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Since 2005, KNKX's School of Jazz has provided mentorship, learning and performance opportunities to Western Washington middle school, high school and college jazz students. A cornerstone of the station's signature community outreach program, it has directly impacted thousands of jazz students, band directors and professional musicians. School of Jazz is sponsored by Alaska Airlines and BECU.

The New Cool: Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend students share thoughts on modern jazz

Drummer Matt Wilson's student ensemble at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend.
Tom Collins
Drummer Matt Wilson's student ensemble at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend.

Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend jazz camp is an educational opportunity for students of all ages. On my visit to the camp and jazz festival last month, I took my opportunity to ask some of the younger campers what they thought of modern jazz, who their favorite modern musicians are, and what they're generation will contribute to the future of this ever-changing art form.

You can hear jazz of all styles from the Northwest's finest teenaged jazz musicians at 8 p.m. on 88.5 FM the first Thursday of every month with the KNKX School of Jazz guest DJ shows, including many of today's hottest modern jazz players. Here's what I heard from a sampling of talented teens at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend.

Markus Teuton (17, Seattle): "Modern Jazz to me is being able to incorporate other genres and other inspirations... consistently trying to boost yourself and get to a new elevation, a higher level of creativity than what's already there. Being original - that's what modern jazz is to me."

Mateo David (16, Berkeley, California): "Computerized music is making it's way into all music, that's jazz, too. It's a new wave, it sounds fresh, it's... just cool."

Teresa Bonilla (18, Mountlake Terrace): "I think it's about creativity and free expression more than other types of jazz. With modern jazz, I think a lot of the musicians I like to listen to have a really individualistic sound, but you can still hear the traditional roots in it."

Jonah Panzer (17, Tacoma): "Modern jazz is...deconstructing traditional jazz, going beyond a traditional form. It's removing a lot of the confines of traditional chord progressions, traditional rhythms and tempo."

Henry Mohr (18, Seattle): "I'd like to hear jazz (of my generation) that's community music, really try to bring people from different backgrounds and different cultures together."

Credit Tom Collins
Kids rule at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend, including this group featuring past School of Jazz guest DJ Noah Barr (second from right).

Lucas K-V (16, Berkeley): "It's different wherever you go. In California you get different answers than you would get here in Port Townsend or in New York... all of these different cities have different impressions of where this art style is going. In the Bay Area, there's a lot of influence of funk and soul...and also from the 'trap' genre and it kind of all blends together. We're moving to different tools - synths and drum machines - that's where the music is heading...incorporating these modern tools that we have."

Evan DeTurk (18, Seattle): "It's really about expanding horizons. Modern jazz is trying to push the music forward while still...paying homage to the masters who came before."

Jai Lasker (17, Edmonds): "To me, modern jazz is a combination of jazz music and all of its history, and people's personal philosophy coming through in their music. A lot of the people who are really stretching the boundaries of the music incorporate their own thoughts of what it means to be a human in this world today. People like Coltrane really started that kind of trend, and the modern realm is taking that in a bunch of different directions."

Bands and musicians they recommend: Robert Glasper, Thundercat, Chris Potter's Circuits Trio, Tivon Pennicott, Mark Turner, Mary Halvorson, Ari Hoenig, Orrin Evans, The Hogan Brothers, Walter Smith, Kamasi Washington, and of course their teacher at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend, trumpeter Marquis Hill.

If you're attending Friday's "Jazz Concert of the Year" with Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington bands at Marymoor Park, stop by the KNKX tent and say hello. I'll be collecting the modern jazz thoughts of the audience that stops by that night, and I'd love to hear yours.

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

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