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The New Cool: Vote for Seattle's best (modern) jazz

Photo by Shahaan Smith
It was that kind of year. Seattle's Bad News Botanists are nominated for a Golden Ear Award for Alternative Jazz Group of the Year.

Awards season is here, and Earshot Jazz's Golden Ear Awards return - virtually, of course - with a look back at bright moments from a difficult year in the Northwest jazz scene. The New Cool will feature a few on this week's show, as voting concludes Monday, March 1.

As there were just two months of live jazz last year, the NW Concert of the Year category includes livestreamed event. May that addition be one positive carried forward from a year of negatives.

Thankfully, 2020 was a great year for new modern-jazz records. Many of them were produced in the Northwest and are nominated for this year's Golden Ear Awards. KNKX has featured several of them on The New Cool, and many are back on the show this Friday night at 9.

Saxophonist Kate Olson and trumpeter Ray Larsen ask for your votes for NW Instrumentalist of the Year. Olson's made use of lockdown conditions to focus on her brilliant KO Solo work. Syrinx Effect, her duet project with trombonist Naomi Moon-Siegel, is on Friday's playlist.

Ray Larsen made his singing debut on last year's Songs to Fill the Air, for which Larsen's also nominated for Best NW Recording of the Year. It's a charming chamber-pop album with bits of jazz and folk feeling that are modern and familiar alike.

You've heard Ryan Burns playing keys with Seattle's top groups for years, from the Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble to the Barrett Martin Group. Last year was Burns' coming out party, and his Golden Ear nominated album, Postponed Parade, is a great title for what should have resulted in a wild release show.

Burns leads several lineups, including Skerik, Jeff Fielder, percussionist Thione Diop and many others. In all, they've earned a Golden Ear award nomination for Alternative Jazz Group of the Year. Burns is heard in an organ trio with guitarist Cole Schuster and drummer Max Holmberg on the show Friday night on the tasty "Boogaloo Bird."

My own frustrations over the lack of live jazz (and everything else about the pandemic) were best served by the jazz-funk stylings of Bad News Botanists' Indignation. They're nominated for this year's Alternative Jazz Group award, making this big news: Botanists' band leader, saxophonist Frank Vitolo, recently announced his move to New York City.

Indignation reflects the melancholy of 2020 and political, civil and personal unrest. But it also offers triumph and glimmers of sunshine and hope. Plenty of funk, too.

The Dance She Spoke from previous Golden Ear Award winners Duende Libre has been nominated for NW Recording of the Year. Including more African musical elements, the album brings forward the voices of longtime bandmates Frank Anderson and Chava Mirel. Mirel herself is among the nominees for NW Vocalist of the Year, well-earned for her own recent genre-breaking music.

You heard bassist Abbey Blackwell's modern acoustic trio RAE on last week's New Cool. Melody anchors focused avant-garde conversations with guitarist Ronan Delisle and drummer Evan Woodle on her new album. Blackwell's two Golden Ear nominations are f0r Emerging Artist and Alternative Jazz Group.

The keys-drums team of Dylan Hayes and Xavier Lecouturier joined their friends for a new group called Meridian Odyssey last year. The two battle bassist Blackwell, bassist Tony Lefaive, and keys & accordian player Josh Hou for the year's Emerging Artist Golden Ear Award.

The deadline for Golden Ear Awards voting is Monday, March 1, so open your ballot and enjoy some Northwest Jazz democracy. Let the people be heard! And tune in to hear nominees and more Friday night at 9 on The New Cool.

The New Cool airs Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

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.