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The New Cool: Live Coolness In the PNW

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and there are countless ways to celebrate around Puget Sound. Listen to jazz on KNKX, buy some jazz for Record Store Day, and take advantage of the plentiful opportunities to see and hear live jazz. This week on the New Cool we'll preview a few modern jazz shows in the coming weeks.

Saturday night brings an album release party to Olympia's wonderful Rhythm & Rye, with saxophonist Cliff Colon's all-star collective, Contraband. The all-star ensemble arranges music from classic video games into sharp, fascinating modern jazz. Colon just sent me an amazing T-shirt for the new album featuring cartoonized characters from his band, this crew can be as goofy as they are talented. No doubt a good time will be had in Olympia Saturday. You'll hear "Kraid's Lair" from the game Metroid from Contraband Reloaded on this week's show.

Looking ahead to next weekend, Seattle's wonderful Polyrhythmics return home to play Nectar Lounge on the 21st. Even more exciting is the headlining act. Ghost Note is co-led by Snarky Puppy rhythm section mates Robert Searight and Nate Werth, with a "rotating cast of serious cats" on their brand new album Swagism. Expect a funky good time with more than a hint of psychedelic improvistation.

The show I'm most excited about hits the Royal Room on Thursday the 19th, Earshot Jazz presents guitarist Lionel Louekeand his trio for two shows, and I'll be there to introduce the band.

Loueke shone brightly as a new star of the guitar in the front of Herbie Hancock's amazing quintet at a recent concert at Seattle's McCaw Hall. Like the greatest musicians, he's reinventing his instrument, sounding like an extra Hancock keyboard with that band. On acoustic, Loueke is equally talented, as you'll hear on The New Cool this week on a recent duets album with pianist Kevin Hays called Hope.

Born in the West African nation of Benin, Loueke attracted plenty of attention at the Berklee College of Music, then the Thelonious Monk Institute before joining trumpeter Terence Blanchard's band about 15 years ago. Along with sideman work with Herbie Hancock and other jazz heavyweights, he soon formed the trio he's bringing to Seattle.

Gilfema includes his classmates from Berklee College, Swedish-born Massimo Biolcati on bass and Hungarian drummer Ferenc Nemeth, performing music by each of the band members. The Lionel Loueke Trio is the same band, but focuses on the music of the guitarist.

Drawing on the music of West Africa, including vocals in his native French, Loueke continues to blaze his own path in modern jazz. This group is one of his most personal and long-running, as the Financial Times of London describes the trio, "Nemeth and Biolcati introduced him to the complex time signatures of central Europe and the inner reaches of European folk and rock. So although a West African spring to the groove is unmistakable, it might well bounce along in some fiendish Hungarian-influenced time signature."

Now in New York City, Loueke is also a key member of the new Blue Note Allstars, with Robert Glasper and others, on a fantastic collection from last year called Our Point of View that you've been hearing on The New Cool.

KNKX is giving away 4 pair of tickets to this show at the Royal Room - two each for the 7 and 9:30 shows - so rub that rabbit's foot and cross your fingers, this is a night the audience won't soon forget.

To hear live jazz is to enjoy life to its fullest. Check theevents calendar, make plans with your friends, and celebrate the incredibly diverse options for live music in and around the Pacific Northwest. And save a few hours for the pre-recorded fun on The New Cool each Saturday on 88.5fm!

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