Category Archives: Musicians

North by Northwest: The Music of Seattle’s Jazz Composers

Bob Hammer

Bob Hammer

Our audiences LOVE the work of Bob Hammer. He is famous for his many works recorded by the Charles Mingus Big Band, and he has provided SRJO audience favorites such as his composition Monkish and his arrangements of the Mingus hits Fables of FaubusBetter Get Hit in Your Soul and Goodbye Porkpie Hat.  His newest work, “Rockland Sketches” is being premiered this weekend. It is both swinging and beautiful. It is a four-movement suite written in tribute to Bob’s former home in New York state.

Jovino Santos Neto

Jovino Santos Neto

Seattle is a hot-bed of great jazz performance and composition, stretching back to the earliest work of Seattle’s own Quincy Jones and Ray Charles.  In celebration of this legacy, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra presents music from their favorite Seattle composers: Bob HammerJovino Santos NetoWayne HorvitzMilt KleebJim Knapp, and Phil Kelly.

Wayne Horvitz

Wayne Horvitz

Also featured are pieces by Thomas Marriott and Bill Ramsay (members of the SRJO), and two pieces drawn from the classic 1959 Quincy Jones big band recording, The Birth of a Band, plus a morsel added just for fun: Duke Ellington’s 1938 masterpiece “Jack the Bear” featuring Seattle Jazz hall-of-fame inductee, Phil Sparks on bass.

  • Saturday, April 21 (7:30 p.m.) at Benaroya Hall in Seattle
  • Sunday, April 22 (3 p.m.) at the Kirkland Performance Center

These performances are the third set of main-stage concerts in the SRJO’s 2011-12 season.  A full listing of all SRJO concerts can be viewed at

17 of the past 22 SRJO main-stage concerts have been sold out (some with overflow seating on the stage). Advanced ticket purchases are highly recommended. Regular ticket prices range from $21 to $39 for the
series concerts, online at

In a special effort to encourage attendance by young people at SRJO subscription series concerts, the SRJO offers tickets for all jazz fans ages 25 and under at $15 (for all seats in the house).

Tickets can also be purchased directly from Benaroya Hall (206-215-4747)
or the Kirkland Performance Center (425-893-9900).


“An Evening with Ol’ Blue Eyes”

What better way to launch the 2011-2012 Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra main stage concert series than with the music of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra.

  • Saturday, Oct. 29th (7:30 pm) – Nordstrom Recital Hall
  • Sunday, Nov. 6th (3 pm) – Kirkland Performance Center
James Caddell

James Caddell

In a celebration of Sinatra’s many recordings with large ensembles, the SRJO presents big band jazz of Count Basie, Quincy Jones, and Nelson Riddle, featuring guest vocalists Danny Quintero and James Caddell singing their favorites in a tribute to “Ol’ Blue Eyes.”

Selections include Come Fly with Me, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Don’t Worry About Me, Luck Be a Lady Tonight and The Best Is Yet to Come, plus other great pieces recorded for the classic 1966 collaboration of Sinatra with Quincy Jones and the Count Basie band, Sinatra at the Sands.

Danny Quintero

Danny Quintero

James Caddell is a longtime favorite with SRJO fans and is heard on recordings with Don Lanphere and Clarence Acox. While Danny Quintero is new on the scene specializing in music of Sinatra, he is hailed by all as a singer with talent far beyond his years.

Tickets are selling fast, and opening night is looking like it will sell out. Act fast to make sure you enjoy one of this year’s hottest shows!

Ticket Purchase and Information

This concert is part of the exciting line up presented by the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival.

Listen to, “one of the top big band efforts of the year.”

In his All About Jazz review of Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra – Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search, Dan McClenaghan says, “It is an orchestral offering that leaps out of the speakers with a rich fanfare of gorgeous harmony and tight rhythmic zest,” and declares the release, “…one of the top big band efforts of the year.” (read the full review)

Cover: Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra - Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search

Michael Steinman, in Cadence Magazine, says, “The SRJO sounds lovely in its ensemble work (and in the recorded sound) and its soloists are at Heath’s level— their conception as a group is more than commendable, with none of the self-indulgent excesses prevalent in Jazz big bands.” (read the full review)

And George Fendel, in Oregon Jazz Scence, adds, “Please don’t refer to them as a big band. About five minutes with this recording, and you’ll agree that this is a jazz orchestra. ” (read the full review)

Have you listened to the Origin Records release, yet? You’ve heard from the critics, now check it out and let us know what you think. You can hear the entire album right here. You can also share it (please do) and buy it (we’d love that!)

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Young Turks: Jazz is in good hands.

SRJO with Xavier Del Castillo, Ian Frost, Jack Walters

Xavier Del Castillo, Jack Walters, Ian Frost with SRJO

One of SRJO’s most popular programming features each year is sharing the stage with award winning area high school students. This year was no exception.

At last weekend’s “Jazz of the Harlem Renaissance” shows, backed by the entire band, five outstanding high school guest musicians to solo turns in Thad Jones’ 1967 composition “Groove Merchant” earning standing ovations from both Saturday and Sunday audiences.

Check out this 1968 performance by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis featuring Sir Roland Hanna

Jack Walters on clarinet with SRJO

Jack Walters

Jack Walters, from the Mountlake Terrace High School Jazz Ensemble, won 1st in State on Clarinet, was selected to National Association for Music Education (MENC) All-Northwest band, and was named Outstanding Tripler – on Tenor, Alto, and Clarinet, at Essentially Ellington 2011. Check him out in this 2010 Hot Java Cool Jazz performance of Artie Shaws “Concerto for Clarinet”, adapted for the MTHS band by SRJO’s David Marriott, Jr.

Ariel Pocock with SRJO

Ariel Pocock

Pianist Ariel Pockock, from Newport High School Jazzband, is also the band’s singer, and has sung with guest artists like Wycliffe Gordon and Lew Soloff (but that’s another story). Last year she won the high school division of the sixth annual Seattle-Kobe Female Jazz Vocalist Audition at Jazz Alley, and was selected to perform at McCaw Hall for Starbuck’s annual shareholders meeting. Check out this short interview with Ariel about her selection as a Bellevue Jazz Festival Rising Star.

Xavier Del Castillo with SRJO

Xavier Del Castillo

Roosevelt High School Jazz member Xavier Del Castillo was featured on Tenor Saxophone. Xavier was the only student from Washington State to be selected to the 2011 Grammy Jazz Band, was named Outstanding soloist on Tenor at the 2011 Essentially Ellington Competition, and was honored by an invitation to play in the intimate setting of “Hamp’s Club” at the 2011 Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival.

Ian Frost with SRJO

Ian Frost

Ian Frost, multi-reed player for Garfield Jazz, was also featured on Tenor Saxophone. Check out his solo on this hot performance of Thad Jones’ “Basically Yours” at the 2011 Reno Jazz Festival. Ian has performed with the Young Person’s Composers Orchestra, was named Outstanding Soloist on Tenor at the 2010 Essentially Ellington competition, and was a 2011 “Hamp’s Club” invitee.

Zack Hartmann with SRJO

Zack Hartmann

And, featured on Bass was Zack Hartmann, from SRJO trombonist David Bentley’s Mercer Island High School Jazz Ensemble. Zack was recently selected to the 2011 Bellevue Jazz Festival Rising Stars, and can frequently be heard with his own Zack Hartmann Trio. Many thanks to Zack and his fellow musicians for sharing their talent. As SRJO Artistic Director Clarence Acox announced at the end of each show, “jazz is in good hands.”

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The Zen of Ten: an all-star dectet

Phil Sparks, Jay Thomas, Clarence Acox, Dan Marcus, Michael Brockman, Zen of Ten

Harris, Thomas, Acox, Marcus, Brockman (l-r)

Last year’s “chamber jazz” concert, a rare performance of Miles Davis’ classic 1949 release “Birth of the Cool” featuring a nonet SRJO soloists, was a highlight of our concert season.

Audiences enjoyed the intimacy of hearing their favorite SRJO soloists in a small group setting. So this year we’re upping the stakes by one and presenting a special dectet performance, Zen of Ten.

Travis Ranney


The Saturday and Sunday evening shows will feature tight ensemble arrangements and compositions by Jimmy Heath (Mona’s Mood and Old Fashioned Fun), Gerry Mulligan (Bweebida Bobbida) and Marty Paich (Bernie’s Tune), plus pieces by Seattle composer Bob Hammer, and the premiere of SRJO co-director Michael Brockman’s composition Triad Again.

Randy Halberstadt


SRJO players featured in the dectet for the Zen of Ten are Jay Thomas and Andy Omdahl on trumpets, Phil Sparks on bass, Randy Halberstadt on piano, Bill Ramsay on baritone sax, Dan Marcus on tuba and trombone, Bill Anthony on trombone, Travis Ranney on tenor sax and clarinet, and artistic co-directors Clarence Acox on drums and Michael Brockman on soprano & alto sax.

Bill Anthony


Regular ticket prices range from $21 to $39, and can be purchased from the SRJO offices (206-523-6159) and online at Eleven of the past thirteen SRJO main stage concerts have sold out, some with overflow seating on the stage. Tickets can also be purchase directly from the box office for the Saturday evening Benaroya Hall/Nordstrom Recital Hall performance and the Sunday evening Kirkland Performance Center performance.

Saturday 4/30/2011 – 7:30 PM – Benaroya/Nordstrom Recital Hall 

Sunday 5/1/2011 – 7:00 PM – Kirkland Performance Center (evening show)

We encourage attendance by young people at Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra series concerts by offering tickets for all jazz fans ages 25 and below at $15 for all seats in the house.

All photos Bruce C Moore

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Is it Jazz or Classical?

The Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra’s “Tribute to Benny Goodman” includes the first movement from Igor Stravinsky’s “Ebony Concerto”

The lines between jazz and classical music have been blurring for a long time.  Early in the last century, as jazz was first emerging as a uniquely American art form, composers of all musical styles began to take note of the special rhythms, harmonies, melodic inflections, and timbral alteration that have since become the hallmarks of jazz. Throughout the 20th century, classical composers borrowed many “jazz elements” to bring modern, exotic flair to their works. Sounds of American jazz have made their way into every corner of classical music, and now it is almost impossible to find a contemporary classical piece that does not contain some jazz elements or influence.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky’s EBONY CONCERTO (composed in 1946) is a brilliant example of a classical composer’s view of jazz. Stravinsky, of course, is among the most celebrated symphonic composers of the last century. His Firebird Suite, Rite of Spring, L’Histoire du Soldat, Les Noces, Octet for Winds, and much more, are all revered gems of 20th century concert music. Stravinsky often spoke about the influence that American jazz had on his composing, and we can hear jazz elements in almost everything he wrote. However, the Ebony Concerto goes far beyond merely employing “jazz elements.”  It was written to reflect Stravinsky’s “take” on American jazz, and it was his tribute to the art form. The instrumentation is essentially an American big band with clarinet soloist (the version we are working from was famously recorded by Benny Goodman in 1953). The melodic themes, and especially the vivid rhythmic syncopation of those themes, are reminiscent of several compositions by early American ragtime composer, Scott Joplin.

For the current discussion, I’d like to acknowledge that the terms “classical music” and “jazz music” are very difficult to define. Each genre has thousands of examples that defy any definition, and most contemporary examples of either genre cross over into yet other genres.  For the present, let’s narrowly define “classical” music as symphonic and/or chamber music that stems from the European art music tradition, focusing on the precise, virtuosic and artistically impactful presentation of works as conceived by their composers.  Let’s narrowly define “jazz” as music that evolved from the African-American syncopated dance music of the early 20th century, and that focuses on improvisation and ensemble work, placing high emphasis on rhythmic and harmonic complexity.

George Gershwin

The push to blur the lines between these two genres has come from both sides: classical composers employing jazz elements, and jazz composers/players employing classical elements. French impressionists Debussy and Ravel, and American composers Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein are obvious examples of classicists who embraced jazz. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue utilized harmonies that, for its time, were at the cutting edge of jazz. Of course, Gershwin’s African-American opera Porgy and Bess is a masterpiece utilizing African-American thematic material.

On the jazz side, Duke Ellington pushed very hard to blur the lines, composing dozens of suites and extended works that he meant to be compared to the multi-movement symphonic works of classical composers.  He frequently expressed his admiration for many classical composers, and he often borrowed composition and orchestration techniques from classical composers of the past, and from some who were his contemporaries. Ellington expressed on numerous occasions his aversion for the label “jazz. ” He preferred to think of his music as contemporary African-American music.

Scott Joplin

Pre-dating Ellington by some thirty years, Joplin worked to blur the lines between classical music and African-American popular music, writing large-scale ragtime works such as his opera Treemonisha with a vision to bring American ragtime into fine concert halls. Jazz composers following in Ellington’s footsteps are numerous, but preeminent examples are Dave Brubeck, Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Kenton, and John Lewis with the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Placed in the middle between the classical and jazz composers are American popular song composers of the early 20th century, such as Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin. Though not considered jazz writers, they nevertheless utilized so many jazz elements that nearly all of their songs translate easily into jazz performances, replete with improvisation and vivid jazz inflection (such as bent pitches, altered rhythms, and distorted timbre).

In contemporary times, the “cross-over aesthetic” guides many improvisational musicians who find their music does not fit well into any narrow definition of the jazz or classical music genres. The same is true for many composers of what might be called “contemporary concert music.” Seattle is one of the world centers for music that explores the gray area between contemporary jazz and contemporary concert music. There are many artists living here who, like Duke Ellington, refuse to be labeled.

The definition of “jazz” expands with each passing year, as the musical traditions of more and more cultures are absorbed into jazz, and the musical sensibilities of each new generation add to the mix. Jazz has always reflected the melting pot culture of the United States, and this continues to be true.

It may be that the only a handful of defining characteristics can be heard in all forms of jazz from the past 110 years. I submit this short list of musical characteristics that I use to decide “is it jazz?” All of these are rooted in West African musical culture, and were adopted into the jazz culture of the United States. To the extent that these are omitted in a musical performance, I start to consider the music to be leaving the realm of jazz:

1. Improvisation

2. Prevalence of Rhythm Over Melody (or at least an equal status)

3. Group Interaction/Communal Music Making

4. Syncopation

5. Timbral Alteration (changing and distorting instrumental and/or vocal tone)

6. Call and Response

7. Open Ended Forms (a piece can be extended or shortened at the will of the performers)

8.  Heterogeneous Sound (mixture of instruments and/or vocal tones are intended to not blend together as a homogenous ensemble).

The Ebony Concerto was a fascinating mid-century milestone in the push-and-tug between classical and jazz. These days, so much “cross-over” has taken place that one would think it is no longer an issue. Yet, the controversy of assigning labels to music persists, and we continue to argue “what is jazz?”  With the Seattle Repertory Orchestra’s March 2011 performance of this piece, we hope to stimulate further discussion among our audience members.

What do you think?

-Michael Brockman

UW School of Music

Co-Artistic Director, SRJO

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Hadley Caliman – rest in peace – September 8, 2010

Hadley Caliman

Hadley Caliman - Jan 12, 1932 - Sep 8, 2010

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that we share with you the news that our dear friend and band mate, Hadley Caliman, has passed away this morning after a two-year struggle with terminal liver cancer.  A memorial is being planned, details will follow.

We extend our sympathies to Hadley’s dear wife Linda, and to all of their family and loved ones.

Hadley was loved by many people everywhere, and his death leaves a large hole in all our lives.

– The musicians, board, and staff of the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

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