The Earshot Jazz Festival has served up a panorama of wildly divergent styles the past four weeks, from big band and Afro-pop to ethno-punk and Latin jazz. Its concluding week features two saxophonists who ought not to be missed — Pharaoh Sanders and Miguel Zenón.
This past Sunday, Nov. 2, at the Kirkland Performance Center’s sweet little theater, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, led by saxophonist Michael Brockman and drummer Clarence Acox, paid a finger-popping tribute to Seattle’s two most illustrious Jackson Street era veterans, Quincy Jones and Ray Charles.
The band played with panache and accuracy, offering such favorites as Jones’ “Stockholm Sweetnin’ ” and Charles’ “One Mint Julep.” Guest shots by Hammond B-3 organ ace Delvon Lamarr and vocalist Reggie Goings brought a tangy taste of barbecue to the proceedings.
Clarinetist Beth Fleenor’s performance at Barboza Monday, Nov. 3, with her cheekily named Crystal Beth & the Boom Boom Band, lived up to that Capitol Hill venue’s hipster rep, though the small crowd thinned rapidly once old-school fans discovered what Fleenor was really up to. Best known as a superb jazz clarinetist — she brought both her B flat and bass — she primarily sang with Crystal Beth, offering fare perhaps best described as world music from an imaginary planet — or at least one recently visited by Yoko Ono.
Shrieking and stuttering over long, modal vamps and jagged punk rhythms, Fleenor offered a nonstop hour of new material she called “scenic overpasses” in a “liberation ritual.” Overall, it was quite compelling and magical, though it could do with a little editing.
One of the festival’s unusual highlights came Saturday, Oct. 25, when drummer Barry Altschul’s trio, “3dom Factor,” played an entire set at Cornish College’s Poncho Concert Hall in the dark — sans microphones, thanks to a power outage. So who needs electricity? Altschul flowed flawlessly with round-toned bassist Joe Fonda and alto saxophonist Hayes Greenfield in a program of deliciously multidirectional originals.
Poncho offered the only real disappointment, when virtuoso saxophonist Greg Osby delivered a spiritless concert with a trio of young musicians not in his league. Leaving early felt like a good option.
Anyone who has never bathed in the shimmering light of Sanders’ tenor saxophone should take the opportunity now that he is 74 to see him at Town Hall Friday, Nov. 7. Ferocious and abrasive when he came up under the aegis of John Coltrane, Sanders later migrated to a milder place more inspired by Trane’s “After the Rain” than by “Live in Japan.”
Puerto Rican alto saxophonist Zenón’s unusual new album, “Identities are Changeable,” explores the fluid self-image of Puerto Ricans who, unlike, Zenón, were born in the U.S. The writing is layered and sparkling, but the interview material interspersed throughout gives it a National Public Radio feel. Presumably there will be no chatter during his set Monday, Nov. 10, at Poncho, a concert worth attending if only for Zenon’s thundering pianist, Luis Perdomo.
Earshot Jazz Festival runs through Tuesday, Nov. 11, at various Seattle venues; free-$36 (206-547-6763 or earshot.org).
Paul de Barros (206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org) covers music at blogs.seattletimes.com/soundposts/