Jazz and Blues


Singer Ed Reed and saxophonist Anton Schwartz met almost 10 years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Ed was 78 years old at the time, and was just beginning to get recognized as a jazz singer.

Partly due to his love of jazz, Ed has survived drug addiction and multiple prison terms.  Four CDs later, he’s been on the Downbeat Critic’s Poll list of “Rising Stars” for six years, topping that list in 2014. 

Daniel Sheehan / danielsheehan.com

On April first, the Jazz Journalists Association announced its list of 2015 Jazz Heroes: advocates, altruists, activists, aiders and abettors of jazz who have had significant impact in their local communities.

The 'Jazz Hero' awards, made annually on the basis of nominations from community members, are presented in conjunction with the JJA's annual Jazz Awards honoring significant achievements in jazz music and journalism and with the month-long celebration of JazzApril.

Randy Cole

Initiated last year by Kent Devereaux, the former Music Department Chair of Cornish College of the Arts, the Seattle Jazz Experience is a youth jazz festival that presents two full days of workshops and performances this Friday and Saturday at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center.  It's  collaboration between Cornish, Earshot Jazz, Seattle JazzEd and Seattle Center.

Dr. David Deacon-Joyner, Director of Jazz Studies at Pacific Lutheran University is on the steering committee for the festival.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Although actor/singer/guitarist Tom Wopat is best known for his role as Luke Duke in the long-running television series "The Dukes Of Hazzard," his best artistic work was still ahead of him when that series ended.

Instead of seeking more television work, Wopat pursued his first love, music. He has recorded 10 albums in a variety of genres, and has performed in several Broadway musicals including "Annie Get Your Gun" with Bernadette Peters.

Wopat is currently touring with his jazz group, and we were very pleased that he could make time to visit the KPLU Performance Studio. All he brought with him was a guitar, his fine voice and some good stories.

Eddy Westveer

"The Sound of Redemption:  The Frank Morgan Story" will be showing on Saturday, Oct. 25 at NW Film Forum in Seattle as part of the Earshot Jazz Film Festival. Frank Morgan was a prodigy, a young West Coast saxophonist who was hailed as "the next Charlie Parker." Morgan's life and career were stalled for 30 years because of heroin use, felonies and prison sentences.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

For many years, pianist Helen Sung devoted herself fully to classical piano studies.  So much so, in fact, that when a friend invited her out to hear Harry Connick, Jr., Helen had no idea who he was.

When she heard Harry do a series of solo piano jazz pieces she says she nearly jumped out of her skin. She’d never heard piano played like that.

From that point on, Helen focused her considerable talents on jazz. Today, Helen Sung is one of the most inventive and respected jazz pianists of her generation.

Ever since the 1960s, when she worked as a solo blues singer and member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Maria Muldaur has been dedicated to traditional American music, primarily blues and gospel. In 1973, she had her biggest hit record, Midnight At The Oasis.  Maria and her band stopped by the KPLU Performance Studio during a tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the recording of that song.

Joybox Express

Boogie-woogie and blues pianist Mark Braun (a.k.a. Mr. B) has fond memories of touring in the Pacific Northwest. KPLU has played his recordings for more than 20 years. I've followed Mr. B for some time, because there's not much I like better than his style of piano playing, the music that came up from New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta.

What I didn't know about him until recently is that he's also a dedicated amateur athlete, an avid bicyclist and an advocate for getting kids active in the arts and athletics.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

I belong to a Facebook group called “Jam Of The Week.” Each week, the group’s founder, a wonderful Portland trumpet player named Farnell Newton, picks a jazz tune, and any musician from anywhere in the world can post a video of himself or herself playing a one chorus solo over the tune.

In about a month the group had more than 10,000 members, and hundreds and hundreds of videos posted. (Check it out if you get a chance, even if you’re not a musician.)

The other day, one of the members posted the idea of using a pop song one week. The comments that ensued were varied, but many of the jazz snobs on the site reacted negatively to this idea, with many of them slamming pop music as a whole as vacuous and worthless to jazz musicians.

Joe Goblin / Associated Press

Boz Scaggs: Memphis (429 Records)

A tribute to the Memphis soul-blues tradition, made with some of the city’s best players. His unique rasp has only improved with age, and perfectly complements the laid-back groove that permeates the release. Not all the material is “soul” music, some of the best tracks are the bluesy “Cadillac Walk” and “Dry Spell”. Boz is a master of the simmering blues vibe, slightly restrained, but overflowing with mojo.

James Cotton: Cotton Mouth Man (Alligator Records)

bunky's pickle

Female instrumentalists of all types have been part of jazz since its inception, but for the most part, they have been erased from the history of the music. The film "Lady Be Good: Instrumental Women in Jazz" intends to put the spotlight on the many talented women who have nearly been forgotten.


Guitarist Pat Martino was a jazz and soul-jazz star since the mid-1960s, recording for the Prestige, Muse, Warner Bros. and Blue Note labels.  In 1980, after operations for a brain aneurysm, he could remember nothing.

Steve Korn

Two Seattle natives have been honored by the Jazz Journalists Association Awards for Journalism and Media. 

Seattle author Paul de Barros was presented with the Best Book About Jazz award for his in-depth biography Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Best known for his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet for its entire run (1952-1974), Percy Heath had only been playing bass for about four years when he joined the band.

Heath also recorded with most of the leading musicians in modern jazz, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.

Library of Congress

One of the most influential figures in American music and one of the twentieth century's best known African-American personalities, pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington was, to use one of his signature phrases, "beyond category."


The "first lady of song" Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the U.S. for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold more than 40 million albums.

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Influenced by Lester Young initially, then by Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, Joe Henderson created his own unique sound. 


Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer.  Influenced both by church choirs and Duke Ellington, he studied double bass and composition with classical masters.


Bassist Buster Williams is a living legend of jazz,who has worked with Miles Davis, Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, Chet Baker, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, Benny Golson, and Kenny Baron, Sarah Vaughan, and Nancy Wilson.


Bessie Smith started out as a street musician in Chattanooga.  She was mentored in traveling shows and vaudeville by Ma Rainey.

By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville.


Pianist, bandleader, composer and producer Herbie Hancock has had a career that's lasted five decades and garnered 14 Grammy® Awards.


The incredibly talented organist Joey DeFrancesco comes from a musical family, brought up in the rich Philadelphia jazz scene: his grandfather played reeds, his dad Papa John DeFrancesco is a fine jazz organist.  Joey went to jazz clubs with his father and learned the piano and the B-3, and by age 6, he was sitting in on his father's gigs.

Ron Hudson

Singer, composer, pianist, and actress Carmen McRae was considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. 

Francis Wolff / Mosiac Records

His unmistakable big warm sound was based in the blues, and he polished it on the road as a 17 year-old addition to bluesman Lowell Fulson's band in the early 1950s.  That band also included Ray Charles.


Jazz April has begun! 

Many influential jazz musicians were born in this month, and we'll be celebrating both the legendary and the lesser-known by telling you a little more about their lives and music on their birthdays.

Booker Little was one of a handful of trumpeters born in 1938 (the list includes Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard) who were touched by Clifford Brown’s genius and ready to take be-bop to the next level.