Nearly 20 years after its release, Jeff Buckley's soulful rock masterwork Grace still inspires fanatical devotion, so it's no wonder Andrew Vait has his own "sordid" (his word) history with the record. As a saxophone studies major at University of Miami, he explains, "Junior year I was spread really thin. I was studying sax and flute and clarinet [and] singing in two groups and a rock band and musical theater. My sax improv teacher noticed I wasn't practicing as much as I should... He said I would fail unless [I did] a lot of work-- he told me to listen to Cannoball Adderly and John Coltrane a hundred times. Instead I would listen to Grace."
He ended up dropping his sax degree and majoring in jazz voice. "I couldn't believe any human was capable of making the sounds [Buckley] makes," Vait says. "I'm taking voice lessons again just to prepare for the show for the first time in five years."
"The show" is tonight's Jeff Buckley tribute at the Crocodile, from which 100% of the proceeds will go to Seattle Rock Orchestra education programs, including scholarships for their first-ever summer camp. Correspondingly, the event is all-ages. Vait's band, Eternal Fair, is co-hosting the event with the Croc, and they've beefed up from their usual three piece, adding Andrew Joslyn and the Passenger String Quartet, Jacques Willis on vibraphone, and Kathy Moore on guitar. Guests vocalists include Kirsten Wenlock of Elk and Boar, Tiffany Wilson, Xolie Morra, okanomodé and Abby Wilson. The night will feature songs from Buckley's entire songwriting career, and was recently approved by Jeff Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, who manages his estate, as an official tribute featured on jeffbuckley.com. "It's a real honor," Vait says.
To get in a Jeff Buckley mood, watch a video shot by Jason Tang of Eternal Fair and the Passenger String Quartet performing "Last Goodbye" at EF bassist Chris Jones' house (the strings are squeezed into to the laundry room).