blend jazz with progressive rock's musical twists and turns and equal parts funky good times. A touch of tabla and Dave Dolengewicz's searching clarinet work gives a cinematic middle eastern flavor to "Squarebeard" from their cleverly titled second album, Get It? Pulsing and driving energy marks this young band who are sure to bring the house down at the legendary Blue Moon Tavern on April 6th.

Closing the show this week is The New Triumph, a septet that employs the varied rhythms of Africa, Latin America and modern soul & funk to launch into frenzied flights of improvisation. Bassist Camilo Estrada leads the group and writes the music, powered by the dynamic drumming of Adam Kessler and percussionist Ricardo Guity. You'll find the band at the Seamonster Lounge in Wallingford March 31st, and Estrada says the group may have a new album ready by the end of the year!

It's a Golden Age for modern jazz of all stripes in the Pacific Northwest.  Do your part to support these musicians by seeing them live, buying their records, and keeping up with the latest each Saturday on The New Cool.

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