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Kate Olson and Snohomish H.S. Jazz Allstars brighten a winter day in the KNKX studios

 Snohomish High School Jazz

Snohomish High School's band program celebrates it's 90th year this year, and the all-star jazz ensemble showed us how talented their musicians are. With saxophonists Kate Olson and Brent Jensen in mentor and instructor roles, it's clear there's some fantastic jazz blowing down from the north.

Jensen previously taught music at the College of Southern Idaho and told us he never imagined he'd be teaching jazz to high school students. Another surprise, Jensen says he's really enjoying it. He's also introduced a jazz improvisation workshop and a monthly jam session at the Oxford Saloon in Snohomish each last Monday of the month. The jazz program is already seeing the benefits of his efforts.

Olson's musical education growing up in Wyoming wasn't at the level that kids in the Pacific Northwest are now used to getting. She had to be a self-starter, and it shows in her varied career as performer and teacher. This opportunity to be a part of the advanced jazz education programs in Seattle is exciting for her, "it makes me feel like I'm helping to create a legacy that I wasn't able to benefit from at that time."

The Snohomish High musicians were in fine form on three complicated hard bop arrangements including "The Soulful Mr Timmons", a Jazz Messengers song that featured Nate Fodge's piano intro hinting at the piano styles of the song's composer - James Williams - and subject - Bobby Timmons. Guitarist Alex Escoto found a fun guitar effect for his solo, bubbling through the reverb with impressive chops.

Sterling Stainer was featured in a fine bass solo on Sonny Clark's complicated "Sonny's Mood", pretty impressive for a converted drummer who's just learning this new instrument. Trumpeter Kadyn Holguin was the confident lead voice on this piece, aquitting himself admirably in the part originated by the legendary trumpeter Art Farmer.

On the Steve Davis composition "Optimism", Nick John and Tim Justice took tasty solos on sax and trombone respectively. Drummer Evan Sewell kept up the rhythm well, directing the ensemble through some precarious starts and stops throughout the session. Justice, a senior at Snohomish High, says he has his post-high school plans set, but the specific path he'll take getting there is as yet undefined. A perfect answer from an improvising musician.

The Snohomish High jazz band has a lot to be proud of, as do their instructors, like Brent Jensen and Kate Olson. The high tides of world-class jazz education in the Puget Sound region is helping to raise all boats, even in the Cascade foothills.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third 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.