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The New Cool: Explore Earshot Jazz Festival's coolest concerts

Get your hands on the Earshot Jazz Festival schedule now!

The Earshot Jazz Festival returns to venues all over Seattle (*and beyond) from Oct. 4 through Nov. 6, and this week The New Cool highlights a few of the top modern jazz concerts on this year's impressive schedule.

This year's festival, the 31st annual, includes 63 concerts of their traditionally diverse jazz programming. This is just a small sampling from the festival that you'll hear on 88.5 this Saturday afternoon. With 37 nights to choose from, you'll find something special that celebrates every shade in the jazz rainbow.

Oct. 9, Nectar Lounge: Kneebody with Trio Subtonic — As saxophonist Ben Wendel told me earlier this year, he and his bandmates always will find time in their busy schedules to return to play as Kneebody. Apparently, there's one exception. With new album Chapters due Oct. 18, the band recently saw the departure of bassist Kaveh Rastegar (featured on half of the new album). The exciting result will be live shows featuring Nate Wood playing drums and bass simultaneously.

As Chapters includes guest singers Michael Mayo, Gretchen Parlato, Josh Dion and Becca Stevens, it's unclear whether Kneebody will feature a singer at this festival performance. You'll hear the new single "Spectra" on the radio show Saturday, and don't miss New Cool favorites Trio Subtonic opening the show at Nectar Lounge.

Oct. 12, The Royal Room: Makaya McCraven —The Chicago "beat scientist" known for his work with Windy City neighbors Bobby Broom and Marquis Hill brings his own band back to Seattle to create his sonic collages of rhythm and melodic exploration. McCraven's albums are full of the collaborative variety that inspires him, and for this Seattle concert he brings the "young genius" Joel Ross on vibraphone.

We'll dig into McCraven's impressive drumming with Marquis Hill's Blacktet on the New Cool this weekend. The trumpeter was recently in the KNKX studios with the aforementioned Joel Ross playing piano. Ross leads his own band (on vibes) at the Seattle Art Museum Oct. 19, celebrating his cool new album KingMaker.

Oct. 12, Columbia City Theater: Julian Lage Trio — Smart concert goers will wait for McCraven's 9:30 late show at The Royal Room to catch this world class guitarist's 8 p.m. concert just down the street. Lage's trio from his twangy new album, Love Hurts, includes longtime collaborator Jorge Roeder on bass and drummer Dave King of The Bad Plus.

Lage's latest LP offers passionate, modern jazz-Americana fusion covers of Roy Orbison and David Lynch, Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman, and his own wide open originals — all sure to thrill fans of jazz, country, folk music and world class guitar artistry.

Oct. 16, Columbia City Theater: Aaron Parks Little Big — This Seattle-grown pianist left town at 15 to study at the Manhattan School of Music. His career has led him to work with Terence Blanchard and Joshua Redman. His 2018 album Little Big introduced fans to a new band.

This rock-inspired quartet features New Zealander Greg Tuohey on electric guitar, and Parks' bittersweet acoustic and electric pianos blending soulful beauty with a biting edge. At times drifting into the outer atmosphere, Parks is a creative force spreading wide musical wings.

Oct. 27, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center: Kassa Overall/Sullivan Fortner — Another product of Seattle's fertile jazz education system, multi-instrumentalist and singer Kassa Overall comes home for the Earshot festival. A flexible player who's own music pushes the envelope of jazz-hip hop fusion, Overall is teaming up with talented pianist Sullivan Fortner. Drumming and vocals are Overall's primary instruments, as on his recent album Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz. You'll hear his drums and beat production with Theo Croker's band on this week's New Cool.

Pianist Fortner recently earned a Grammy for his work with singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, but has earned his progressive jazz stripes with Theo Croker and guitarist Lage Lund. His flexibility as a player isn't in doubt, and you can expect these two players to share the spotlight at the Langston Hughes Center.

Nov. 6, Triple Door: Amendola vs. Blades — Drummer Scott Amendola engages in friendly battle with organist Wil Blades and friends in what might be the grooviest show of this year's festival. Seattle's own Skerik will be there on saxophone with guitarist Jeff Parker and percussion master Cyro Baptista.

The Amendola vs Blades album Greatest Hits marked their first recording after a decade of working together. Coming Oct. 11, Everybody Wins features the band you'll see on stage at The Triple Door, adding the keyboard of Rob Burger. The duo never needed the help, but this full band makes the funk even funkier. Check out a Wil Blades trio song on the show Saturday, featuring Parker's guitar.

*KNKX is proud to co-sponsor Within/Earshot, the festival spin-off running Oct. 4-27 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. Of note for New Cool fans, a performance by the firey sax-drums duo Bad Luck on October 25 with special guest dancer Lorraine Lau. It's a night of avant garde free jazz and movement performance plus a beautiful ferry ride across Puget Sound.

Among the lectures, concerts and films at the BIMA, modern jazz beginners can learn more about jazz evolution over the past 50 years at James Cauter's 2nd festival "Jazz with Jim" lecture, focusing on Jazz Fusion Oct. 24.

This this of recommendations just scratches the surface. Earshot Jazz has put together another dandy, jam-packed festival this year. They're a prime example of the strength of the Northwest jazz community. You're a part of this community, too. So get out your calendar, pick your favorite shows, and get your tickets now!

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

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a 3rd generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.