The New Cool is proud to be sponsoring the first PBJam-FEST 2019 at Nectar Lounge in Fremont this Friday and Saturday nights. It's a blend of 21st century jam band styles, ranging from bluegrass to modern jazz, on two stages from 5 p.m. until closing time nine hours later. Yours truly will be there both nights to see a pair of my all-time Seattle jazz favorites.
Two sax-playing legends of modern Northwest jazz are featured at the festival: Skerik in two bands (The Skerik Band and Crack Sabbath) for three sets Friday night, and Jessica Lurie performing with the seminal trio Living Daylights for two sets Saturday night.
The festival is the first organized by Nectar's promotional arm and friends of The New Cool, The PBJ. Also on stage this weekend are New Cool favorites High Pulp and Polyrhythmics side project Unsinkable Heavies (both Saturday night), as well as Friday's "Midnight Horns" with the brassy, New Orleans funk-inspired Super Krewe collective.
I've written plenty about Skerik and Jessica Lurie for this space. They're musical heroes of mine from my formative days in Seattle's explosive scene in the '90s, and I'm far from the only lifelong fan.
So, I asked man-about-town and music promoter B. Dahlia if he'd share his thoughts on these two powerful forces for musical good. He didn't let me down.
B. Dahlia on Skerik:
"I think I first heard Skerik play at a mid-90s house party on Capitol Hill, playing with the group Blowtallica, but I’m not so sure. I later caught his group Critters Buggin at the old Mercer Arena in Seattle, with all the kids on stage singing, the costumes, the fierceness of the music… it really stands out as an amazing show.
"Skerik was intense! I was seriously scared to talk to him for years. An amazing talent, he comes up with wild grooves, sounds, progressions, explorations I used to think 'off the wall,' but I think I get it more, now.
"We ended up working together on the 2009 documentary Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense, and I got to know him a little. I remember a great line of his from the doc: 'It doesn’t even have to be good as long as it’s YOU.'
"Skerik has a tremendous work ethic. He really studies, gets deep in the music. He’s played with a host of cool cats, from Medeski Martin & Wood to Les Claypool to Bernie Worrell, and in dozens of his own projects. (You hear his groups Garage A Trois and Omaha Diner on The New Cool often.)
"Skerik is as real as they come. When he’s on stage, it’s phenomenal. You can see it in fans’ faces, and when he gets into it, he gets 'out there.' Dig the chance to catch his stuff this weekend. You will not be disappointed!"
B. Dahlia on Jessica Lurie:
"Oh, where do I start with Jessica Lurie? Mid-90s Living Daylights!
"I mean, Jessica has a history in Seattle even before that, but her teaming up with former Tough Mama rhythm section Arne Livingston (bass) and Dale Fanning (drums) was a dream!
"Musically, they nailed what a lot of us wanted to groove to. Arne’s looping was way ahead of its time in its complexity and just, I mean, wow! Dale’s frenetic drumming — constantly moving, shaking, dancing — was irresistible. But it was still dynamic, and unpredictable. Jessica’s horn is blazing fire when she wants it to be, and deft and subtle in the next second, and in combo with those two guys, they blew audiences away.
"Their late-night shows at 700 Club or I-Spy in early 2000s are legendary. They tore up the West Coast and toured and released four albums, including one with Bill Frisell as guest guitarist.
"They went their separate ways for a while — Dale moving to the Bay Area and getting down with old Tough Mama cohort Mighty Dave Pellicciaro in Materialized, and Arne worked with Bay Area guitarist Steve Kimock for a spell.
"Jessica has played in her own ensemble, The Tiptons Sax Quartet, and others groups for two decades-plus and now regularly plays with New York’s Jewish Afrobeat powerhouse ZION 80 and probably a half-dozen other groups.
"I had the good fortune to help get Living Daylights back together a few years back, thanks to John Gilbreath and Earshot, and that’s continued at 'not-often-enough' intervals, always creating an epic sonic journey. These three musicians love the opportunity to bring it back home, and what a collective endeavor to be part of!
"Big shout out to Andy Palmer and The PBJ Presents crew for putting this monster together!"
B. Dahlia produces and promotes artists and agents of change in the Seattle community. When you see him at a show, you know it's going to be a good time.
Do you have your own memories of Skerik and Jessica Lurie? Please share them in the comments below.
I hope to see B. and you at Nectar for this New Cool-sponsored weekend of summer fun, and catch music from Living Daylights and Skerik with Omaha Diner on the show Saturday afternoon. Jam on!
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.