The jazz tradition is handed down personally — sometimes within the same family, as the Marsalis clan of New Orleans so aptly illustrates. One of the most appealing jazz...
The jazz tradition is handed down personally — sometimes within the same family, as the Marsalis clan of New Orleans so aptly illustrates.
One of the most appealing jazz families in Seattle is the father-and-son team of Dan and Tatum Greenblatt.
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Saxophonist Dan and trumpeter Tatum (named after the great jazz pianist Art Tatum) live in New York now, but their roots are here. The Greenblatts perform at 8 p.m. Thursday at Tula’s ($12; 206-443-4221), with Dawn Clement (piano), Phil Parisot (drums) and John Hamer (bass).
Dan and Tatum haven’t always been on the same bandstand. From 1996-2000, they were musical antagonists, when Dan coached the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band and Tatum played for its arch-rival, Garfield. But most of their story is notable for its togetherness.
By the time Tatum was 11, he and his dad were playing together in the Edmonds Community College Big Band. A couple of years later, Dan was coaching musicians at Washington Middle School while Tatum played in jazz band.
When Tatum decided to study at the New School, in Manhattan, it only seemed natural when Dan wound up working there. Tatum graduated in May, but Dan is still director of academic affairs, as well as an instructor in saxophone, improvisation and pedagogy.
If you had told Greenblatt père 25 years ago he’d be playing in a Seattle jazz club with his son, he would have scoffed.
Though he has a doctorate in language and linguistics, Dan made the rather radical decision in his mid-20s to abandon an academic career for the tenor saxophone, which he had played briefly in college.
Moving to Seattle in 1978, he developed into a stone-cold bebopper with a tough tone and a big head for harmony. He eventually was hired by pianist Marc Seales and bassist Chuck Metcalf, for whom he produced and arranged two lovely albums: one for quintet, “Elsie Street” (1990), and one for octet, “Help Is Coming” (1992). In 1999, he recorded his own sextet album, “Stretch.”
Tatum left town for New York in 2000; Dan followed, in 2002.
Blunt, prickly and opinionated, the elder Greenblatt says he never was really happy in Seattle, which he found too “nice.”
“A lot of other people found I was a pain in the ass,” he admitted in a phone interview from Manhattan. “I was real critical, and not easygoing. Here in New York, I find that my approach is normal.”
New York seems to agree with him. Not only does he have a good job, his new method book, “The Blues Scales Book,” just published, already has sold more than 1,000 copies.
Dan has maintained an enviably tight relationship with his son. Tatum started out studying with his dad, then took lessons locally from Roadside Attraction trumpeter Terry Thompson.
“Unlike his dad, Tatum is really nice and dresses well,” said Dan, with typically caustic humor. “Like his dad, he shows up on time. He’s cute like his mom and arrogant like his dad.”
From his Brooklyn digs, Tatum says he got a solid start in Seattle’s school jazz programs, which stress fundamental blues and swing, but the New School has broadened his horizons.
“When I got to school, I had a great foundation other kids didn’t have,” he said. “But here, I got introduced to musicians I’d seen in Down Beat but I’d never really checked out at all, like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor and Ken Vandermark.”
Tatum recently played in the Mingus Big Band and at a gig under his own name at the Greenwich Village club the Fat Cat. Four days a week, he teaches jazz at a midtown high school.
“I’ve been getting to play with some really fabulous musicians,” he said. “It’s tough, just keeping up with the daily grind, but I’m pretty happy.”
At Tula’s, the Greenblatts will play mostly bebop, with a couple of Tatum’s more modern originals thrown in. Whatever they do, you can expect good music that swings — in the family tradition.
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org