Last Thursday night the Seattle Women In Jazz festival kicked off at the Columbia City Theater with a special presentation focusing on Latin Jazz styles. The festival is the brainchild of promoter/producer Jessica Davis working closely with her assistant Director Kendra Aguilar and a small but tremendously hard-working staff. This is the second year of the festival, and if opening night was any indicator, the Seattle Women in Jazz Festival could be become a mainstay of the Seattle music festival scene if Ms Davis and crew continue on next year and beyond. The show was emceed by KPLU's Robin Lloyd, herself of course another hard-working woman making an impact on the Seattle Jazz scene though her work with the well-established jazz-advocating Tacoma-based radio station.
But Adriana and crew scored their first big goal by deciding to host a jam session every Monday night. Originally booked as a world music jam session, it quickly outgrew any genre-labeling, and became one of Seattle' most successful jam sessions where you could hear everything from salsa jazz and bossa nova to James Brown, jazz standards, and down-home blues. They renamed the session "Entremundos", and Entremundos has outlasted three venues so far and is now filling up the Capitol Cider's music room every Monday. Hey, everybody, Adriana is on the map of Seattle!
Dance Instructor Aileen Panke of Bahia in Motion was there to guide us through several different samba dance moves, and this gave the dancers among the audience a nice boost to the performance as well.
From beginning to end, they rocked the house. They do a very high energy rendition of the famous samba jazz song "Berimbau" (named after the aboriginal Brazilian instrument fashioned from a bow-and-arrow). That was their second song and from that point on, the house was theirs. There was not a wink link in the lot, and all instrumentalists wowed us with numerous outstanding solo spots as the show progressed. Of course they were brought back for an encore, and in what has become a signature of the band's performance style, they add humor to the show by finding old standard songs that they pull off the cuff and wrap their shows with a great light touch at the end. This time, it was a rendition of "Dream A Little Dream of Me", special for Valentines day, and featuring a chorus of Adriana on the kazoo, which, along with the Brazilian nose-whistle, has become a favorite toy she whips out at opportune moments during the shows.
Ann was also accompanied by a strong compliment of musicians: trumpeter Daniel Barry and trombonist Naomi Siegal played several outstanding solos during the set, as well as working together on Ann's lovely horn arrangements for the songs. Edson Otero worked together with Ernesto Pediangco (double-hitting for the show). Two top-tier latin percussionists who seemed quite at home working together, they played musical percussion chairs, trading off on congas, timbales, bongos, and the numerous bells and shakers. Ben Verdier held down the bass chair with lines that not only rooted the Afro-Cuban grooves, but were also melodic and inventive in their own right. And percussionist Susan Mackenzie sat in with the group adding touches on maracas, shakers, and cowbell.
Memorable for me was a gorgeous bolero called "Working Through" written and arranged by Ann. In a genre known for it's high-energy dance numbers, Ann reminded us that Cuban Jazz has a beautiful slow and romantic side expressed through the bolero songform. Ann also brought home the point with this song that a real master of the piano does not need to play loud or fast to move an audience. Daniel's trumpet and Naomi's trombone solos added another layer of rich romanticism to the number.
They wrapped it up with "Casi Cubano," the title a reference to a comment that apparently many of the musicians in Cuba make - that she feels like a Cuban to them, even though she doesn't look like one. Again, a testament to the fact that she is meeting the Cuban musicians on their own turf, and they are enjoying making music with her. Memorable in this song was an outstanding timbales solo by Edson.
And that, my friends is a wrap. I had a VERY enjoyable evening of music in which every single performer shined. Viva la Seattle Women In Jazz Festival! May you be with us for many years to come!