And all that jazz | The summer festival that’s making Bellevue a music destination
Imagine the festivities in Bellevue. The streets downtown are packed with people who’ve planned road trips, bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations to be here. Local bars and restaurants bustle with patrons as the sustained, sensuous notes of a saxophone wind through the summery air.
Thanks to the Bellevue Jazz Festival, this becomes the reality each June – a reality that boosts the local economy and continues to solidify the city as an arts destination. This year, it’s all happening June 1-5.
The festival includes performances at various downtown restaurants, bars and the Theatre at Meydenbauer Center.
It’s had an off-the-charts impact on local businesses, says Steve Walker, director of sales and marketing at Grand Cru Wine Shop and Mixologie Lounge on 108th Avenue Northeast. Grand Cru is one of many festival venues.
“These are our biggest days of the year,” Walker says. “We’re huge fans of the festival and what it’s doing for Bellevue.”
Originally a Bellevue Community College event, the festival sprang up in 1978 and ran until 1993. The Bellevue
Downtown Association resurrected it in 2008. Today, the festival offers a blend of ticketed and free performances by top national and regional jazz musicians, as well as high-school students from the Rising Stars program; talented youth audition for the chance to perform in one of several small ensembles and receive coaching from a professional musician.
This year, out of the 40 students who auditioned, half were selected, the majority of whom are from the Eastside. Instruments the young musicians play include drums, piano, bass, trumpet, guitar and trombone.
From seasoned pianist to Rising Star participant, BDA President and festival Executive Director Leslie Lloyd says this year is “another powerhouse lineup.” The BDA collaborated with Earshot Jazz Executive Director John Gilbreath to pick the artists, who include MacArthur fellow Regina Carter (pictured top). She’ll be performing African folk-tune inspired songs from her latest release, “Reverse Thread.”
While jazz is an American art form, it has a universal appeal to it, Lloyd says. In an international sense, it has a strong connection to African and Latin music, and it also connects people of all ages. Many adults have grown up listening to jazz, while young people today get involved with the music through high school programs.
The greater-Seattle area is a hotbed for jazz education, including the programs at Roosevelt, Nathan Hale, Interlake and Newport high schools.
Newport jazz band director Matt Eisenhauer was one of five music education experts who helped create the Rising Stars program.
Eisenhauer says they didn’t want to merely create another youth competition.
“We really wanted to acknowledge and respect the local jazz talent – the next tier of jazz greats,” he says.
The festival’s inclusion of up-and-coming artists coincides with the city’s own growth as an up-and-coming center for music and the arts, says Lloyd, who pointed out that there aren’t enough venues for live music in the city – especially with the opening of the Tateuchi performing arts center a few years away.
Still, Bellevue music events including the jazz festival and Wintergrass, the February bluegrass showcase, will help the city get there eventually.
Lloyd hopes Bellevue’s jazz festival will one day become as big-time as the nationally-renowned San Francisco affair, SFJAZZ.
“We want to continue to grow. We need to grow. We need the performing arts here,” she says.
Featured artists: The artists listed below will perform at Meydenbauer Theatre: 11100 N.E. Sixth St., Bellevue.
2011 FEATURED ARTIST SCHEDULE
Wednesday, June 1
Regina Carter’s “Reverse Thread”
7:30 p.m., $28 ($14 student)
Preeminent violinist and MacArthur Fellow Regina Carter will perform compositions inspired by African folk tunes from her latest release, “Reverse Thread.” Artist photo by Rahav Segev.
Thursday, June 2
Chris Potter’s Underground plus Michael Formanek Quartet
7:30 p.m., $28 ($14 student)
World-class saxophone soloist, composer and band leader Chris Potter and the Underground band will perform music from their newest album, Ultrahang. American bass-player, Michael Formanek, and his quartet will open the show. Artist Photo by Jamas Jalaber.
Friday, June 3
Tierney Sutton Band plus Luis Perdomo Trio
7:30 p.m., $28 ($14 student)
American jazz vocalist and three-time GRAMMY nominee Tierney Sutton will perform with her band of 17 years. Venezuelan pianist, Luis Perdomo, will open the show backed by his trio.
Saturday, June 4
Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring Zakir Hussain
7:30 p.m., $38-$78 ($78 VIP ticket includes private artist reception) ($19 student)
Legendary jazz saxophonist and composer Charles Lloyd will perform alongside Jason Moran (MacArthur Fellow) on piano and Eric Harland on drums, with a special appearance by Indian tabla virtuoso and percussionist, Zakir Hussain.
Sunday, June 5
Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra plus the Festival’s Rising Stars
3 p.m., $18 ($9 student)
SRJO is the premier northwest big band co-directed by Clarence Acox (Garfield High School) and Michael Brockman (University of Washington), made up of prominent Seattle-area jazz soloists and band leaders. The ensemble will play highlights from their 2010-2011 concert season following the Festival’s Rising Stars performance. Rising Star photos by Photos by Daniel Sheehan (2010 musicians pictured below).
2011 Rising Stars:
Colter Potter (drums)
Ariel Pocock (piano)
Mat Muntz (bass)
Eric Dubbury (trumpet)
Max Bates (alto)
Josh Supkoff (tenor)
Ellie Lightfoot (drums)
Derek Frank (piano)
Eric Nordin (guitar)
Ryan Donnelly (bass)
Aaron Tevis (trumpet),
Alex Avakiantz (alto sax)
Lukas Ng (trombone)
Thomas Campbell (drums)
Jesse Sullivan (guitar)
Brian Lawrence (piano)
Zach Hartmann (bass)
Nolan Tsang (trumpet)
Brian Lawrence (tenor)
Matt Bumgardner (trombone)