For decades, Seattle jazz musicians have lamented the lack of a dedicated local venue where they could be well paid to practice their art and pass it on to the next generation. Usually, musicians just grumble about such things, but Seattle jazz trumpeter Thomas Marriott has decided to do something about it.
Last spring, he and a group of other jazz advocates created a new arts organization, the Seattle Jazz Fellowship. SJF presents its first monthly show on Wednesday, October 20 at Vermillion, an 88-capacity venue on Capitol Hill with a high-ceilinged gallery in front and an intimate bar in the back. For now, the shows are in the gallery, but the venue’s baby grand piano can serve any location. SJF is also eyeing another undisclosed venue, where it aims to perform five or six nights a week by early next year.
But the Seattle Jazz Fellowship wants to do more than put on a show. According to its website, its mission is to foster community, mentorship and excellence.
“If you look at the history of music, it’s the mentorship cycle that’s always led it,” says Marriott, 45, a Garfield High School jazz band alum. “Louis Armstrong from King Oliver, Miles Davis from Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock from Miles Davis, and so forth.”
Today, with jazz declining in popularity, clubs where mentorship took place are few and far between. Jazz education has tried to fill this gap, but there is no substitute for playing “on a stage next to someone who can do it better than you,” says Marriott.
SJF has come up with a unique programming idea to recreate that environment. Each year, they would select and pay a group of jazz veterans to perform several three-night gigs over a 12-month period. As part of the deal, the Giants will be required to attend regular jam sessions of less-experienced players and have one of them join their group during mentors’ runs.
“In a functional jazz scene, it’s something that would happen naturally,” says Marriott. “But we don’t really do that here. Older people play with older people and younger people play with younger people.”
Young bassist Ben Feldman, who also joined Garfield and now lives in New York, described the idea as “a great opportunity”, noting that some of his greatest learning experiences were with older musicians on stage. happened together.
Seattle drummer Matt Jorgensen, whose advocacy has manifested as a partner in local company Origin Records for decades, agrees.
“It’s an important piece of the puzzle,” he says. “If it can create a place where the community can build a deeper connection, that’s a wonderful thing.”
The inaugural SJF Fellowship Wednesday program features jazz veteran and former longtime Cornish instructor Julian Priester, a trombonist and composer whose resume includes stints with Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Herbie Hancock. The program begins at 4 p.m., with Priester Records playing in which he appears, talks about the experience, and fielding questions. A 7 p.m. social hour follows, followed by an 8 p.m. show by two Seattle bands – a quartet led by young drummer Javier Lecouturier and a quintet fronted by veteran pianist Mark Seals. The 4 pm listening session is free; The show costs $20. The events are of all ages. Proof of vaccination and mask are required.
The Seattle Jazz Fellowship, in important respects, recalls the loft scene that arose in New York nearly 45 years ago, in that it presented jazz in an artist-centric environment that relied on attracting a large crowd or selling lots of food and wine. does. An audience of 30 or 40 people will do just fine, says Marriott, which is nonetheless committed to paying musicians a decent salary. – $200 for side players, $300 for leaders – Almost double the normal stipend. The fellowship can do this, he says, because it has already raised $25,000 in individual donations, and will continue to offer paid membership and apply for grants as a nonprofit.
SJF is also committed to equity and access. Its diverse, four-member board includes drummer D’Von Lewis, outdoor/sports writer Glen Nelson, pianist Don Clement and vocalist JohnA Kendrick. The organization is committed to finding places accessible to people of all backgrounds and incomes on Capitol Hill or the South End and will offer free admission to students from high schools where there is no jazz program.
At the moment, Marriott isn’t getting paid, but it’s understanding that burnout—the curse of idealistic projects like this one. There may be a problem. Not that he doesn’t have enough to do already. He leads the new Monday Night Jam at the Royal Room in Columbia City, which reopened last month, and has a full-time career as a musician.
“I would love to get a salary at some point,” he says. “Or we can hire a manager when we go five or six nights a week.”
only time will tell. But in a refreshing twist on a familiar phrase, the optimistic trumpet wisely observes, “Where you water it, the grass is always green.”