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My sincerest thanks go out to
Frazier, who shared the pictures he took at Bill Anschell's jam session in
Bellevue, Washington (5/23/2009)... you can view ALL of the pictures by clicking
on his name (above). Thanks, Robert... & it was very nice to meet you
after all these FB conversations!
"News" today is (in my feeble ol' mind, anyway) manufactured to bring out the worst in ev'ry one of us, ergo my RANT this time is in a most positive vein - to bring you some "good news" for a change!
I had reviewed one of Bill Anschell's albums (way back when, in issue #34); as you'll see if you read that review, the reason I was impressed is because his playing reaches right out & grabs hold of you, & makes your spirit feel the power in his playing... ergo, when I got back in touch with him recently (he's based out of Seattle now) & he told me about his upcoming "Origin Records Jam Session", as part of the Bellevue Jazz Festival (it was 5/23/2009), with bassist Paul Gabrielson and drummer John Bishop, I knew I had to discard my hermit suit & trek on up to the event... since I don't fancy Seattle traffic, I rarely venture out of the Olympia area, preferring shows that are in the Tacoma area - it's a much easier drive.
As it turned out, the evening was another of those rarities - blue skies everywhere, clear & sunny, & most of the heavy traffic was already engaged in hoisting shots (or whatever they do in bars these days)... I left about 7:30 & arrived about 8:50 pm... Bellevue is a "corporate town", high rises everywhere in service to the GIANT in the area, Microsoft (& other software companies, I'm sure), so it's never been one of my favorite places. The jam session was held at the Courtyard Bellevue in all it's plastic glory; fortunately for me (though unknown to me before I arrived), the hotel is located right next to a condo complex my son will soon be moving into, so I used the time between arrival & the start of the show to check out the area where his new digs will be.
I had already IM'ed my son to let him know I was going, & (though he doesn't always like my taste in music) he decided he would come... my FB friend Robert Frazier (a player/composer in his own right; if you listened to President Obama's acceptance speech, as millions of us did, you heard his music behind the speech) had agreed that we would meet there, after months of FB chats. Bob arrived just before my son did, sporting a hefty digital camera (I'd forgotten my vow to bring my own), so after warm greetings, I asked if he'd consider sharing his photos with me... so what you see here visually came exclusively from Robert (thanks again, Bob)!
I had introduced myself to Bill Anschell (it was our first live handshake as well), shown below introducing the players... Bill is a really cool person - warm & personable, & made me feel welcome... heck, he even remembered the name of my 'zine (tho' he couldn't pronounce it... ha! ha! I guess everyone has a hard time with verbalizing "Improvijazzation Nation".
Actually, it was very clear that Bill & his player friends wanted to make the audience feel comfortable... they moved the piano/group out in front of the stage (the tech had put Paul & John on the raised-floor stage, away from the piano)... minor thing, I guess, but it clearly made everyone realize that the group wasn't going to play "distant" from them! Just after my son Andy's arrival, the trio began the show... it was apparent in only the first few bars that this was going to be one kick-butt session! Bill is a very powerful player, & it was easy to see why folks would want to play with him. The set list ran from quite traditional all the way to Miles Davis compositions (Solar)... the group style was splendid, as well; great lead-ins by Bill's piano or John's drums, gradual builds & high-talent crescendos that had every person in the audience fully attentive... this little trio is one of the tightest I've seen lately, conveying clear strength right alongside subtle nuance... some of the bass solo stretches from Paul held us all spellbound, & both piano & drums stayed appropriately "down under" until it was time to outro the piece(s).
One sign (for me) that it was "all good" is that Andy commented that the trio was "really good", & that we should do this again sometime... that is really saying something, 'coz he grew up in the thick of th' rap/hip-hop generation... OTOH, he did study drums for a period of time, and a lot of his remark about the group was directed at the skill John Bishop displayed, I expect. No matter the cause for his comments, though, the music of the whole set was (indeed) a part of that "good news" I mentioned before... the audience was definitely "all ages" (I mean, I didn't see any 5-year-olds, but youngsters were clearly grooving with us oldsters) and the soulful jazz definitely encouraged a strong sense of hope for the future! Right after the first set, a drummer (Fred was all I caught as the name), then after a short break, a whole bunch of reed players (per after-note from Bill Anschell, included were folks from the Mingus Big Band, like Craig Handy, Wayne Escoffery & Seamus Blake, as well as (later, after I'd departed) one of Bill's favorite keyboardists, Dave Kikowski) jammed with the trio... one comment Bob Frazier made that I thought was totally appropriate was that the jammers should have formed a kind of "horn circle", in other words, not just waited for solo shots... nevertheless, the reedists (mostly sax players while I was there) who sat in were ON it, right in & on time with the trio. From a jazz viewpoint, those initial jams were some of the best I've ever heard, and the whole crowd clearly appreciated the goings-on, no doubt!
By half-way through the jam sessions, though excited by the energy generated, I was beginning to feel a bit burned out (it was already about 12:30 am), & though Bill had mentioned in his original email that some "name" players might be dropping by, I hadn't seen too many of them, so I said goodbye to Bob Frazier & beat feet for Olympia.
As always happens, shortly after leaving, internationally renowned trumpeter/fluglehorn player Lew Soloff made his entry. Robert took a few shots of him playing, so even though I wasn't there, I thought it important to show one of them here... though I didn't hear him, you can see him "steppin' out" & gettin' on DOWN! It was really too bad I didn't stay, as Robert got right on up & jammed with them as well... ah well, there's always going to be a "next time", right Robert?
All-in-all, one of the best (sonic) "good news stories" I've heard in many, many years.... & now that my son is moving right next door to all the downtown spaces, I've no doubt that I'll be making the trek a little more often. Great & wonderful spirit displayed on the part of all the players, as well as those in the audience... clearly tells me that I've got to get out a bit more often!
Till next time...,
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