Monday, September 22, 2008


Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival, now in it's 20th year, begins on October 18th. I'll be writing more about this in the coming weeks, but I just saw a festival schedule this weekend and a few performances deserve some excited advance notice.

Most thrillingly, Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra are making a very rare appearance at the Seattle Town Hall on October 31. This big band, which was started by bassist Haden in the late 1960's in response to the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, has released only 4 albums over the last 40 years, each of which is an brilliant exploration of free jazz and political music. The ensemble's first album focused on the Spanish Civil War, a 1983 album commented on US involvement in Central America, a 1990 release focused on apartheid in South Africa, and the latest album, from 2005, dealt with the wars in the Middle East. Past members of the LMO have been a virtual who's who of American jazz - including Carla Bley, Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri, Curtis Fowlkes, Dewey Redman, and many many more. The band almost never tours, and, owing to their unapologetically radical politics, have trouble getting bookings when they do. Halloween is one of the busiest nights on the Seattle calendar, but this show is simply not to be missed.

On Otober 19, violinist Billy Bang is bringing his quartet to the Langston Hughes Center. Bang is one of the greatest jazz violinists working today - over a 40 year career he was worked in a huge variety of genres with such luminaries as Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, funk legend Bootsy Collins, and a ten-year association with Sun Ra. Two of his recent recordings, Vietnam: Reflections and Vietnam: The Aftermath, are incredibly powerful and personal explorations of Bang's time as an infantryman in Vietnam, and are among my favorite albums of recent years.

Act fast to get tickets - Bang and the LMO are world-class performers and these concerts should sell out quick. The complete Earshot festival runs from Oct. 18 until Nov. 9.

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