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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 BECU.

KNKX School of Jazz guest DJ for August: Nata Verthein

Nata Vertein is the KNKX School of Jazz guest DJ for August
Abe Beeson
School of Jazz guest DJ Nata Verthein shows off jazz items collected during her year in Taiwan.

Nata Verthein's first experience with the KNKX School of Jazz was a year ago, requesting a song for a guest DJ show programmed by participants at Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend. KNKX welcomed the recent graduate of Interlake High School back to host her own show Thursday at 7 p.m. PT and we're so glad we did.

Last summer, Verthein told KNKX she was planning to spend a year studying in Taiwan before heading to college. Her show is a celebration of that island's leading jazz musicians, recordings she discovered on a particularly musical trip abroad.

Verthein quickly learned about the Taiwanese jazz scene, traveling to jazz festivals, attending jam sessions and collecting recordings and other jazz memorabilia. But she went even further on this jazz journey.

Eager to learn more about the history of jazz in Taiwan, Verthein hit the books and discovered a Japanese ordinance from the 1930s and subsequent bans under martial law beginning in 1949 that kept jazz out of their society.

Verthein explained to KNKX that only in the last two decades has jazz been given its own space to grow in Taiwan.

The setlist Verthein put together comes entirely from Taiwanese groups, but has a very Western, blues-based sound. Enjoy Verthein's stories from her amazing adventure and the wonderful music she brought back from Taiwan, taking us on a journey with her.

Which instrument do you play and why?

I play flute and tenor saxophone. I started playing flute in 5th grade and loved it. I wanted more opportunities to play music in middle school, but I didn’t know where to go. My school (Odle Middle School) had an all-instruments-welcome jazz club, and when I started going in 6th grade, I continued playing jazz all the way past high school. Thanks Mr. Roberts!

When I heard Stan Getz’ recording of "Out of Nowhere" on Live in Dusseldorf 1960, I fell in love with the instrument. I really enjoy the lower range and breadth of tones and styles that are present in the jazz tenor catalog. Growling is also something I was forever jealous of when I only played flute. It’s something I think saxophone players take for granted.

Who is your jazz hero?

There are many musicians who are amazing at what they do but are not amazing people. James Moody is my “jazz hero” because he happens to be both an admirable person and (in my opinion) the best jazz flute player out there. His playing is phenomenal; of all the flute players I’ve heard, he has the best combination of great tone and cool bebop lines and phrasing. I read through a collection of interviews he did in 2000, one of the most interesting things I read was how dedicated he was to be learning anything new, from starting to learn music theory at age 33, to picking up flute in like a month.

Why jazz?

I played classical flute for a long time, and I gravitated towards Baroque and Romantic styles that gave the performer more freedom to interpret the music they played. Classical music was too constraining, and when I started learning Mozart pieces, I realized I’d never enjoy being a classical musician. I started listening more deeply to jazz flute, and once I found Frank Wess, Bud Shank, and James Moody, I realized that improvisation gave me the freedom of expression I always wanted. I also can’t overstate how much I like the sound of jazz tenor.

Nata's playlist:

  • "Kite Flying" Tokyo Chuo Line
  • "Nighttime Rain at the Port" Taipei Jazz Orchestra
  • "September in Blue" Stacey Wei/Yuying Hsu
  • "2 Up, 1 Down / Mr. Augmented" Minyen Hsieh
  • "Silly Brothers" Iming Lin Quartet
  • "3 + 1" Shen Yu Su
  • "Bittersweet" Weisheng Lin
  • "Warner Street" Rich Huang/Stacey Wei
  • "Rose, Rose I Love You" Rich Huang/Tung Shuen Wen
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.