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The New Cool: Seattle-Portland Groovin' at Tula's

Used with kind permission of the costumed.
Joe Rabbit and Tarik Banana have room on their plate for Portland guitarist Dan Balmer at Tula's on the 18th!

Seattle's mighty Hammond organ and drums combo of Joe Doria and Tarik Abouzied are friends and collaborators in McTuff, Happy Orchestra and other various line-ups. Their new project includes an icon of Portland's jazz scene, guitarist Dan Balmer, with a new recording and a live show at Tula's Friday, May 18th.

The self-titled 4-song collection Abouzied/Erskine/Doria/Balmer also includes wonderful electric bass player Damian Erskine, who's out of the country on other musical business. They hope for a CD release later this year, but you can enjoy streaming all four songs online now.

I caught up with Joe and Tarik just before a show at the Triple Door's Musicquarium Lounge recently to talk about the new music and upcoming concert. While these two are well-known to Seattle audiences and New Cool fans, guitarist Dan Balmer might be new to you.

A graduate of Lewis & Clark College, Balmer spent the 80s with pianist Tom Grant's band. In the 90s, he was named "best guitarist" by the Portland Music Association and started to focus on teaching and performing as a leader. He's still leading his own bands, teaching at Lewis & Clark and privately, and now Balmer is working with various groups around the Northwest.

In Portland, he's an important 4th member on Trio Subtonic's recent Live at the Alberta Street Pub album, and his work with drummer Mel Brown's group is well documented. Now collaborating with Doria and Abouzied, a fresh Portland-Seattle connection is as exciting as it was inevitable.

"I love him....improv master. Ears, big ears!" says Joe Doria when I asked for his first impression of Dan Balmer's playing. Tarik Abouzied adds, "he's a pretty straight forward, modern jazz guitarist. He has a modern sensibility, but rooted in that older 'Grant Green' thing."

Their first collaboration was at the Goodfoot in Portland, followed by an Earshot sponsored show in Seattle. The new project with bassist Erskine was recorded last February with each player bringing in a song of theirs. After a morning practice and barbecue lunch, the recording was made with the help of producer and Polyrhythmics bassist Jason Gray.

Talking about the new material, Abouzied says "the two of them (Balmer and Erskine) have so much facility... you can play such involved music and it won't sound that way. It sounds very relaxed and smooth, but it's really challenging music. The music comes from four very different places, but ends up sounding like a unit because everyone knows how to play with each other."

For his part, Dan Balmer is thrilled to get back into the groove in Seattle. "It's really nice when there is a Seattle Portland connection as we don't often the intermingle our "jazz bloodlines". When Portland and Seattle unite musically there is a harmonic convergence that changes the universe. No one in Seattle should miss this show!"

A night at Tula's is always something to look forward to. Tarik says he enjoys the "legit dinner show" with the audience up close, "they're really watching you!" YOU, lucky listener, could be one of those watchers/listeners at Tula's May 18th. KNKX has acquired one pair of tickets for this meeting of the Rose City and Emerald City's finest, head over here to enter to win!

Also headed your way on The New Cool this week: surf jazz from the new Soulive EP, Lafayette Afro-Rock Band and Dexter Story get into some afrobeat, Robert Glasper and Grace Kelly get remixed, exclusive KNKX studio session performances from Trio Subtonic and Industrial Revelation, plus the all-star trio Now Vs Now with Jason Lindner, Panagiotis Andreou, and Mark Guiliana. Pass it on!

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

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