A Beginner’s Guide to Earshot Jazz Festival

A look a seven of the most intriguing performers at Seattle’s annual month-long jazz celebration.

For the layman, the annual Earshot Jazz Festival can be a little daunting. Jazz has never been the most easily accessible genre for casual listeners, and having dozens of concerts spread around the city over the course of a month (Oct. 7–Nov. 4) only makes parsing the schedule all the more difficult. So we’ve sorted through the lineup to highlight a handful of intriguing performers who don’t easily fit into that sort of homogeneous La La Land-esque vision of club jazz bands, and are better off for it.

Regina Carter

Pigeonholing violinist Regina Carter’s music as jazz would be reductive. The MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient’s improvised style blends roots ranging from folk to bebop, while still being able to rip through a more standard jazz solo with her bow. At Earshot, she’ll play in quartet with Xavier Davis (piano), Chris Lightcap (bass), and Alvester Garnett (drums).

Sun., Oct. 7 at 6 & 8:30 p.m. | The Triple Door | $26–$35

Jovino Santos Neto

Brazilian-born pianist and composer Jovino Santos Neto may spend much of his time these days teaching at Cornish, but the flair of his homeland still permeates his approach to jazz. As the resident artist for this year’s Earshot, there are three different ways to catch Santos Neto in action: He’ll start things off at Cornish in concert with fellow Brazilian pianist Jasnam Daya, move on to a performance with the nationally recognized Roosevelt High School Jazz Band, and close things out by premiering new big-band compositions with top local musicians at the Seattle Art Museum.

Jovino Santos Neto and Jasnam Daya Singh | Tues., Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. | Kerry Hall at Cornish College | $18

Roosevelt High School Jazz Band with Jovino Santos Neto | Mon., Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. | Roosevelt High School | $20

Jovino Santos Neto Big Band and Quinteto | Fri., Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. | Seattle Art Museum | $22

Elena Maque

The easiest way to eliminate any barrier to entry for jazz? Free admission. Vocalist and saxophonist Elena Maque, a Seattleite by way of Russia, brings her sultry alternating instrumental sound to the halls of the Seattle Art Museum for a set that’s open to everyone.

Thurs., Oct. 11 at 5:30 p.m. | Seattle Art Museum | Free

Adam O’Farrill

Adam O’Farrill could easily be coasting as a legacy kid. After all, his grandfather is legendary Afro-Cuban composer Chico O’Farrill and his dad is Grammy-winning pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill. But Adam isn’t complacent. The trumpeter carries on his family’s Afro-Cuban traditions while interjecting them with dynamic modern styles and rhythmic sensibilities with the aid of his brother Zach (drums), Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (tenor sax), and Walter Stinson (bass).

Sat., Oct. 13 at 7 & 9:30 p.m. | The Royal Room | $20

Kamasi Washington

Only one Earshot performance is already sold out, and there’s a good reason why. Kamasi Washington’s knack for innovation and collaboration have placed him at the forefront of jazz in the modern mainstream. In addition to his own mind-bending compositions, the tenor saxophonist has been a not-so-secret weapon for some of the most acclaimed hip-hop artists: Kendrick Lamar, Run the Jewels, Flying Lotus, etc. As part of Earshot, Washington heads to The Showbox with a 12-piece band to play tunes off his new LP, Heaven and Earth. If you can figure out a way to get into this show, it should be well worth it.

Wed., Oct 17 at 7 p.m. | The Showbox | Sold out

Brandee Younger

Intentional dissonance is what makes many recoil from the very thought of jazz. You know what’s more soothing than the genre’s traditional instrumentation? The rare jazz harp. Even when rattling off solos, harpist Brandee Younger brings a certain serene air to her performances. Don’t miss one of the most distinct sounds Earshot 2018 has to offer.

Fri., Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute | $22

Madison McFerrin

Who needs a jazz band when you’ve got a powerful, versatile voice, fingers that can snap, and a looping pedal? Soulful New Yorker Madison McFerrin creates a sonic world all her own by layering her own voice as instrumental backing and self-made percussion, then launches tunes that range from jazzy, swaying love ditties to socially conscious and emotionally resonant songs about police brutality.

Sat., Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. | Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute | $20