Ballard Jazz Festival
Schedulers at most major local music festivals look askance at their own backyard’s rich jazz scene, which is well regarded even outside this region. To help even the score, John Bishop and Matt Jorgensen, keepers of the beat as well as Seattle-based Origin Records, 12 years ago called dibs on the uniquely Seattle neighborhood, Ballard, and jammed it with home-cooked talent.
At right: John Bishop, drummer and co-founder of the Ballard Jazz Festival, which continues Saturday. Credit: Glenn Nelson
The Ballard Jazz Festival hosts a Guitar Summit on Thursday, builds to Friday night’s prix fixe, 22-acts-in-11-venues Jazz Walk, and crescendos with a Saturday night international showcase.
The grand finale opens with piano pyrotechnics from Chano Dominguez, accompanied by fellow Spaniard, Marina Albero, on vibes. Sonny Fortune, the veteran, Philadelphia-born, multi-reedist most often linked to John Coltrane, is the night’s headliner. And in a final nod to the festival’s roots, Fortune will be backed by a stellar rhythm section anchored by two locals, Bishop on drums and Jeff Johnson on bass, plus pianist George Colligan of Portland.
If you go: Ballard Jazz Festival, Various venues throughout Ballard, Through Saturday, April 19. ($12-$55). — F.D.
*Night Beats and The Pharmacy
LoFi, a quintessentially divey Eastlake spot, has put together a stellar local rock lineup this week. Night Beats, now multi-year veterans of the Seattle DIY circuit, started blowing up about two years ago, garnering opening spots at Neumos and sets on the smaller stages of Washington’s summer music festivals. They walk that fine line between pop and hard rock that so many of their local contemporaries (Dude York, Naomi Punk, Grave Babies, etc.) excel at. But main course of the evening is The Pharmacy. These guys have been making music for nearly a decade now, and their manic, sassy brand of keyboard-heavy rock is a consistent crowd-pleaser.
If you go: Night Beats and The Pharmacy, LoFi, Friday, April 18 ($10). 21+. — J.S-H.
Ernest Shackleton Loves Me
I count on feisty creative Balagan Theatre to show me a good time because over the years they’ve knocked me out of my seat (Les Miz, Spring Awakening and the incomparable Jinkx Monsoon as Hedwig). So here they are, this time in Seattle Rep’s Leo K. Theater, with a musical about a single mother named Kat and her love affair with explorer Ernest Shackleton. They first connect through Kat’s blog (of course they do, because they’re too old for Tinder) and then he steps out of her refrigerator to whisk her away to Antarctica. It’s a two-person show: Valerie Vigoda not only acts, she plays a whole host of musical instruments; Wade McCollum plays Shackleton and orchestrates juggling five other roles as well. It’s a first-of-its kind collaboration between Balagan, ACT and the Seattle Rep and it’s a world premiere.
If you go: Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, Seattle Rep, Friday, April 18 - May 3. ($45). — F.D.
PNB’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream
The leaps of glee happening in these parts come from local balletomanes celebrating the return of principal dancer Carla Körbes, who’s been recuperating from a knee injury for much of these past 10 months. She might very well be one of the best ballet dancers in the country (as The New York Times has put it). Or, if you'd rather take my word: She's grand!
At right: Korbes with company dancers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Credit: Angela Sterling.
Körbes was seen swinging and twirling in the air in last month’s aerial ballet Kiss, which was good but kind of a tease for those who like their dancing lyrical, athletic and on the ground. This weekend, she’s back en pointe as the lovely Titania in Balanchine’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It’s an enchanting and funny ballet with a Felix Mendelssohn score, spectacular scenery, gorgeous costumes and it’s the only time a swarm of “bugs” will inspire the word Gah! (They’re kids and they’re pretty damn cute). Körbes is scheduled to dance April 17 and 19.
If you go: A Midsummer’s Night Dream, McCaw Hall, Through Saturday, April 19. ($28-$174). — F.D.
*Record Store Day
Support musicians, support local businesses and head to your favorite record store, whether that’s West Seattle’s Easy Street Records, Capitol Hill’s Everyday Music or Fremont’s Jive Time. Get there early to score the specialty release of your choice (The Wizard of Oz soundtrack on emerald green vinyl? The first Pixies album since 1991? The Velvet Underground’s Loaded?). Or, you can simply browse alongside other cool and like-minded folk. If you have not yet taken the vinyl plunge because you lack the necessary equipment, don’t despair. Garage sale season, and thus the onset of used record players galore, approaches.
If you go: Record Store Day. Venues galore everywhere. All day, Saturday, April 19. Free. — N.C.
*Seattle Poetry Slam: Grand Slam
Weekly poetry slams around the city have been leading up to this one moment: the top eight poets competing against one another to determine which four (as a team) advance to this year’s National Poetry Slam in Oakland. Competition is stiff as each poet performs original, often personal, stories of identity, love, and struggle, with an energy and vulnerability that is entirely unique.
If you go: Seattle Poetry Slam: Grand Slam, Town Hall, Saturday, April 19. All Ages ($10-15) — N.C.
A couple weeks back, I bemoaned the fact that alt-country local Star Anna was absent from the Lydia Loveless bill. Fortunately, she’s playing a set at the Blue Moon. Star Anna is one of those ideal singer songwriters who can wail with her voice and wail on the guitar. And a la Loveless, she’s not a completely traditional country musician. There are heavy rock overtones in her music, but not the pop rock cheese that harries so many of the ballads played on radio stations like 100.7 The Wolf. She draws her influence more from ’90s indie rock and grunge, and that distinction makes all the difference. If you have one of those friends that “only likes country,” take them to this show. They’ll dig it, and so will you.
If you go: Star Anna, the Blue Moon, Saturday, April 19 ($10). 21+. — J.S-H.
There are few establishments I love more than Volunteer Park Café. They make the best cookies in Seattle, they have bottomless Stumptown Coffee and their ambiance (set in a 1905 house just east of Volunteer Park) is effortlessly cozy. While their brunch is memorable (and most definitely worthy of many repeat visits as they unveil new seasonal stratas), their monthly Sunday Suppers are not to be missed. Sit family style at their long wooden table while whimsical, inspired, seasonal plates are brought out one after the other. Housemade herb butter with delicate edible flowers, a spring root vegetable salad with curds of sheep’s milk feta, lamb tagine with plump apricots and fluffy couscous — each course utilizes simple ingredients in memorable, reverie-inducing ways.
If you go: Sunday Supper, Volunteer Park Café, April 20, All Ages ($40) — N.C.
Hip-hop heads reading this will wonder why Mobb Deep necessitates any sort of introduction. With over 3 million records sold and a career nearing the quarter-century mark, this NYC duo etched their reputation in stone long ago. As their name implies, these guys are not of the jazzy rap style made famous by fellow ’90s New Yorkers A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul. This is more in the vein of Biggie and Mos Def. It’s edgy and hood, but still eloquent. When they shout “As long as I’m alive, I’ma live illegal” on their single Shook Ones Pt. II, you can’t help but take them seriously.
If you go: Mobb Deep, The Crocodile, Tuesday, April 22 ($18). All ages. — J.S-H.
Crosscut's arts coverage is made possible through the generous support of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.