When asked to reflect on the 10th anniversary of Origin Records, label co-chief Matt Jorgensen had a deadpan reply. "We're still here," he...
When asked to reflect on the 10th anniversary of Origin Records, label co-chief Matt Jorgensen had a deadpan reply.
“We’re still here,” he said.
A triumph of lowered expectations?
Perhaps. But people in the jazz world know just how wildly optimistic it was to hope that two Seattle drummers, Jorgensen and Origin founder John Bishop, could actually survive — no, not just survive, prosper — in a crumbling industry where jazz accounted for less than 3 percent of sales.
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“This is a huge thing for any kind of label, but more importantly a jazz label,” said Jorgensen. “I think we’re stronger and more relevant now than we ever have been.”
No arguments there. The label has so far released 200 CDs, mostly by Northwest artists, four of which have won Grammy nominations. According to the JazzWeek National Airplay Chart, more Origin albums were played on the radio this week than those of any other label, including giants like Blue Note and Concord. Generally, said Jorgensen, Origin ranks in the top five for radio play every year.
Origin celebrates all this success next Friday, with the fifth Ballard Jazz Walk, featuring Origin artists exclusively. Sixteen groups perform in 11 venues — all in Ballard — starting at 8:30 p.m.
This festive, popular event often takes on a Mardi Gras feel, as mobs of fans stroll from club to club along Ballard Avenue. Even better, one ticket buys a lanyard that gets you into all the venues. Tickets — $15 advance, $20 day of show — are available at all Sonic Boom Records locations in Seattle or from www.ballardjazzfestival.com.
Artists this year include Chicago guitarist John McLean, Portland’s Upper Left Trio, trumpeter Thomas Marriott’s Willie Nelson Project, vocalist Greta Matassa, guitarist John Stowell, saxophonists Rich Cole and Hadley Caliman, Afro-Cuban maestros Sonando, pianists Randy Halberstadt and Marc Seales and vibist Ben Thomas.
Performances are at the Sunset Tavern, Bad Albert’s, the Lock’n’Keel and Egan’s, as well as venues that don’t usually feature live music, such as Resolution Audio and Video and Bop Street Records.
Many of the artists, such as Matassa and Caliman, need no introduction to Seattle fans. But you may not be familiar with the Upper Left Trio, an intriguing, hybrid piano threesome that recalls the droll mystery and quiet caginess of the Swedish group E.S.T.
Featuring Clay Giberson (piano), Jeff Leonard (electric bass) and Charlie Doggett (drums), the band plays originals as well covers of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell — obliterating the line between pop and jazz — and even ventures into a Fauvist tone poem style inspired by Scriabin. Leonard’s intricate, electric-guitar-like bass lines (a la Steve Swallow) are a significant part of the band’s signature, as are lively interactivity and unpredictability. (Hear the Upper Left Trio online: www.myspace.com/upperlefttrio).
Guitarist John McLean is one of more than a half dozen Chicago artists to have released albums on Origin. His recent effort is titled “Better Angels.” A lickety-split fusion guitarist with a complex harmonic approach and world music influences, McLean recruited the wonderful, Polish-born vocalist Grazyna Auguscik for “Better Angels.” He appears here with saxophonist Mark Taylor, bassist Phil Sparks and Jorgensen himself. (Hear him online: www.johnmcleanmusic.com/disc.html.)
The Jazz Walk also features young Seattle musicians on the way up, including Bishop’s student Chris Icasiano, who plays at Bop Street, and saxophonist Jacob Stickney, who plays a 6:30 p.m. dinner set at Egan’s.
“It’s really developed into an all-ages, family event,” said Jorgensen. “The fact that it’s been embraced by the community is hugely meaningful to us.”
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org