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The New Cool: B.C. festivals lend coolness to Seattle

Abe Beeson
Grab your loonies and toonies and head for the jazz festivals in B.C. this month!

The double jazz festivals in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia later this month (June 21 through July 1) feature many wonderful modern jazz groups. Happily, a few of them will make the border crossing to entertain Seattle audiences. Others will require a passport. Tune in Saturday afternoon to hear a few of them on The New Cool.

Guitarist Lionel Loueke is sharing a bill with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and guitarist Raul Midón at the Victoria Jazz Festival June 21. You can catch them both at the Triple Door in Seattle Sunday night. Benin native Loueke is a member of Herbie Hancock's current band, and his trio brought down the house at the Royal Room last spring. A versitile player blending his expertise in African folk music with harmonic complexity and amazing technical prowess, you'll hear Loueke covering the Bee Gees on The New Cool Saturday afternoon. A little bird tells me both groups will play separately at the Triple Door, then team up for a collaboration encore.

You heard the Lowdown Brass Band on the show last weekend, and you'll find the Chicago-based, New Orleans-funk-inspired powerhouse at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard on Wednesday, June 19. They'll be performing at the Vancouver Jazz Festival on June 21. Their latest release, Lowdown Breaks, embraces the world of hip hop, and focuses on the vocals of bandmember Billa Camp and various guest rappers. This brass-beats combination has rarely sounded so natural.

The Comet Is Coming is coming to Seattle - take your time if you need to read that again - playing at Barboza June 20 and at the Vancouver festival the following night. By now, you know my admiration for the work of London-based saxophonist and composer Shabaka Hutchings in bands like Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down, and his own Shabaka and the Ancestors. His rhythmic, restless, relentless playing is born in jazz but pointing to a nameless future genre sounding both ancient and futuristic.

Shabaka says, "I’m not trying to have the energy of someone in a suit standing stationary in front of a microphone giving a nice round sound, I’m trying to just spit out fire.” The Comet Is Coming celebrates their new psychedelic-pop-rock-jazz release, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, with "King Shabaka" joined by Danalogue the Conqueror (Dan Leavers) on keys and Betamax Killer (Max Hallett) behind the drums. Listen for the punchy, 80s vibe of "Summon the Fire" on the show this weekend, and catch these Brits while they're here next week!

Another of today's most intriguing saxophonists, Donny McCaslin will be leading his band in Vancouver (June 21) and Victoria (June 22), after a stop at the Triple Door in Seattle June 20. With two albums under his belt after coming to fame on David Bowie's final album, McCaslin has added singers and other avant-pop collaborators to his explosive group on their latest release, Blow. Ryan Dahle, the main vocalist on the album, is also with the group for this tour. On the New Cool this weekend you'll hear a special treat, a KNKX studio session duet performance of a Bowie song from McCaslin and Nate Wood on bass.

The remarkable young one-man-band Jacob Collier returns to Seattle for a performance at the Showbox on June 27, followed by appearances at the festivals in Victoria (June 28) and Vancouver (June 29). Collier's last appearance in Seattle sparked a buzz of impressed conversations from a wide variety of my musician friends. He's currently touring to support his latest project, Djesse, a four-volume, 40-song collection to be released over the next several months.

Collier turns 25 later this summer, having achieved world wide popularity via Youtube with his entirely self-produced, arranged, recorded and performed debut album In My Room just 3 years ago. He's since collaborated with Herbie Hancock, Hans Zimmer, Snarky Puppy and others, and you'll hear that collaboration from the Snarky Puppy "special guests" collection, Family Dinner, Vol 2, this week on The New Cool.

There are a pair of bands hitting the B.C. festivals this month and returning for Seattle shows later in the year that I'll feature on 88.5 Saturday afternoon. Trumpeter Marquis Hill leads his Blacktet in Victoria June 21 and Vancouver on June 22, returning for two nights at Jazz Alley August 13-14. I first met Marquis as a member of bassist Marcus Miller's band, a forward-thinking producer and composer who was a big part of Miles Davis' output in the 1980's. Hill carries that influence into his own modern soul jazz, influenced as much by hip hop as the jazz trumpet legacy. Tune in for a groovy quintet piece from last year's Modern Flows, Vol 2 on the show Saturday.

Too Many Zooz will be in Vancouver for the jazz festival June 21, and at the Victoria festival on June 22, both with Five Alarm Funk opening the shows. Their single "Warriors" was featured on endless Google commercials in recent years, for good reason. The baritone saxophone, trumpet, drums trio creates a fusion of jazz funk steeped in EDM energy with brass band crossover appeal. Catch 'em across our northern border this month, or wait until September 30 for their big show at Seattle's Neptune Theatre.

Sadly, we can't win them all. Four amazing modern jazz groups will be in B.C. but not visiting Seattle this time through. I hope it won't be too long before we get a close up look at drummer Antonio Sanchez & Migration (Vancouver Jazz Festival June 26), the cinematic hip hop jazz fusion of Guadelajara's Troker (Vancouver Jazz Festival June 30), drummer Makaya McCraven's band (Victoria Jazz Festival June 21, in Vancouver June 26) and the New Orleans funk of Naughty Professor (June 22 in Victoria, June 23 in Vancouver) sooner than later.

Until then, stay tuned for the best in modern jazz with The New Cool every Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. on 88.5 KNKX, and streaming our two hours of fun world wide at

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