Music

The Top 18 Shows to Check Out at Seattle's 2019 Earshot Jazz Festival

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Afrocop, and More Music Critics' Picks
October 3, 2019
Grammy winner Cécile McLorin Salvant will bring her skill at blending genres to Seattle on October 18. (Mark Fitton)
The Earshot Jazz Festival (which takes place from October 4 to November 6 this year) always brings great performers to Seattle, but this year especially is stacked with over 50 concerts featuring acts both local and international, old and young. The 2019 docket includes big names like Cécile McLorin Salvant, Knife Knights, Chick Corea with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Myra Melford, Makaya McCraven, and many more exciting shows that our critics don't think you should miss. See all of their picks below, and find even more options on our complete Earshot calendar.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7

Tinariwen
Tinariwen have been instrumental in bringing the soulful, trance-inducing sound of the Tuaregs—who hail from the Sahara Desert in northern Mali—to the West. On albums like Aman Iman: Water Is LifeImidiwan: CompanionsTassili, and Elwan, Tinariwen infuse the blues with rigorous, uplifting rhythms and mesmerizing, cyclical guitar motifs over which Ibrahim Ag Alhabib’s spirited vocals (often shadowed by massed chants) flow like medicine for the heart. The music’s essential timeless poignancy remains the engine behind Tinariwen’s caravan of moving, dusty jams. It’s a tribute to Seattle that a group this sublime can play a venue as large as Benaroya Hall. DAVE SEGAL
Benaroya Hall

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11

50th! Great Records of 1969: The Tony Williams Lifetime's Emergency!
Along with Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire and Love Cry Want’s self-titled LP, the Tony Williams Lifetime's Emergency! ranks among the best records to convince jazz-rock haters that the genre is not only worth your time, it’s a goddamn mind-bomb. Finally taking up the role of band leader after years of incredibly dexterous drumming for one of Miles Davis’s hottest groups, Tony Williams enlisted fellow Miles sidemen John McLaughlin on guitar and Larry Young on organ for Emergency!. Together, the trio fused fiery instrumental interplay with precision riffing and rhythming. It’s as if peak-years Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James formed a basketball team and decided to unleash all of their most athletic moves for one game. For this tribute, local greats D’Vonne Lewis (drums), Joe Doria (organ), and Cole Schuster (guitar) will put this explosive, inspirational LP through its paces. DAVE SEGAL
The Royal Room

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12

Afro-Electric: Val Jeanty / Ravish Momin // Fay Victor / Myra Melford
This Afro-Electric evening will feature two duo performances. Vocalist Fay Victor and pianist Myra Melford will perform pieces inspired by genre greats Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman. "Vodou electronica" percussionist Val Jeanty will join up with jazz drummer and producer 
Ravish Momin for a wild jaunt through jazz, electronic improvisations, and body music.
Town Hall

An Evening with The Julian Lage Trio
Virtuosic instrumentalist Julian Lage bends the borders of folk, bluegrass, and jazz. He'll be joined in his efforts by his trio.
Columbia City Theater

Makaya McCraven
This booking of the great Chicago drummer/composer/improviser Makaya McCraven proves that Earshot Jazz Festival's organizers know what's happening with younger musicians in the game, as well as with its elders. Along with Ben LaMar Gay, Jeff Parker, Damon Locks, and jaimie branch, McCraven is part of the International Anthem label's bold roster of exceptional fusionists. On his latest album, 2018's critically acclaimed Universal Beings, McCraven achieves a deft balance between earthy and astral jazz-funk. Using vibes, harps, and strings to augment a restlessly inventive rhythm section, McCraven generates a rich, spiritual sound that bears a passport to many far-flung spots on the musical map. DAVE SEGAL
The Royal Room

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13

DJ J-Justice, Afrocop
This Earshot Jazz Festival billing stretches well past the usual constraints of the genre into exploratory terrain, if you couldn’t tell by venue or the artists involved. DJ J-Justice is a founding member of well-regarded West London–influenced DJ/production/promotions crew SunTzu Sound. He is also the cohost of KBCS’s Friday night program City Soul, where he deals in dance music with soul but not necessarily soul music—boogie, disco, jazz, R&B, Afro, techno, hip-hop, house, and more. Improv is a given with Afrocop, a spectral jazz trio whose sounds go into outer space, with moods and styles varying greatly, from cuts that feel like they should be scoring the chase scenes in the original (1980s-era) Terminator (like “Sci-Tropics”), to “Upward Bound,” which starts out with vague NOLA jazz vibes before venturing into cosmic grooveland. LEILANI POLK
Timbre Room

Youn Sun Nah
Vocal giant Youn Sun Nah lends her delicate vibrato to classics and originals alike with a set showing off her multi-instrumentalist prowess. She'll be joined by Tomek Miernowski (guitars, piano, synthesizer) and Rémi Vignolo (drums, bass).
Triple Door

MONDAY-TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14-15

DakhaBrahka
Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha, a name that means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language, play what they describe as “ethno chaos," accompanied by traditional instrumentation of Indian, Arabic, African, Russian, and Australian origin.
Triple Door

Darius Jones
Alto saxophonist and famed improviser Darius Jones is this year's Earshot Artist-in-Residence. He'll reprise his legendary 2018 Earshot solo performance, an expansive display of his ability to follow the thread of modern jazz from the work of Johnny Hodges to now.
Chapel Performance Space

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16

Knife Knights, Darius Jones, Stas Thee Boss
Knife Knights is essentially a project by two wonderful musical minds, that of Ishmael Butler and Erik Blood. The two first met in 2003—but in 2009, Blood produced and mixed the two debut EPs by Shabazz Palaces (a duo made up of Butler and Tendai Maraire). In 2017, Blood and Butler finally came together in Knife Knights, which is less a cultural/music project like Shabazz Palaces and more of an exploration of sound itself, like Explosions in the Sky. With Knife Knights, one gets lost in the infinities of processed and reprocessed music. At this Earshot Jazz Festival concert, they will perform with support from NYC alto sax player and composer Darius Jones and Seattle’s own future soul artist Stas Thee Boss. CHARLES MUDEDE
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18

Cécile McLorin Salvant with Aaron Diehl Trio
In 2016, Cécile McLorin Salvant won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her record For One To Love. She is celebrated for her ability to bring together the connections between jazz, vaudeville, blues, and folk music with her strong tone. Salvant will be joined by pianist Aaron Diehl and his trio.
Town Hall

Clarice Assad
Brazilian-American pianist, vocalist, and composer Clarice Assad will bring the sounds of Rio de Janeiro to Seattle with her fusion set tying together Brazilian culture, Romanticism, world music, and jazz.
Chapel Performance Space

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20

DJ OCnotes, Smacktalk
A key member of the Black Constellation and the groups Metal Chocolates, Indian Agent, and FREEKAZOIDZ, OCnotes is a wise choice for Earshot, as his excellent, mercurial productions and various club DJ sets have revealed a mind attuned to diverse musical influences and an ability to synthesize unlikely connections among them. DAVE SEGAL
Timbre Room

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24

The Folks Project
The Folks Project, a side collective of local talents D’Vonne Lewis, Darrius Willrich, Evan Flory-Barnes, and Owour Arunga, pay tribute to the legacy of jazz culture and music that came out of the Central District, honoring artists like Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Ernestine Anderson, Floyd Sandiford, Buddy Catlett, and Anthony Ray, whom you may know as Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25

Tyshawn Sorey Sextet
Avant-jazz drummer Tyshawn Sorey, who is currently in the middle of a four-part stint as the Seattle Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence, will present his "this-is-jazz-now" sextet with Nathan Reising (alto sax), Morgan Guerin (tenor sax), Sasha Berliner (vibes), Lex Korten (piano), and Nick Dunston (bass).
Town Hall

MONDAY, OCTOBER 28

Playback: Seattle Public Library Showcase
Seattle cellist and composer Lori Goldston will perform alongside Hound Dog Taylor’s Hand for the release of a series of podcasts about Seattle jazz musicians at this Seattle Public Library presentation.
The Royal Room

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Gary Hammon: In Case You Didn’t Know
Tenor saxman Gary Hammon is known for his ability to preserve the style hallmarks of the Blue Note era. Tonight he'll perform his latest work, In Case You Didn’t Know, along with pieces rooted in the jazz legacy of Seattle’s Central District.
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6

Chick Corea: Rhapsody in Blue
Chick Corea is the innovative composer and keysman who spent the early part of his career—beginning in 1968—playing sideman to Miles Davis (he appeared on Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew, and On the Corner, among others), and then through much of the ’70s, exploring his own avant interests with jazz fusion/prog rock innovators Return to Forever. He’s enjoyed a prolific (more than 70 albums released as band leader), venerable career, with more than 60 Grammy noms and 22 wins. For this date, he joins Seattle Symphony for a presentation of George Gershwin’s most famous orchestral jazz opus, Rhapsody in Blue. The program will also touch on solo piano selections by Gershwin, Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, and Chick Corea’s own Piano Concerto No. 1. LEILANI POLK
Benaroya Hall