The month is a busy one for jazz in Seattle, with at least two great acts coming every week.
June is a monster month for jazz in Seattle, with at least two great acts coming every week.
There’s no way to talk about all of them here, but two shows worth catching are by vocalist Lizz Wright, at the Triple Door on Sunday, June 11, and by David Murray (with headlining percussionist Kahil El’Zabar) at the Columbia City Theatre, Wednesday, June 28.
Wright, a 37-year-old from Georgia whose husky alto projects regal female power and gospel gravity, made a splash with her first album, “Salt,” in 2003. After that smart soul/jazz debut, however, she bounced from style to style, including a folkish, Norah Jones phase (“The Orchard”) and a gospel outing (“Fellowship”).
Lizz Wright, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at The Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $40-$50 (206-838-4333 or thetripledoor.net).
David Murray with Kahil El’Zabar, 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at Columbia City Theatre, 4916 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; $10-$22 (206-547-6763 or
In 2015, producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Luciana Souza), helped Wright find a groove and mood that brilliantly integrated all her tendencies. The aptly titled, Grammy-nominated “Freedom Surrender” offers a compelling blend of back-beat-heavy ’60s soul, country-folk introspection and naked truth-telling.
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One of Wright’s early inspirations was Sweet Honey in the Rock. So it’s fitting that she writes songs with Sweet Honey co-founder Bernice Johnson Reagon’s daughter, Toshi, who contributed the album’s rousing opening proclamation, “Freedom” and collaborated with Wright on the closer, “Surrender,” a bedroom-eyes, slow-dance bid to a lover to do as the song’s title says.
By contrast, ‘The Game,” co-written with Norah Jones collaborator Jesse Harris, conjures the swelling drama of Roy Orbison and “Lean In,” also written with Harris, has the quiet, conspiratorial sexiness of Sade. Wright infuses the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody” with wrenching, down-home soul and a daydreaming Joni Mitchell lurks under Wright’s “Somewhere Down the Mystic” and Nick Drake’s “River Man.”
That’s quite a stylistic range, but through it all Wright maintains her own emotional and musical center. Wright appears at the Triple Door with pianist Kenny Banks.
Fans of adventurous sounds will surely want to catch reed man Murray, whose comprehensive command of the tenor saxophone and bass clarinet — including all manner of alternative “extended” sounds — have long set the bar for the reed brotherhood. Murray, 62, is best-known as a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet, but he has steadily produced an astonishing body of work since that group’s ’80s heyday, including a set of stunning duets last year with pianist Aki Takase, “Cherry Sakura” (Intakt).
Earshot Jazz presents Murray with percussionist Kahil El’Zabar. Recently in town with the Ethnic Heritage, El’Zabar came up on Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music scene, which specializes in a hybrid of elbows-out futurism and black roots music, a mix that suits San Francisco Bay Area-bred Murray to a T.
If those shows are out of your range of comfort or convenience, there’s plenty more to choose from: The Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival continues Friday, June 2, with vocalist Catherine Russell and Saturday, June 3, with blues man Corey Harris. Jazz Alley has saxophonists Joe Lovano on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 6-7, and Donny McCaslin (recently of David Bowie’s “Black Star” album) on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 13-14.
Bass maestro Christian McBride joins the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra at Seattle’s Nordstrom Recital Hall on Saturday, June 17, and at the Kirkland Performance Center on Sunday, June 18. The all-star trio known as BassDrumBone (Mark Helias, bass; Gerry Hemingway, drums; Ray Anderson, trombone), plays Seattle’s Royal Room Monday, June 19, a night that also brings saxophone elder Pharaoh Sanders to Jazz Alley. Earshot presents trumpet tyro Ambrose Akinmusire at Cornish’s Poncho Concert Hall on Tuesday, June 20, and the creative improvising pianist Sylvie Courvoisier comes to the Royal Room with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen on Tuesday, June 27.