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Decatur High Jazztet returns to the KNKX studios with a new class of musicians

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A student musician plays the trombone in a red room.
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX

Our last School of Jazz session performance at the KNKX Seattle studios was in February 2020 with an ensemble from Decatur High School in Federal Way. Two and a half years later, the first band back in our studios is also from Decatur, but with a new collection of musicians.

Joined by their trombonist mentor Conner Eisenmenger, the Decatur High Jazztet did not disappoint. Band director Jeff Chang said his jazz students are emerging from pandemic restrictions with determination and dedication.

New to the Northwest, Eisenmenger expressed his enthusiasm for the professional musicians in our area, as well as the high level of jazz education. Earning a master's degree in jazz studies from the highly respected University of North Texas, Eisenmenger's passion for a life in music was infectious, in the best way.

The students impressed their mentor and the KNKX studio sessions crew with their own arrangement of Roy Hargrove's "Top of My Head," which they learned from his band's performance in the KNKX studios in 2017.

Senior saxophonist Jack Geimer's bebop flair stood out on the three-horn front line with Eisenmenger and Decatur trombonist and composer Kysen Ellis. Senior bass player Sydney Jackson was solid in support, despite developing a painful blister she only stopped to address after performing.

Pianist Stephen Fillipov blended experience in classical music with a bluesy jazz style. Drummer Jonah Jones set a steady pace. We pondered whether he could be the second famous jazz musician of that name.

Perhaps most impressive were the two songs written by Ellis. He said he's new to composing and doesn't really know where he gets his inspiration to write. The colorful "Outside" and hard bop blues of "Recollection" both showed tons of promise from the young artist.

Each of these talented teenagers are unsure about the role jazz will play in their future. The music they brought to the KNKX studios with Conner Eisenmenger was surely a high school memory they'll treasure.

Musicians:

  • Kysen Ellis - trombone
  • Jack Geimer - alto saxophone
  • Stephen Fillipov - piano
  • Sydney Jackson - bass
  • Jonah Jones - drums
  • Conner Eisenmenger (mentor) - trombone

Songs:

  1. Top of My Head
  2. Outside
  3. Recollection

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.