When Tula’s closed last fall, the Seattle jazz community was devastated, having lost its unofficial clubhouse. So far, nothing has emerged to fill that void, but Seattle fans still have quite a few choices and two major jazz institutions have teamed up to add a new one.
On Jan. 27, radio station KNKX 88.5, Seattle’s jazz-focused National Public Radio station, and Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, the big daddy of Seattle jazz venues, will offer the first edition of Northwest Music Mondays, a series featuring local players on the last Monday of the month. The cover charge will be $16.
“With the closing of Tula’s, we thought it would be nice to present some local artists,” said Jazz Alley owner John Dimitriou, who used to present Seattle players but now offers mostly national touring artists.
The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra kicks off the series with the great Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa. Though Berroa appeared here with the SRJO last year, this should be welcome news to folks who missed their shows last April. On Feb. 24, piano maestro Marc Seales appears with his brother, guitarist Jesse Seales, in a band with Seales on acoustic and electric keyboards; Tom Marriott, trumpet; Chuck Deardorf, bass; and Moyes Lucas on drums. Other shows booked so far include tenor saxophonist Anton Schwartz (with pianist Josh Nelson), March 30; the Grit City Jazz Octet, with vocalist LaVon Hardison, April 27; the Thomas Marriott Quartet (with Seales), June 1 (to avoid Memorial Day weekend on the last Monday in May); and the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra (SWOJO), June 29.
Seales said he was pleased about this new opportunity for Seattle-based players, but noted that “the health of the jazz thing here needs way more than that.”
He should know. One of the places he used to play, the Central District eatery Central Smoke, just closed. Stalwart venues remain, however, the most prominent being the multigenre Royal Room, in Columbia City, owned in part by Seattle pianist Wayne Horvitz, who sees to it that locals get stage time. The plush downtown venue The Triple Door also features local jazzers in the bar area called the Musiquarium. And still flourishing in Ballard is the tiny boîte, Egan’s Ballard Jamhouse. Farther north, in Shoreline, is the cozy North City Bistro, a dependable spot for local jazz, and on Alki, in West Seattle, a newcomer emerged last year, the Pacific Room, a seafood restaurant that was recently sold but intends to keep local music going. Another lively spot for jazz is Vito’s in downtown Seattle, especially on Sunday nights, when premiere musicians like Seales sometimes sit in.
Jam sessions can be a good way to take in the local scene, and the undisputed champ in that department is the Owl ‘N Thistle, an Irish bar on Post Alley that has hosted a Tuesday jazz session since 1997. The estimable pianist Eric Verlinde leads the session, except on the third Tuesday, when it’s Marriott. Bassist Phil Sparks also hosts a Friday jazz happy hour at the Latona. If your taste runs to the avant-garde, the Sunday night Racer Sessions, in the University District, is for you.
Other venues also occasionally host local jazz, including Capitol Cider, on Capitol Hill; the Knife Room, at Pioneer Square’s Cafe Nordo; Resonance Events in Bellevue’s Soma Towers (including co-productions with the Eastside Jazz Club); and the Seattle Art Museum (courtesy of Earshot Jazz). For a comprehensive listing of local jazz activity, your best bet is the Earshot Jazz calendar.
This story has been updated with the correct name of Resonance Events and Eastside Jazz Club’s role.